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Choosing the best antique flatware starts with your reasons for collecting it. If you hope to buy a complete set of one pattern, then you'll need to avoid shops selling only loose antique cutlery. If you want to mix different patterns, it will cost you less. The best antique flatware sources for you may be as many different places as you can find. If you're a collector looking for the oldest, rarest pieces of flatware, you'll likely have to do a lot of investigating before finding exactly what you want to purchase.
The oldest and rarest antique flatware may be centuries old. To be considered antique, flatware usually has to be at least 50 to 100 years old. Traditionally, it was passed down through generations of families through the oldest daughter. Estate sales as well as antique stores may be good sources of antique cutlery. Any flatware made after the 1830s is not considered as valuable as silverware made earlier; that date marks the time when silver started being mass produced by machines rather than hand crafted.
The best antique flatware to buy if you're collecting strictly for value are the rarest patterns that were hand crafted before 1830. However, it's important to do research to find exactly what flatware is considered valuable. Some pieces produced in a certain time frame after the 1830s may be worthwhile to collect. For example, Civil War antique flatware from the 1860s is often much sought after by collectors.
If you're collecting any type of sterling silver antique flatware, it's important to be sure that it's not actually silver-plated cutlery instead. Upon the first glance and touch, silver-plated cutlery can appear to be the best sterling silver flatware. To be sure you're getting what you pay for, make sure the silverware is stamped either with sterling or 925. The number 925 stands for 92.5 percent, which is the amount of pure silver that sterling flatware should contain. Pure silver alone is too soft to use to form utensils, so the other 7.5 percent is made up of an additional metal such as copper.
The best, oldest antique flatware may contain a toxic metal such as lead, so you may not want to actually use the cutlery. The addition of lead or other toxic metals doesn't affect the value of centuries old antique cutlery since that was what was commonly added to silverware at the time. Generally, more ornate, rare flatware patterns are worth more than plain, common varieties.
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