Tag Archives: weighted

To Weight or Not to Weight

vintage silver bowl

A gorgeous vintage silver bowl, made of exquisitely fine gauge sterling silver sheet.

Another frequent comment concerns the relative weights of sterling pieces.

Sometimes a person will pick up a piece and exclaim how light it is, and the corollary is often…

“This can’t be sterling!”

Well, generally it is sterling, and the reason people are surprised is that they are used to handling weighted pieces.  Among the most frequently weighted items are candlesticks, compotes, and sugar and creamer sets.

Let’s consider a single candlestick.

Even a short one, in order to be strong and stable enough to support a candle, must be relatively heavy.  Otherwise, a tall candle could easily topple or be knocked over. I have a perfectly typical, short (3 1/2) inch candlestick that weighs about 9.6 oz (8.8 troy oz. or 274 g).  This is a nice weight.  You feel comfortable that a candle won’t overbalance or get knocked too easily; it also has a satisfying heft when you pick it up.

weighted sterling silver

An intact candlestick on the scales. 9.672 oz.

Now look at this photo.

sterling silver

Hmm, now the metal had been removed from the exterior, we can see that of that 9.6+ oz, only 1.005 oz are silver.

Wow, that’s a big difference – of that 9.6 oz., only about 1.005 oz. (0.916 troy oz. or 28.5 g) is actual metal.  “What, how can that be possible!  Isn’t it illegal?”

No, it isn’t illegal.

This is what is in a piece of weighted silver.

sterling silver, weighted

It is filled with wax, or sometimes cement!

It is clearly marked on the bottom of the piece “Sterling Weighted”.

sterling silver, weighted

There is a lesson here!

Economic reality.

Imagine how much it would cost to cast a single candlestick, weighing over 9 oz., out of solid sterling.  At the current market price for sterling, my 3 1/2 inch candlestick would cost $194.34 for the metal alone.  That does not include labor, workmanship, the intangible value of the age, condition, and design of the piece.  That pretty much puts a very modest pair of candlesticks way out of the grasp of most of us.

Forget the 15 inch – 3 arm candelabras at those rates!

This is not to disparage weighted pieces.  Just understand what you are buying, if for no other reason than to care for them properly.

These pieces are damaged quite easily.  Don’t use hot water to clean them: it can weaken the wax.  (These do NOT go in the dishwasher.  Only solid flatware!!!  And yes, I know this is a controversial point.)  When inserting or removing a candle, support the piece, especially if it is an arm on a larger candelabra.  Don’t twist or force a candle in.

crimped vintage silver candlestick

A crimped and buckled silver candlestick.

This candlestick has a crimp in it; probably from someone twisting as they tried to shove in a candle.  Sadly, this has not only buckled the metal, but also damaged the wax reinforcement.

I’ll end up scrapping this candlestick for the value of the metal.  The crimp has made it too wobbly to hold a candle safely.  I’ve shown a few friends these weighted pieces and the reaction has been pretty much uniform amazement.

It also generally leads to a discussion about flatware, and how very heavy some of the pieces really are.

Sometimes, particularly with a pattern that has been in production for a long time, you can tell how old a piece is by it’s weight.
These two spoons are “exactly” the same.  They are teaspoons in the Christina pattern by Gorham.  Christina was first issued in 1935 and remained in production until 1991.

vintage silver spoon, christina by gorham

Contestant #1 – 1.125 oz.

vintage silver spoon, christina, gorham

Contestant #2 – 0.882 oz.

I’ll give you one guess as to which is older.