The photo above was taken for an estate auction in Carbondale, IL. While the photo looks like a beautiful array of silver serving items, the actual melt value in the photo is minimal. All of the items shown are silver plated which means they are a base metal with a very thin layer of silver over the top. Silver plated items can be marked "EP", "EPNS", "Quadruple Plate", simply "Plated" and more.
Knowing the Mark
Knowing what the markings mean is pivotal in understanding the value of the silver item. The markings can give the maker, the standard of silver that the maker was using, whether the piece is "weighted" or not (meaning they are partially filled with another material like wax or lead to keep them stable), and also the pattern.
Looking Closely at Jewelry
Silver jewelry can be even more complicated to identify because of the size of the markings on such small pieces. As you can see in the examples above, some makers use numbers like 925 or 830 (representing 92.5% or 83%), while other makers use the word "sterling" on the pieces. Be sure to look very closely on these pieces to be sure you understand what you are seeing.
In both serving pieces and jewelry, the value also lies in the beauty and not just the melt value. If you find a piece interesting, beautiful, or find that it suits you, then maybe the value is higher than the silver melt value. After all, fine jewelry and antiques can dress up a room or an outfit, so have fun finding your new silver treasures!