Relevant categories: Silver Plate
Let’s be clear from the word go. There is a big difference between solid silver trays and those made from silver plate. Essentially, silver plate trays were made from a base metal that had been coated with silver. The most commonly used base metal was copper or an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc (also known as nickel silver). That style of making trays first sprang up in the 18th century, long before the invention of electroplating.
In the 1830s and 1840s, the electroplating process was invented and used to make all kinds of silver items. A stronger base metal would be used to prevent the trays from easily denting when dropped onto the floor. An example of items made using this style is hotel silver, which was used in hotels, restaurants, ships, and trains.
How to Identify Silver Plate Trays Using Common Marks
(Above photo - Victorian Silver Plate Tray On Stand Platter Side Table Sheffield )
In England, there was an established system for identifying items made from pure silver. It is called the hallmarks system and involves the stamping of several emblems on silver items to mark them out as pure. Silverplate trays would have the manufacturer’s symbol as well as a lion head with a crown to certify whether it was sterling silver. So, any item with a lion is supposed to be from Britain.
Additionally, symbols signified the exact location where the trays were made. For example, those made in Birmingham have an anchor while items from Sheffield had a crown (it was changed to a rose in 1975). Then there was the head of the monarch at the time the item was made and a letter stamp showing when it was manufactured. A different letter represented a different year. Once they were through the entire alphabet, designers would start all over again with a different font. Before the 1500s, silversmiths had family symbols in the form of an animal or plant. On the items made today, you are likely to find initials representing the family name.
(Above photo - Silver Plate Tray - Butlers Platter Faux Tort )
However, not all silver plate trays were made in England. Some were made in France, Germany, and Italy. So, you should expect a significant difference in the way the items were marked. For example, items with the number “800”, a crescent moon, and crown were most likely made in Germany.
In America, the marks of quality were not as stringently enforced as in England. So, silversmiths would use their names and the number “92.5” or “925” as an indication of sterling quality. However, some would simply mark the word “sterling.” Manufacturing companies would use the symbols as a company logo, for example.
What Is The Difference Between Silver Plate And Sterling?
(Above photo - Tortoiseshell Silver Plate Serving Tray Platter Victorian )
From what we have discussed above, silver plate trays will have all the other marks except those showing that it is of sterling quality. For items made in England, the lion symbol will not be there. For German-made items, the number “800” would be missing. Similarly, American items wouldn’t have the word “sterling” or 92.5 or 925. That way, you will know a silver plate tray when you see one.
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