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

Most watched eBay auctions    

Gorgeous Antique 1900s French Sterling Silver Cake/pastry Serving Tray Rococo StAmazing, Very Rare Pair Of Old Sheffield Plate & Solid Silver 11 '' Candlesticks1924 Webster Sterling Silver Penn Athletic Club Rowing Trophy Visitor Plate YqzPretty, Solid Silver Sweet Dish, 1915, 126gm - Walker & HallVintage Solid Sterling Silver Small Pedestal Dish Superb Solid Silver Chinese Export Hammered & Bamboo 1925 Dollar Coin DishFranklin Mint Greatest Masterpieces 100-piece Set Sterling 24k Plate 208 Troy OzCoalport "pembroke" China Plate & Shreve Co. Sterling Silver Overlay Rim ChargerAntique Chinese Export Solid Silver Maria Theresa Coin Set Dish C1920 68gLovely Antique Georgian Solid Silver Communion Wafer Dish 38g London 18281925 Penn Athletic Club Distance Rowing Sterling Silver Trophy Bowl Plate Nr YqzUnusual Hm1891 Cast Solid Silver Dish Levi & Salaman Antique Faux Tortoise ShellAntique Chinese Export Solid Silver Maria Theresa Coin Set Dish C1920 66gSterling Silver Small Decorative Grapevine Dish/coaster/plate Hazorfim KiddushFine Quality Antique Indo Persian, Se Asian, Islamic Pierced Solid Silver DishAntique 167g Sterling Silver Relief Decorated Sweet Or Serving Dish Dated 1892Tiffany And Co. Makers Sterling Silver Dish 166 KSmall Antique Sterling Silver Pedestal Bon Bon Dish, Chester 1913Unusual Antique Sterling Silver Bon Bon Dish No ReserveSterling Silver 8" PlateAntique Sterling Silver Small Plate1972 Solid Silver British Empire Queen Victoria Commemorative Plate 228g/7.33ozs4 Ahwahnee Rolled Edge 7" Salad Plate Dish Yosemite Park Sterling China UsaAntique Sterling Silver Gravy Dish 3504 "hecho En Mexico" AztecaA Stunning Pair Of Edwardian Solid Silver Bon Bon Dishes Birmingham 1902 Vgc Vintage Collectible Hallmark Birmingham Solid Silver Small Salver Dish / JubileeFranklin Mint "bobwhite" By Richard Younger Sterling Silver Ltd Ed Plate & CoaVictorian Good Quality Solid Sterling Silver Reticulated Rim Dish PairVintage Solid Silver Dish Weighing 84 Grams And Hallmarked In London In 1973Vintage Gorham Sterling Silver Repousse Serving Plate Dish 10 Inches 344 GramsVtg Solid Sterling Silver Plate W Repousse Roses At Edge 242 Grams Not ScrapSterling Silver Serving Plate 9 5/8"Export Solid Silver Chinese Hallmarked Signed Dish With Two Handles 147.2gramsJames Wyeth Sterling Com. Plate Winter Fox 1-5Antique Sterling Silver Gravy Dish "hecho En Mexico"Good Qualiity Solid Sterling Silver Dish With Gadrooned & Embossed Border, 1972.925 Sterling Silver Lot Tiffany & Co 15in Charger Plate 21254 (37.09 Troy Oz)Vintage Simpson Hall & Miller Co. Sterling Plate 275.6g Sterling China By Russel Wright Stencil Airbrush Restaurant The Palms 9" PlatesVintage Pair Of Indian Or Persian Solid Silver Dishes Franklin Mint Sterling "the 1974 Official Bicentennial Commemorative Plate" &coaFranklin Mint Sterling "the 1973 Official Bicentennial Commemorative Plate" CoaAntique C.1900 Art Nouveau Meriden Britania Floral Sterling Silver Bon Bon DishFranklin Mint Sterling "the 1976 Official Bicentennial Commemorative Plate" Coa Art Deco Designed Pierced Solid Silver Bon Bon Dish 1933. William AdamsMatching Pair 1934 Nebraska License Plates 33-d 925 Stored Not UsedFranklin Mint Irene Spencer "mother's Day Plate" Ltd Ed Sterling Plate With CoaFranklin Mint "american Bald Eagle" By Richard Younger Ltd Ed Sterling Plate CoaVintage Gorham Sterling Silver Heart Shaped Dish NrEgyptian Solid Silver Dish / CoasterTheo Starr Sterling Dishes New York C191010 Alvin E49 Sterling Silver 6" Bread Plates 765 GramsVtg Ford Motor Dish ~ Script ~ Sterling Restaurant WareFranklin Mint "the Cardinal" By Richard Younger Ltd Ed Sterling Plate With CoaBlack Starr & Gorham Sciarrota Sterling Handmade Leaf Dish No ReserveFranklin Mint Sterling "the 1975 Official Bicentennial Commemorative Plate" CoaEgyptian Solid Silver Dish / CoasterVintage 2 X Solid Silver Square Mini Dish / Coaster - Stamped - Made In Italy1972 Geo Washington Mint Inc. N. C. Wyeth Uncle Sam Sterling Silver PlateFranklin Mint 1979 Sterling Silver Flower Alphabet Miniature Plates