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    

Vintage Solid Silver Art Deco Pin Bonbon Sweetmeat Dish 1920 Hallmarked Sterling4 Early Antique Sterling Silver Hallmarked Dutch Shell Dishes W/ Gold Wash, NrAuth Tiffany & Co. Return To Plate Pendant Silver925 Necklace #7722Antique Vintage 1895c Sterling Gorham #740 Chantilly Footed Dish CompoteTiffany & Co Makers Sterling Silver Seashell Dish Bowl Tray #'d 25368Tiffany Sterling Gorgeous Very Rare Greek Medallion Silver Dish 7" 9.5 T. OuncesFine Sterling Silver Peruana Set Of Six DishesIrish Sterling Shell Dish George Iii Form Pair 35 OzAntique Sterling Silver 14k Gold Plate Earrings Victorian Urns Jade Amethyst 2"6 Vintage Sterling Silver Kings Pattern Handle Butter Or Side Plate Knives 1958Unusual Antique Solid Sterling Silver Trinket / Pin Dish Flower Design 1944Superb Whiting Hand Hammered Sterling Silver & Mixed Metals Salt Cellar DishAntique Sterling Silver Novelty Scallop Shell Shape Jam / Butter Dish Dated 1912Antique Set Of Two Repousse Sterling/plate? Silver Bowls Oyster? Platter 10"Vintage Estate Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Candy Ring Dish2 Antique Sterling Silver & Cut Glass Salt Or Sauce Dishes & Spoons Dated 1910Set Of 6 Vintage Sterling (mexico) Nut Dishes, 144 Grams, And Tongs, 12 Grams 19thc Antique 1891 English London Sterling Silver Shell Dish W/ Hallmark E.p.h.tStrasbourg By Gorham Sterling Silver Nut Cup Dish Candy 4780 No Mono 0.725 Troy Vintage Large .925 Sterling Silver Plate 319 Grams 10.5" (430)Vintage Ornate Leaf Shaped Tea Bag Strainer W/4 Footed Sterling Silver Rest DishSterling Silver - Signed Gold Plate Clear Cz Tennis 17.2g - Bracelet (7") Fd0511Sterling Silver And Gold Plate Turtle Chop Stick & Spoon Set Never Used An Antique American Sterling Silver Footed Dish By Tiffany & Co. Of New YorkEdwardian Sterling Silver Novelty Dish As Venetian Gondola Marks & Cohen 1905Antique Sterling Silver 925 Figural Fish Footed Ashtray Trinket Jewelry Dish MrpLot Of Sterling Silver Plates Napkin Rings Dessert Cups 555.7 ScrapSterling Silver Mexico 925 Oval Serving Bowl Dish Taxco HallmarkSuperb Rare English Antique Solid Sterling Silver Embossed Bulldog Dish B1909Antique Hand Made Bailey Banks & Biddle Sterling Silver Leaf Dish, NrRare Antique Solid Sterling Silver Glass Lined Scallop Shell Butter Dish 1906Wallace Sterling Silver 10" Embossed Serving Plate4 Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Leaf Dish Set Of Four W/ Original Bags 22475Fine Sterling Silver Mythological Bon Bon DishLovely Turkish Chain Sterling Silver & Gold Plate Bracelet Turkey | Rs BxLarge Gorham Sterling Silver Nut Dish Old Estate .97 TozSterling Decorated Dish Or Shallow Bowl, Possibly Gorham, 9" LongAntique Sterling Silver Pierce Decorated Trinket Dish Or Sweet Basket Dated 1911Lovely Antique Solid Sterling Silver Dish With Embossed Floral BorderSet Of 6 Antique Webster Sterling Silver Nut Dishes 55 GramsSterling Silver - Signed .925 Gold Plate Kunzite Tennis Bracelet 12.5gSterling Silver - Gold Plate Emerald-cut Sapphire 1.1g - Stud Earrings Eo2951Very Rare Made By La Paglia, Sterling Silver Bowl Dish, Georg Jensen InspiredTiffany&co Sterling Silver Vintage Dish TraySterling Silver Bread Dish, 10" Wide, Decent ConditionSterling 12" Plate 37-plater By Poole ~ 467grams3" Victorian Solid Sterling Silver Pin Dish 1894 ~ Antique Dressing Table TrayVintage/antique? Black Starr Gorham Sterling Silver Candy/nut Dish With HandleSterling Silver Mexico 925 Tango Aeeves San Francisco Square Bowl Candy Dish Franklin Mint Solid Sterling Silver Abraham Lincoln Presidential Plate W 24k GldAntique Sterling Silver Art Nouveau Mauser Mfg Co Figural Shell Dish Beauty NrSterling Silver - 6mm Gold Plate Cz Tennis 17.8g - Bracelet (7.5") Eh7111Sterling Reticulated/ Ornate Candy DishAlvin Art Nouveau High Relief Repousse Sterling Silver Bon Bon Dish Small BowlAntique Early 20thcarts & Crafts Thistle Flower International Sterling Bowl DishEnglish Sterling Silver Dolphin & Shell Open Salt Cellar Dish Birmingham 1871Cohr Denmark Sterling Silver 925 DishFranklin Mint 1974 Thanksgiving Prayer Plate Solid Sterling Silver 180 GramsTwo Sterling Silver Dishes - Mixed LotWallace Sterling Silver 10" Sandwich Plate, Rose Point, Ruffleld Rim, Excellent