Is your silver too valuable to scrap?

There was an article in last Sunday’s Irish Independent about  the scrapping of valuable silver items. It was great to see this highlighted in a national paper. I have heard stories of valuable Irish silver works of art being sold for scrap as their true value was never investigated.

While an old scratched  silver spoon might seem only to be worth the weight of silver you might discover you have a collectors item. As all silver has a hallmark it is easy to find out if it is worth considerably more.

Unless ‘Antiques Roadshow’ is in town, checking the value of your silver sounds like a long and complicated process! So here’s a few simple tricks to examine your silverware.

Firstly, Is it silver? Many people over or under estimate the value of their silver. Most commonly they will see a hallmark and assume it’s solid silver. Unfortunatley this isn’t always the case and hallmarks are always better examined with a magnifying glass to read exactly what has been stamped. Some tea sets for example will be stamped with what looks to be a hallmark but on closer inspection will have the letters EPNS. This means that it is not solid silver but Electro Plated Nickel Silver ie. silver plated.

Once you have established that it is silver then look at the hallmark to decipher the country of origin. Here in Ireland it is more likely to have come from either Britain or Ireland. There are a number of assay offices in Britain all with different stamps so if you can make out an emblem like a rose or a lion it is most likely British. I would say before you start buying silver hallmark books the best way to find out what your hallmark means is to Google it! It’s surprising how much information comes up if you put in something as vague as ‘Lion Hallmark’

Then find out who made it. This is the mark that will most likely determine the value of your silver. The more collectible and well known the maker the more money for you! In the hallmark the first mark is the makers mark. The makers mark is made up of the initials of the company or individual. So in my case my makers mark is ‘EM’ for Eileen Moylan.

Again the best way to find out about the maker of your silver is to Google it. Here’s what I found when I put in ‘EM hallmark silver’ I’m just showing a section of the first result. Make sure to look at the shape of the punch so you can match it exactly. You can see from this image that there are a few EM’s differentiated by the shape.

From this you can find the full name of the maker and then search and see what is being written about them, like how much their work is going for.

And once you’ve done all that you can make an informed decision as to whether to scrap your silver or not!






Made in Ireland

This week I was featured in the Radio 1 series ‘Made in Ireland’. Each week Ella McSweeney looks at a different craft or skill in Ireland. So this week was the turn of the silversmiths!

As well as calling to Dublin based silversmith Seamus Gill, Ella came down to my workshop in Cork. We discussed the different tools used by silversmiths, the properties of silver and women in the history of silversmithing.

If you want to have a listen to it click on the link below.

Made in Ireland, Silversmiths




Silver Napkin Rings

My Hallmark
My Hallmark

This week I’m finishing an order for a set of silver napkin rings. The napkin ring are a simple set of six rings, the only decoration being the hallmark. In my rush to get the order filled I forgot to take photos of the first few stage of the making. I’ll go quickly through what I’ve done already but if you want to see my post on making a silver ring click here. The process is pretty much the same but on a larger scale!

There was a delay in receiving the silver I ordered so I lost a few days of making but thankfully I’m back on schedule. I started by cutting six lengths of silver. I ordered a strip of silver 25mm wide and 1mm thick so all I had to do was cut this strip into six lengths. From napkin rings I’ve made in the past I know that I want the diameter to be between 40-45mm. So I need to work out how long each strip of silver needs to be. Thankfully I remember enough of school maths to know that the circumference of a circle is calculated by multiplying the diameter by Pi (3.14)

So circumference = 3.14 (Pi) x 43mm. So each strip is 135mm in length. These strips are then rounded up on a stake into a rough circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect as the hammering done after they are soldered will give them the perfect round shape. The most important thing at this stage is to get the two ends of the silver sitting perfectly together. The better they meet the tidier your soldering joint will be. Once they are soldered I begin hammering them into their finished shape. Once I’m happy I give them a quick polish and send them off for hallmarking. As there is only one assay office in Ireland they get sent to the Irish assay office in Dublin Castle.

And here they are, back from hallmarking and ready to be finished.

Sterling Silver Napkin Rings back from Hallmarking
Sterling Silver Napkin Rings back from Hallmarking
Silver Napkin Rings (before polishing)
Silver Napkin Rings (before polishing)