How to Find More Sterling Silver with this Secret Source

Sterling Silver Handle – Butter Knife Set

There are lots of ways to find more sterling silver.  You can visit more stores and sales, go more often, and be persistent.  But most of the obvious ways to find more scrap silver also require investing more time and effort… this is ok to an extent, but that only works to a point and doesn’t always produce the desired results.

Instead, I like the idea of working smarter, not harder, and a little bit of knowledge and the curiosity to look where others don’t (or won’t) has paid off handsomely over the years.  I also like to maximize each “prospecting trip”, and this tip will definitely help you find more scrap silver even in locations that are already “picked over”.

That being said, here’s one of my all-time favorite ways to find more scrap sterling silver when I’m out looking at thrift stores, estate sales, etc.  While it’s really not a “secret”, it might as well be since what I’m about to share has added hundreds of dollars to my bottom line on more than one occasion and is a proven strategy for finding more scrap sterling silver in less time.

Sterling Silver Knife Handle Marking

So what’s the secret?

Easy… look at knife handles.  And not just carving knives or fancy knives (although you should check these too) but even stop and look at the old BUTTER KNIVES and plain flatware.  You might be surprised to find that some of the older flatware pieces have sterling silver handles.  In fact, a lot of them are even marked “Sterling Handle”, though the marking can be small, worn, and hard to see.

Don’t discount any pieces of older flatware because ya never know…

This “secret” works especially well if you’re like me and haunt the thrift stores, estate sales, and yard sales looking for cheap precious metals.  Let’s be honest, there are tons of people who frequent these places on a daily basis, all pretty much looking for the same stuff (aka, items of value).  So quite often these places are “picked over”, and good deals seem few and far between.  I’m telling you the good deals are still there… but sometimes we gotta change WHERE we look and WHAT we’re looking at.  If a store feels like it’s been hit hard by resellers, I automatically switch modes to look for the hidden treasures like sterling silver knife handles… and often times, I find them.  I’ve even have good success looking at the local antique shops, where the antique dealers “should know better” (than to put real silver out for super cheap).

But they don’t… either they don’t know to check knife handles for silver content, don’t take a close enough look, or are too busy to care for “such a small amount of silver”.  The same is true for the majority of resellers who vulturize the local shops and sales on a continued basis… most of them don’t know or don’t care to check TONS of items, including sterling silver knife handles.

All this means more underpriced scrap silver for you and me!

In a future article, we’ll discuss how to identify these hidden gems, the different markings used, marking locations, and most importantly… approximately how much silver content the knife handles have along with value.

Until then, happy hunting…!

Silver Markings Explained – What is Weighted Sterling?

Weighted Sterling Silver Marking Closeup

If you search for real gold and silver at yard sales and thrift stores, it doesn’t take very long before you run across an item marked “Sterling Weighted” or sometimes “Sterling Reinforced”.  You might have seen this marking already.

When beginning, this can be a confusing term, but don’t let it scare you.  It’s simply another way of saying, “This item has a thin REAL SILVER shell over a hard, NON-SILVER core… usually plaster or resin.


The outer metal shell is just what the marking says it is, Sterling Silver, 92.5% PURE.  Now that you know these items contain real silver, don’t go crazy just yet, we need to cover the second part of the marking…


Resin core inside a Sterling Silver “weighted” candlestick.

As you can see from the candlestick photo above, items marked “Sterling Weighted” have a silver shell over a non-silver core (in this case, resin).  The same is true for items marked “Sterling Re-enforced”, “Sterling Reinforced”, etc, etc…  Some similar markings you might run across include “Cement Loaded” or “Base Loaded”.  They all mean the same thing.

The shell is always thin,  and sometimes it is unbelievably thin, depending on the company that made it.  In a nutshell this means you can run across “Sterling Weighted” items that are large and impressive and appear to contain mountains of sterling silver only to find the silver shell weighs only a fraction of your original estimate.
I’ve seen shells on candlesticks that are so thin, they make excellent razors… and I’ve sliced my fingers on these thin shells more times than I can count.
At some point I’ll put up a general guide to how much silver you can expect to recover from Sterling Weighted items but until then I can tell you the answer is “not much”.

The company “Duchin” is one of the worst offenders when it comes to skimping on sterling silver in their items.  I’ve seen “weighted” candlesticks made by this company where the entire sterling content is under 12 grams.  Not much silver when you consider the “before” weight is usually over 3 ounces.

On the other hand, several years ago I scrapped a pair of “weighted” candlesticks that contained over 110 grams of sterling silver… EACH.  They were a similar size to the Duchin candlesticks of skimp-ville, but the sterling silver shells on these heavy suckers was several millimeters thick and took some heavy duty dremel action to coax apart.

So while most of the weighted sterling silver items you find will have thin shells that can almost be peeled off by hand, there is definite value in these items, sometimes SURPRISING value.

Marking Commonly Found On…

The “Sterling Weighted” and similar markings are most commonly found on the following items (though certainly not limited to only these).

  • Candlesticks
  • Candy Dishes / Compotes
  • Knife Handles / Serving Utensil Handles
  • Sugar & Creamer Sets, Teapots, Various Other Pieces of Silver “Hollow-ware”


Key Points to Remember

The next time you run across an item marked “Sterling Weighted”, buying it (to make a profit) is a no-brainer when you keep the following in mind:

The item contains REAL sterling silver, so it HAS VALUE, BUT… the silver is in the form of a thin shell coating so when estimating value, view the item in the same way you would treat a FULL can of soda versus and EMPTY can.

In other words, don’t get stuck paying silver value for the SODA and you’ll do just fine!  🙂

Happy hunting!