I am frequently asked at festivals and art fairs if my jewelry is “sterling”. This usually opens a dialog about flatware composition and what is available in spoon rings, spoon bracelets and fork bracelets. Spoon jewelry is most commonly found in silver plate, 90% or more. Fork and spoon jewelry that is available on forkjewelry.com is available in both sterling silver and silver plate. Sterling silver spoon jewelry is made from antique sterling silver flatware and silver plate spoon jewelry is made from antique silver plate flatware. Keep in mind that most patterns in flatware were available in either sterling silver or silver plate but not in both.
Sterling silver flatware is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (most of the time) and is less common than silver plate flatware. Scarcity and commodity make sterling silver flatware more expensive. Therefore, sterling silver spoon jewelry is more expensive. Some of the earlier patterns such as Frank Whiting’s Daffodil and Unger Brothers Douvain are ultra rare and command a premium price.
This reminds me of an incident when a customer asked the price of my sterling silver spoon bracelet and acted offended over the $69 price tag (69 bucks!). She held up her spoon bracelet adorned wrist and said “I have 20 of these and I ain’t never paid no $69 for one of these.” I explained to her that the bracelet that she was wearing was made from Vintage grape spoons and that Vintage grape is a silver plate pattern (big mistake). She didn’t understand this and proceeded to yell at me that her bracelet was made from “sterling”. She repeated this over and over as she walked away from my booth. “This is sterling… this is sterling… this is sterling.” This brings up the question, why do people get offended by a price when they are not obligated to purchase the merchandise? It seems as though there is an attitude that a quality product must be sold for less money to be quality. I guess if one is shopping price then quality = low price.
This started as a post about flatware but has turned into a post about what merchants have to deal with when dealing with customers. Luckily, 99% of all customers are very amiable people, who are a joy to interact with.
Often a customer will pick up a piece of my plated flatware and ask, “How do you get it so shiny, is it re-plated?” No, I polish it! My silver plate jewelry is not re-plated. When the right material is used re-plating is not necessary. What is the right material? For some it is worn cheap flatware. If you are buying a piece of silver plate spoon jewelry be very careful, a lot (and I mean a lot) of spoon jewelry that is sold is made from ”Box Lot” flatware. What is “Box Lot” flatware? Box lot flatware is the flatware purchased at your local auction house that no one else wants because it looks like and is crap. No other way describes it better. It has been used for 60 years to stir beans cooking in a cast iron skillet, then used to balance a wobbly table then handed down to an unappreciative step nephew who thought it would be worth a bunch of money but later found out it wasn’t so he gave it the guy down the street who deals in scrap silver and then he found out that it was silver plate so he threw it in his auction box and then took to the auction to be sold as a “Box Lot” along with 400 other pieces of crap silver plate. These lots are usually bought for very little money, maybe 10 cents per flatware piece. Continuing the life cycle of this “Box Lot” flatware, it has now fallen into the hands of the latest “Spoon Jewelry” artist who wants to make their first million at the local craft fair. They take this 10 cent piece of crappy flatware and make it into a spoon ring or a spoon bracelet or fork bracelet, maybe they hang something from the center jump ring and clean off the old food (I have seen some that looked there was still last week’s pot roast clinging to it) and then they sell their spoon ring for $8 or their spoon bracelet for $18. Wow! What a bargain. The problem with this is I get to see these spoon rings and spoon bracelets the following year, after they have been worn for a little bit. Suddenly the silver plate spoon ring that was purchased the year before is now taking on a somewhat brassy look. Why is this? The silver on silver plate flatware will eventually wear off. But this will happen over 5-10-15 years of wear, not 1 year (there is no way to guarantee the length of time before loss of plating occurs). The original intended use was as flatware so the plating is designed to take some abuse. But if the abuse has been applied from use as a cast iron pot scratcher or table leveler then there isn’t much life left in the plating. So the silver plate spoon ring that was bought the year before only had a very small amount of silver left on it because of its “Box Lot” flatware classification. After a little bit of wear, the brass base will show. So how do you prevent yourself from purchasing “Box Lot” flatware spoon jewelry? Ask how and where the flatware is bought. Remember you get what you pay for. Look at the finish on the jewelry, if it doesn’t have a mirror like finish that you can see your pretty mug in, beware.
Hopefully this has brought to light some of the often overlooked nuisances of spoon jewelry. If you have any questions please email me through the Contact Us page
wanted to try to make a few pieces for Christmas presents..where would be a good place to order silver plated flatware, just for jewelry making-I don't have the time to go to antique stores. thanks do you sell it?
I bought some cutlery and the tines snapped off how do i know what type to buy when these are silver plated but bad base metal?
I started to make flatware jewelry as a stress relief from my hospice nursing job. I've searched and searched for a good instruction book to help me get the techniques of bending,polishing ect. can you help me out?
Usually the metal is brass. It has a distinct smell.
Thank you so much for your article. I make 925 silver and am wanting to expand into working with silver plate. Am wondering how do you identify the base metal before purchasing the piece.
this is very informative -- thanks
I ordered the two heart bracelet for my mother in law for her birthday and she just loved it, I also loved it so Im having my husband order me some jewelry for valentines day!