Loading... Please wait...

Is it Silver or Plate? Part 1 Silver plate.

Posted by

How many times have you picked up a piece of cutlery and wondered how do I tell if this is silver or plated?

This is a two part blog to begin with we will look at silver plate.

Part 1 - Silver plate.

The very first thing to look for is wear, sounds obvious but it really is something people overlook. If there is wear through of the silver to a base metal it is plated. Look to the side of fork tines, the back of the spoons, the tips of spoons and the high spots of any patterning. The base metal will look usually pale gold or grey.  Have a look at the photo showing some badly worn forks, note wear can be far more subtle than this.


Next look for any markings to the back. Hopefully we can give you some understanding of these marks.

If it simply has a brand name it will not be solid silver. For example:


Look for the letters EPNS or EPBM in any form.  

Sometimes the letters are quite elaborate and styled to look like hallmarks. Sometimes they are split with EP over NS or BM. Sometimes there is simply EP or NS. This mark EPNS indicates electroplated nickel silver. Often the mark A1 or 1 is close by indicating the plating is of the highest quality. EPBM means electroplated base metal.                                                                                            

Alpacca is another mark which means silver plated nickel. Sometimes written ALP for short. 

P is also seen used for plate. 

Numbers on silver will not necessarily mean a silver content. Sometimes they are a pattern number, other times they are a measure of the amount of silver applied in the plating. There are two photos below with the numbers 24 and 30 indicating the amount of silver applied. To find out more about numbers on silver plate have a look here.

There are several great websites with good photos and information about silver plate. Here are two we use a lot. The last 3 are all from the same site but are specific pages.

The Online Encyclopedia of Silver marks

Silver Collection UK silver plate

Silver Collection US silver plate

Silver Collection European silver plate

One last thing is to smell your piece. Yes that's right give it a good sniff. Nickel has a distinctive metallic smell and can be smelt through the plating especially if the piece is rubbed to warm it up. You may have eaten something with a spoon that had very worn plating and noticed an unpleasant metallic taste. This is the same with the smell which is evident without any plating loss. To familiarize your self with this smell find something that you know is plated and give it a try. Solid Silver has no smell.

Here are some photos we have taken. They are all silver plate with the first one being Australian, not something either of the two sites above include.

Recent Updates

Sign up to our newsletter