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    

Museum Qual Barker Ellis Birks Sterling Mount Silver Plate Repousse Platter TrayExquisite 1884 Victorian London Sterling Silver Repousse Rose Bowl Serving DishGorgeous 1892 Victorian London Sterling Silver Repousse Rose Bowl Serving DishPretty C1900 Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Floral Repousse Serving Bowl Candy DishSuperb C1900 Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Strawberry Repousse Serving Bowl DishGreat Set 12 Birks Sterling Silver Etched Glass Champagne Glasses Dessert Dishes8 Great American Sterling Silver Bread & Butter Side Plates Wine Bottle CoastersGeorgian Large Shell Solid Silver Butter Dish 1764 Hallmarked Sterling London NrSet Of 3 1930's Gorham (durgin) Sterling Silver Swan Nut/candy DishesFine C1900 Gorham Sterling Silver Raspberry Pattern Repousse Candy Bowl Nut DishGorham Sterling Silver Monogrammed Oval Plate 435gVery Fine 1939 Birks Sterling Silver Footed Pierced Master Nut Dish Candy BowlLovely Lebolt Arts Crafts Sterling Silver Daisy Floral Repousse Candy Dish Bowl2 English Dishes Vases Compotes Sterling Silver Old Sheffield Heavy Repousse 19cSuperb Kerr Art Nouveau Chrysanthemums Sterling Silver Candy Nut Bowl DishVintage Gorham A4775 Sterling Silver Nut Dish Bowl No Monogram No ReservePair Vintage Sterling Cut-out Dishes/tazzas By Simons Brothers, 302 GramsEnglish Sterling Entree Dishes 1856 Samuel Hunt Late Paul StorrVintage Napier Art Deco Sterling Silver (not Plate) 2 Oz Measuring Shot Signed Fine 1967 Birks Sterling Silver Chippendale Pattern Pedestal Nut Dish Candy BowlVintage Gorham Sterling Silver .925 Plate 10" 373 Grams (1190)Lot Sterling Silver 339.7 G 11.98 Oz Scrap Candle Holder Dish An Art Nouveau Antique Solid Sterling Silver Victorian Pierced Dish London 1896.Superb Chinese Sterling Silver Tazza Dish Stand Dragons Bamboo Fine Chased C1900Yamaha Solid Sterling Silver Flute Headjoint With Gold Lip PlateAntique Zaanlandse Zilversmederijen Dutch Sterling Silver Dish/ash Tray 1920's Chinese Coin Dish Sterling Silver Circa 1920sTowle Sterling 1902 Earl Pardon Enamel Bowl Dish 7 5/8" Modern Design NrOld S Kirk & Son Sterling Silver Repousse Berry/candy Bowl/dish/tray #431Finest Mauser Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Candy Nut Bowl Dish Flower Dragonfly Wallace Grand Colonial Sterling Silver Footed Nut / Candy DishSterling Silver - Simon Sebbag Gold Plate Bangle 17.4g - Bracelet (7.25") Gz737Sterling Silver Cartier Irish Candy Dish L291 (428.4g) 10" X 3/4"Gorham Sterling Silver Heart Shaped Candy Bon Bon Nut Dish Bowl 966Sterling Silver 3-section Clover Shaped Nut Dish Bowl Frank W Smith Silver Co.Authentic Tiffany & Co Makers 22886 Sterling Silver 925 Heart Leaf Nut DishSterling Silver Salvadore Dali Easter Christ 1972 Lincoln Mint Plate 315 GramsLarge Frank M Whiting Co. Sterling Candy/nut Dish 9.96 Troy Oz. Pre War,1930's1970 Solid Sterling Silver Norman Rockwell "bringing Home The Tree" Plate W/coaSuper English Sterling Silver Dish George Jackson & David Fullerton London 1909Sterling Silver Pedestal Candy Bonbon Dish Compote #51 Use/scrap Weighted 313g Sterling Silver - Italy 14mm Gold Plate Omega Chain 24.8g - Bracelet (7") Lt0041 Sterling Silver 7 Inch Plate Or Tray 198 GramsStieff Rose Sterling Silver Floral Repousse Bowl #53 Candy Dish No MonogramLanding Of Columbus America House Sterling Silver Collector Plate 495 Gr ScrapStieff Sterling Silver Butter Pat/ Nut Dish 3" Across 48-x Rose PatternSterling Silver - Signed Nf Gold Plate Jade Tennis 25.2g - Bracelet (8") Lt05011973 Franklin Mint "the Wood Duck" Sterling Silver Plate By James F. Landsdowne 1972 Franklin Mint Mothers Day Plate Solid Sterling Silver/limited EditionAntique Kirk & Son Sterling Silver Wildflower Center Bowl Serving Dish Vtg 412gSterling Silver Rectangular Dish 229.8 Grams Scrap Rose And Scroll Design73.5 G Sterling Silver Wallace Grande Baroque Heart Bon Bon Nut Dish 4850-9Vintage Gorham #966 Sterling Silver Pierced Heart Candy Bon Bon Serving Dish 68g1972 Salvador Dali Sterling Silver Dionysos Et Pallas Athena Plate 280 Gr ScrapHuge New Designed Green,white Cubic Zirconia Black Rhodium Plate 925 Silver Ring4 Reed & Barton "francis 1st" Sterling Silver Nut DishesScrap/use Vintage Japanese Toyokoki 990 Sterling Silver Serving Tray Dish 19.2ozSuperb Sterling Silver Novelty Dish As Fruit Vegetable Basket By Cartier C1970Unique Winged Griffon Sterling Silver Open Salt Cellar Dish Franklin Mint Sterling Silver "skating On The Brandywine Wyeth Plate