What Are the Differences?

What's the difference between sterling silver, silverplate, and stainless?

When selecting flatware and other silver home décor accessories, there are so many choices available. "Silverware,"which includes eating utensils, serving dishes, and decorative items, is made either of sterling silver, silverplate, or stainless steel. So how do you decide between them? Knowing the difference is your first step to making the right choice to meet your needs and your lifestyle.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is the premium variety of silverware, crafted from 925 parts silver to 75 parts alloy such as nickel or copper for durability. Genuine sterling silver is always marked as such. Any sterling silver made in the USA after approximately the 1850s has a sterling mark that may say Sterling or .925. If it doesn't have this mark it's not sterling silver. A professional can test to see if your flatware is real sterling silver with an acid test, which determines silver content.

While more costly than silverplate and stainless steel, there are many benefits to owning real sterling silver. Sterling silver is a luxury you can enjoy every day, and a precious heirloom that can last forever.

  • Sterling silver always retains it intrinsic silver value, and usually holds value as tableware as well. So, sterling silver has a strong resale value for the life of the product, and will keep its value for generations to come.
  • Sterling silver will last forever if you use it and care for it properly.
  • Sterling silver is an investment that rewards you every time you use it for the unparalleled beauty and substance it brings to your table.


  • Silverplate features layers of silver plated over another metal, often copper or brass. It holds no marks to classify it as silverplate. It's often pricier than stainless steel, and has the bright, shiny finish of silver, though is usually lighter than sterling silver.
  • Silverplate has no intrinsic silver value. The silver plating is thin, so it's not worth the refining costs to try to redeem the silver, thus it has very little resale value as tableware.

Most silverplate will last approximately 20 years with proper care, or less depending on use. Over time with frequent use, the silver plating can wear off.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a fabricated material. There are different varieties of stainless. "18/10" stainless steel is the highest quality; the alloy contains 18 percent chromium, and 10 percent nickel. The chromium makes the metal rust proof and stain resistant, while the nickel gives it luster and shine. The rest of the metal is composite steel, which makes the utensils strong. Some stainless steel flatware is made of 18/8 stainless steel or 18/0 stainless steel, which can be less expensive; though it is often difficult to tell the difference.

  • Stainless will last approximately 100 years with proper care.
    • Stainless has no intrinsic resale value. It's durable, low maintenance, and cost effective type of flatware, though holds no intrinsic value as metal or as tableware after its initial purchase.