Friday, October 8, 2010

What is weighted or loaded sterling?

A customer wrote in today with the following question which I have gotten a lot over the years.  She asks, “Hi, just making sure about the content....you have .925 as a tag yet it says cement loaded. is this solid sterling or plated and what would the weight be of the sterling? thank you”
It’s a great question and there are lots of misconceptions about silver, so I am going to address the question of what does it mean when something is “weighted” or “loaded” and is marked sterling. 
Here’s my response to the customer:
“Thank you for asking.  That's a good question.  This item is Sterling silver (92.5% Silver by content), not plated.  It has the stamp STERLING on the bottom and the maker's mark for Fisher, a well known producer of Sterling silver items.  Here's additional info should you want to know more:
This piece is pretty typical for sterling silver candlesticks and some other types of serving items like bonbon dishes, compotes and so on.  What the makers did was to create these types of items from .925/1000 sterling silver, but they are hollow ware.  The hollow space is filled (aka 'loaded', 'weighted' etc...) with concrete, wax, sand or anything else that would give the item added heft.  There is no way to know the exact weight without cutting the item up.”

Fake Gold Medallion

So, yes, all items marked STERLING are made of metal that is 925 parts out of 1,000 silver.  And no, if they are weighted or loaded, they are not solid STERLING.  The STERLING standard was made law because governments (especially England initially) wanted a way to standardize the use of this precious metal and allow people to distinguish between silver and other alloys.  At one time, these items were required to pass through the hands of a local assay office.  It’s fairly rare in my experience to run into items marked STERLING that are fake, because of the relatively small value of silver (currently about $20/ounce) compared to more precious metals.  Gold on the other hand, is frequently faked.  I myself have purchased fake gold much to my disappointment as shown in the example of a fake medallion stamped 14K that is probably produced in Mexico shown at right.  Yeah, yeah, I should have known better.
Electroplating or silver plate, by contrast, is a process by which a thin layer of silver is applied to a base metal like copper or brass using an electric current.  By LAW, these items can NOT be stamped with the word STERLING.  Frequently, they will be stamped with things like: 'EPNS' (electroplated nickel silver), 'quadruple plate' etc...”  Unscrupulous sellers frequently mark these items with labels like “Sterling silver plate”, which strictly speaking is true, but is deceptive at best.  Sellers also will represent silver plate as “silver tone” which makes it very difficult to determine the metal content.  Generally, I recommend that buyers avoid such items if they are looking to make a good purchase of silver.  These items have virtually no value on the antiques market unless they are very old, very interesting, or have very fine craftsmanship.  The serving dish that grandma used that’s marked EPNS on the bottom and was used to serve the green beans at Christmas, sadly, is worth very little on the antiques market.

If you are interested in sterling silver, I might have the item you need.  Check out the shop:

2 comments:

  1. Nice blog! This information keeps valuable stuff for worth of sterling silver. Before you sell your sterling silver candlesticks for weight, you should pass it by some antique dealers for its artistry and craftsmanship, its age, rarity or historical significance.

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