What is Sterling silver?
Firstly, Sterling is the term used to describe the purity of a silver item. Most silver items are not made of pure silver because it would be to soft. So a small amount of other metals are added to give more strength to the item.
Pure silver is rated as 99.9% Sterling is 92.5% That is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other (most often copper)
Sterling silver is the most common standard used it was established in Europe in the 12th century. Markings vary and it can be hard to tell if your item is sterling so my advice is to contact a dealer. Sarasota antique Mall is always happy to look at any item if you are interested in selling or not. www.sarasotaantiquemall.com or phone (941) 809-2388
Silver plate: This refers to an item that has been made of a less valuable metal and then a thin layer of sterling silver is applied over the surface to give the appearance of real Sterling silver This is usually to save money and yet have a good looking item. Silver plate items do not have any commodity value but may have an intrinsic value. Again it is sometimes hard to know if you have a plated item as the markings were often made to be misleading. Seek the advice of an expert.
Also some interesting infomation on some of the best American silver companys.