Throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries, plates were among the least decorated objects made out of sterling silver. Though relatively common in England and France, American-made sterling-silver plates from these centuries are rare. The demand for them was low, their cost was high, and producing a strong, perfectly flat plate from soft silver took a great deal of expertise.

Most sterling plates were used as bases to carry porcelain or glass plates, which were the dishes that people actually ate off of. As a result, the centers of sterling plates were often left plain, marked only by a monogram or coat of arms. One particularly renowned American silversmith of the early 1800s was Fletcher & Gardiner, which produced all manner of Federal style sterling-silver objects—from pitchers to trays to bowls—in their Philadelphia shop.

The brims of silver plates were usually raised. This made them easy to pick up and kept the porcelain plates on top of them from sliding around. Brim decorations were typically limited to engraving, while three-dimensional treatments such as gadrooning and reeding were reserved for the edges.

Two things happened to change the way silver was used in the mid-1800s: The first was the introduction of electroplating techniques in the 1840s. This allowed manufacturers to plate inexpensive metals with thin coats of precious silver. The second great event was the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada in 1859. This major silver strike, along with others that followed in Colorado in the late 1870s, made the metal more affordable.

The differences between silver plate and solid sterling are fairly easy to spot. First, sterling wares were always hallmarked, whereas plated pieces often bore the full engraved name of its manufacturer. Silver-plated objects tend to be heavier than similar pieces made of sterling silver, and the heavier metals beneath their thin silver surfaces are often visible on edges, high points, and other spots that get a lot of wear.

By the late 1800s, as the fussy styles of the Victorian Era flourished, sterling-silver plates made by Tiffany and others gained some popularity, although their need was never as clear as that of serving dishes, ladles, and other sterling-silver tableware. Art Nouveau artisans took to illustrating their plates with raised and chased floral motifs and storybook characters, while those who favored Arts and Crafts made sure the hammer marks on their pieces were still visible, since process was a centerpiece of that aesthetic.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Chicago Silver

Chicago Silver

Paul Somerson's incredible reference on handwrought metalwork from the American Arts and Crafts movement of the ear… [read review or visit site]

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

An extensive reference guide to silver marks, hallmarks, trademarks and maker's marks found on antique and vintage … [read review or visit site]

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

This is a great reference site on silver, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can view silver items acc… [read review or visit site]

The Gilbert Collection

The Gilbert Collection

The late Sir Arthur Gilbert's collection of European silver, gold, enamel, and other items is now housed at the Vic… [read review or visit site]

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

“Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj” was the title of a 2008 exhibition at Columbia University’s Mi… [read review or visit site]

TheStieffCompany.com

TheStieffCompany.com

Scott Perkins is an enthusiastic evangelist for The Stieff Company, a significant Baltimore silversmith and maker o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

2 Cut Glass & Sterling Silver Figural Swan Condiment Dish & SaltAntiqe Solid 925 Sterling Silver Elegant Bon Bon Bowl Dish 41.6gLarge Dish Vase Sterling Silver Old International Heavy Perfect Footed CompoteAntique Solid 925 Sterling Silver Trinket Pin Dish 47.2g16.8oz Sterling Silver Plates. Scrap Or Use. One Day Auction.5” Sterling Silver Plate Western Horse Show Bit Aurora Optima Sterling Silver And Gold Plate Fountain Pen In Box 14k NibMappin & Webb Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Bonbon Dish Hm 1913Antique Sterling Silver Footed Plate/platter/tray 8"--330.9 Gr Scrap Or UseBeautiful Sterling Silver Dish Tray Bowl Art Nouveau By Theodore Starr New YorkSuper Antique Hallmarked Sterling Silver Pierced Bowl/dish - 1920 - 227gAntique Sterling Silver Novelty Scallop Shell Shape Jam / Butter Dish Dated 1904Peruvian 1880 Coin Sterling Silver Lima Peru Hand Crafted Bowl-dish 99.4 GramsPair Fabulous Theodore B. Starr Sterling Silver Reticulated Compote Dishes Vintage Sterling Silver Watson Serving Tray Dish Breadstick Antique Pierced OldSuper Pr Of Antique Solid Sterling Silver Shell Dishes - 1894 George UniteSuper Set Of 4 Antique Hallmarked Sterling Silver Dishes - 1914828.6 Gr --26.64 Toz Sterling Silver Lot--scrap--collect--compote, Plate, BowlFine Wallace Sterling Silver Larkspur 10" Plate Bowl #4292-92 Victorian Sterling Silver Gilt Salt Or Sauce Dishes From Sheffield Dated 1892Antique Sterling Silver Peanut Shape Sweet Or Nut Dish By Elkington Dated 1928International Silver Sterling Nut Dish Set 6 1/2" Dish & 3 1/4" Smaller Dishes Antique Gorham Sterling Silver Serving Tray W/ Knife Rest - Dish - 6" DiameterSterling Silver Candy Dish With Thaler Dollar Total Weight 68.4g 97mm DiameterAntique German Sterling Silver 9" X 6" Pierced Dish - Cherub Scene C1880Sterling Silver Armarda Dish Sheffield 1992 - Fine ItemSterling Silver Heart-shaped Footed Nut/candy Dish #236Tiffany & Co. Twelve Sterling Silver Bread PlatesBeautiful Vintage Maciel Mexican Sterling Silver Seashell Nut Dishes Set Of 6 NrVintage Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Heart Or Apple Form Dish With Leaf HandleVintage Sterling Silver & Cut Crystal Novelty Swan Shape Dish & Spoon Dated 1957A Pair Of Scrap Sterling Silver Candy DishesSterling Silver Plate, RepoussP0103 Beautiful Cartier Sterling Silver Shallow Bowl Or Plate 9" 204.7 G2 Daughters Of The American Revolution Dishes & 2 Sterling Spoons Excellent Set!6 Antique Sterling Silver Onslo Pattern Handle Side Plate Cutlery Knives C. 1905Sterling Silver - 3mm Gold Plate Rolo Chain 12.6g - Necklace (18") Mens Hg5701Vintage Sterling Silver 925 Heart Candy Dish Bowl By Fisher # 119 No MonogramAntique Duchin Imperial Glass Candlewick And Sterling Silver Weighted Cake PlateSterling Silver - Italy 2mm Rose Gold Plate Box Chain 5g - Necklace (20") Hs1181925 Solid Silver Dish Weight 262 GmsVintage Antique Silver Plate & Sterling Silverware Flatware Lot Candle ScrapFranklin Mint 1975 Thanksgiving Family Plate Solid Sterling Silver 165 GramsDanbury Mint Solid Sterling Silver The Boston Tea Party 8" Plate 243.6 Grams Lot 4 Silver Dishes Reed & Barton X 825 Sterling Tara Bowl, Covered Serving DishPair Of Gorham Sterling Silver Nut Cups/dishes With Beaded EdgeVintage "tiffany And Co." Sterling Silver Footed Dish With Tray With Mono NrSterling Silver Change Dish 75 GramsDanbury Mint Solid Sterling Silver Continental Congress 8" Plate 227 Grams Old Vintage Sterling Silver Footed Pedestal Compote Bowl Nut Candy Dish Lord Silver Inc. Weighted .925 Sterling Silver 6.25" Compote Dish 124 GramsVintage Gorham Sterling Silver Vegetable Dish Bowl #13565 ~ 400 Grams! 10.5" Nr!Huge Sterling Silver Gorham Charger Plate 425 Grams A Beauty No Scrap(3) - Gorham Sterling Silver Rimmed Trays 9.25", 7.5", 6.5" Trivet Hot Plate1970 Solid Sterling Silver Norman Rockwell "bringing Home The Tree" Plate W/coaAntique Designer Signed International Sterling Silver Repousse Bowl Dish 57gAntique Fully Hallmarked Sterling Silver Bon Bon Dish 54.4 GramsTall Weighted Sterling Silver Pedestal Compote Candy Dish Made In Bali Anna Beck Sterling Silver And Gold Plate Disc Ring Size 6 1/2Vintage Hopi Gold Plate Over Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Mkr/mrkd