First things first, weighted silver refers to a construction technique rather than the silver itself. The silver used in a weighted piece is the same as in any other. No “extra’s have been added to the metal.
So what is different about weighted silver?
Weighted means there is a solid core being used to reinforce the piece.
Typically hollowware pieces are weighted. Bowls and compotes have weighted bases. Taller pieces like candlesticks are weighted throughout.
The substance used is either wax or cement and sometimes there is a metal reinforcing bar as well.
Cement or Wax!
Yes. A form is created and then a very thin layer of silver is applied and molded to it. This allows a couple of things
1. Ornate design – un-reinforced candlestick are fairly simple. That 5 light candelabra on Aunt Millie’s dining room table has quite delicate arms, doesn’t it!
2. Reduced expense – Forging Aunt Millie’s candelabra from solid silver is going to be pretty expensive. Weighting and reinforcing allow for more economical production.
What does this mean?
In practical terms it means a few things for you.
1. Don’t judge a piece by weight alone – look and see if it has assistance! A candlestick weighing a few pounds might not be all silver!
2. Be careful handling them. Because the silver coating is so thin on these pieces it can buckle and crimp. Don’t twist in or cram down that candle.
Don’t put these pieces in the dishwasher I know, I know but the dishwasher is bad for the wax and cement.
Is all hollowware weighted?
No! There are plenty of unweighted pieces. Personally I love them (cue the dishwasher).
Most often unweighted pieces are thicker and sturdier than their weighted cousins. They need to be in order to hold up without assistance. This is particularly true the larger the piece gets.
Every so often you do find a very delicate unweighted piece.
These are real gems to my way of thinking. As fine a gauge as weighted silver pieces but without the extraneous padding. A neat trick.
Is weighted vintage silver inferior?
No. It’s just different. It allows things to be made into a larger range of forms at a price where you don’t need to be on Forbes list to afford one.
Have you ever wondered what was inside one of these pieces?