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    

Gorham 6 Sterling Silver Chantilly Bread And Butter PlatesSterling Silver Bowl Antique Gorham 6 Oz Art Nouveau Pierced Basket Serving DishMueck-cary Co. 1940-50 Sterling Silver 549g Ornate Applied Candy Dish Bowl Antique Persian Isfahan Sterling Silver Engraved Set Of 5 Small Plates No ReservEnglish Sterling Silver Plates 2 Hunt & Roskell Ex Firm Of Paul StorrSimpson Hall Miller Sterling Tray Six Dinner Plates 60oz Vintage Lot Of 12 Sterling Silver Gorham 10 Breadplate PlatePair Olsen Norway Viking Ships Sterling Silver Blue Enamel Salt Dishes & Spoons1191 Grs. Sterling Silver Plates Dish Desert .925 Flatware Not Scrap SilverwareL@@k Vintage Sterling Silver Concho Plates , Buckles, Conchos (143.5 Grams)Antique Sterling Silver Novelty Clam Shell Shape Jam Or Butter Dish Dated 1903Woodside Sterling Co. N.y. 673g Silver Applied Handle Deco Charger Plate 512hSterling Silver Hand Made Entree Dish Dollhouse Miniature By William B. Meyer English Sterling Entree Dish Hope-scott Family Arms 1858 49ozVintage Lot Of 2 Unknown Maker Sterling Silver Leaf Hallmark Charger Plate HeavyTaxco Mexico Sterling Silver 995 Platter Plate Tray-10"- Bernice GoodspeedGorham 925 Solid Sterling Silver 1134 Mayonnaise Dish 204g Not ScrapWoodside Sterling Co. N.y. 1036g Applied Handle Deco Charger Plate 514hAntique Chester H'm Solid Sterling Silver Sauce, Butter Or Sweet Dish Dated 1897Sterling Silver - Antique Webster Repousse Ivy Leaf 21g - Jewelry Dish Um7831Georg Jensen Gi Old Candy Dish 7-1/2" Sterling DishInternational Sterling D147 Silver Solid 925 Large 8.5" X 2" Bowl Dish 322 GramsRare Set Of 8 Tiffany Sterling Silver Salt Dishes Or Finger Bowls #235162 Frank Smith Gardner Ma Solid Sterling Silver Candy Dishes #352 170 GramsVintage 3 Piece Gorham Sterling Silver 925 Shell Shaped Nut Dish Bowl Set Nr LoeSterling Silver Round Serving Tray Plate #3292 D Mauser Mfg Co Lattice 244 GramsEstate Vintage Sterling Silver Shell Shaped Candy Nut Bowl Dish + Small StrainerTiffany And Co Vintage Sterling Silver DishVintage Lot Of 8 W M30 Hallmark Sterling Silver Small Butter Pat PlateHeavy Sterling Silver Overlay Art Nouveau Trivet Plate Abp Cut Glass, 5 7/8"2 Antique Sterling Silver Boxed Pierced Relief Decorated Sweet Dishes Dated 1897Antique Meriden Sterling Silver Floral Repousse Sweet Meat Dish Ex!Antique .925 Sterling Silver Bowl Candy Dish 210 GramsVintage Sterling Silver Unknown Maker #6310 Sugar Bowl DishLarge Sterling Silver Vintage Estate Lot Bell,salt,small Dishes ,candlestickAntique .925 Sterling Silver Gorham Set Of 2 Shell Plates Platters 148 GramsAntique 1939 Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Plate Charger Sterling Silver - Heavy Gold Plate Filigree Flowers 81g - Bracelet (6") Wq2151C1900 Gorham Sterling Silver Floral Art Nouveau Heart Shape Dresser Dish Tray NrAsprey & Garrard Sterling Silver The Vintage Cup Armada Dish London 1999Antique Gorham .925 Sterling Silver Leaf Candy Dish Bowls Set Of (2) 212 GramsSet Of 12 Mint Gorham Sterling Silver Gilded Shell Nut Candy Dishes No MonogramsAntique .925 Sterling Silver Butter Dish Cherubs 74 GramsAntique .925 Sterling Silver S.kirk & Co Small Plates And Bowl 148 GramsSterling Silver Reed & Barton X102 Leaf Dish 217 Grams 800 Coin Silver Antiqie Dish And 88 Grams Sterling Silver ScrapLarge Heavy Sterling Silver Overlay Butterflies Trivet Plate Abp Cut Glass, 10"Sterling Silver - Signed Gold Plate Blue Topaz 7.9g - Ring (7) Xn2521Vb Enamel Sterling Silver Open Salt Dish W/ Spoon And Pepper Shaker Denmark Estate 5 Vintage Sterling Silver Candy Dish 2 Sugar Caddy Creamer All Stamped Antique Rumson Country Club Enamel Sterling Silver Trophy Plate,c.c.auchinclossSterling Silver - Gold Plate Twisted Carnelian 7.2g - Ring (11) Mens Xn1961Vintage 1972 Franklin Mint Sterling Silver Norman Rockwell The Carolers Plate Hecho En Mexico Sterling Silver Bowl/candy Dish? (scrap Or Not)Vintage Elgin Silversmiths Sterling Silver Covered Butter DishVery Vintage 925 Sterling Silver Small Candy Dish With Lid Tableware 126.6g TwVintage Sterling Silver Pierce Decorated Trinket Sweet Or Nut Dish Dated 1959Sterling Silver - Gold Plate Cz Triangles Tennis 17.2g - Bracelet (7") Xo0091Watson Sterling Silver Plate Platter Scrap Or Not 196 GramsAntique Webster Co. Sterling Silver Basket Candy Dish. Bowl 5-1/2" 68.5g C.1900