Acid test?
December 5, 2005 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Is my flatware sterling, silver-plate, or something in-between?

I have inherited a flatware set with 18 10-piece place settings plus serving pieces, all marked "WMF Patent 90." It looks like silver, but I'm wondering if it is actually silver plate, or whether "Patent 90" is an alloy designation of some kind.
posted by beagle to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Unless it says "sterling", "92.5" (or 96.something), or has hallmarks, I'd venture it's not sterling.

Can you post pictures (front and back of a single piece, say, a spoon) somewhere?
posted by aberrant at 10:57 AM on December 5, 2005

Also: ebay auction - at this price, it's not sterling.
posted by aberrant at 10:58 AM on December 5, 2005

Silver plate.
posted by holgate at 11:05 AM on December 5, 2005

Actually, that ebay auction is pretty close to it, and the same brand; the Replacements description as plate confirms; thanks. Any explanation of what "Patent 90" means much appreciated. It seems to have been used by a variety of manufacturers.
posted by beagle at 11:13 AM on December 5, 2005

Here's a semi-scientific way to tell if you have pure silver: Try stirring your hot tea with it. If it burns your fingers almost instantly, it's silver - or close to it. Silver conducts heat very well, and alloys conduct noticeably slower.
posted by odinsdream at 11:46 AM on December 5, 2005

Odinsdream: just tried your experiment with sterling, stainless, and silver plate, and it doesn't hold up. The 18/10 stainless was the first to heat up noticeably (after about 1 minute in boiling water); then the plate (approx 85 seconds), and then the silver (over 2 mins).
posted by aberrant at 12:27 PM on December 5, 2005

er, that should read "boiled", not "boiling". I estimate the temp to be around 180° F, but didn't use a thermometer.
posted by aberrant at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2005

The best info I've found on "WMF Patent 90" is that it's a German patent for silverplating. Sorry that's not of more help.
posted by aberrant at 5:19 PM on December 5, 2005

aberrant; sorry to hear that - it works for my stuff. I must just have exceptionally crappy alloy stuff to compare to.
posted by odinsdream at 9:13 PM on December 5, 2005

Thanks, all.
posted by beagle at 8:27 AM on December 6, 2005

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