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!