Sterling silver is a blend of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent pure copper. This sterling silver formula was developed because pure silver is a relatively soft metal and would wear out or suffer damage if used for practical objects such as dinner sets or jewelry. Adding copper results in more resilience while maintaining almost all of the shine and luster of pure silver. To calculate the value of your sterling silver, you need to determine the precise amount of pure silver the object contains.
Investigate the Pieces
Examine your pieces to ensure they are made from high-quality silver. According to Simone Walsh, a maker's mark or hallmark, along with the numbers 925, indicates sterling silver. On jewelry, this marking sometimes occurs on the clasp or on the back of a statement piece. For household items, check underneath the item to find this special marking.
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Lower numbers indicate lower-quality silver while higher numbers mean the object contains a higher proportion of pure silver. If no marks or numbers are present, your pieces may be silver plated. If this is the case, they will contain too little of the precious metal to be of any intrinsic value.
Consider also: How to Find, Interpret and Understand Markings on Silver
Determine the Weight
Weigh the item and record the figure in either grams or ounces, depending on the units used by your scale. It is vital to use a scale that is very accurate when you are trying to determine sterling silver weight value, as any small variation in the weight can make a big difference in terms of value. Silver is priced using a special unit of measurement known as the troy ounce, so you will need to convert your figures to determine the value of your object.
Use a calculator to work out the weight of your item in troy ounces. Divide the weight in grams by 31.10 or the weight in ounces by 1.097. Record your answer. This figure gives the overall weight of the object in troy ounces. Multiply this figure by 0.925 to determine the actual amount of precious metal the object contains.
Consider Also: How to Measure the Weight of Gold and Silver
Get the Value
Multiply the weight of silver in troy ounces by the current price of silver to find the overall value of the precious metal in your item. You can find the spot price at various online sites. There are also sites that simplify the necessary calculations, allowing you to input the total weight of a sterling silver object and automatically adjusting for the percentage of silver it contains.
Considerations for Value Calculation
According to Biltmore Loan and Jewelry, the value of sterling silver often goes beyond its mere weight. Rare or highly decorated objects, pieces of jewelry and items that display fine craftsmanship may be worth far more than just the value of the silver they contain. Consult an antiques manual or have your items appraised by an expert to determine their full value. For jewelry, visit a local jewelry shop to get an appraisal by a professional, especially if you need the estimate for insurance purposes.
The presence of a hallmark is no guarantee that an item is made of genuine sterling silver. Test kits are available but these may cause permanent damage to items that are made of lower-quality silver or covered in silver plate.