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Starting Your Silver Collection

Photo of Jewelry

Silver has a lot of the same appeal as gold — they are both shiny, beautiful, and appealing to collectors. To some collectors, silver is even more desirable than gold, as it is much more affordable to obtain. Anyone wanting to start a collection first needs to know what to look for to ensure their treasures will continue to retain value as they age.

What to Know

Know the basic facts about the items you plan to collect before you begin. If silver housewares are the desirable catch, for example, remember that each piece must have a mark that says sterling somewhere on it. British and other European collectibles have numbers stamped on the bottom of each item — 925, 900, or 800 — that show the amount of silver the maker used in the product.

When coin collecting, remember that American coins only contained silver until 1964. Some Kennedy dollars were an exception — the U.S. Mint used silver in their construction up until 1969. Experts recommend avoiding collectible sets from the U.S. Mint and other sellers because they usually only contain silver-plated coins that are worth their face value, but nothing more.

Jewelry collectors need to learn about hallmarks. When it comes to determining value, the maker and the design of sterling silver jewelry are usually more important than the amount of silver . There are free hallmark databases online that enable people to research specific marks to help them narrow down the maker and the potential value of the piece.

Where to Shop

Avoid individual private sellers for large silver investments until you have enough experience to identify fake items and know what type of damage can lower the value. Garage and estate sales where you might find boxes of tarnished silver for a couple of dollars are safer options and may result in a few good finds. Pawn shops, thrift stores, and antique shops also have a lot of potential. 

Antique shops will usually have the items priced at the high end of their full value, but the buyer who wants to collect for the beauty of the goods will have plenty of affordable options to choose from.

How to Clean

Silver tarnishes easily, and the new collector will want their treasures to shine as much as possible. Be careful during any cleaning process and avoid repairs without talking to an expert first — many collectors of vintage and antique items pay more for damaged goods than for repaired ones. Always take delicate items or those with enamel or gemstones to a jeweler.

An inexpensive and effective home solution for all silver is to place aluminum foil in a pan and cover it with baking soda. Add white vinegar to the baking soda and allow it to bubble for a minute. Then, pour boiling water into the pan and fully submerge the silver. Allow the silver to soak for several minutes before removing with tongs (to avoid burns) and buff with a soft cloth. 

Do not scrub the silver or use toothpicks or other tools to pick out tarnish or other debris from any grooves. Silver scratches easily and the tarnish is less damaging to the value than any gouges you might inadvertently make. Mix up some fresh cleaning solution and soak the items for a second time if needed.

Are ready to start your collection, or do you want to know the value of the silver you already own? At Gardena Jewelry & Loan Co., our silver experts can help you buy or sell silver items, as well as give you more information about your pieces.