Just the facts
on Sterling, Silverplate, Stainless, Brass and Pewter
Sterling has long been the recognized standard for solid
silver although in present day America with fgree time at a
premium, fewer preople own sterling. By law sterling
must be 925 parts pure silver and 75 parts alloy, usually
copper, which provides the strengy and hardness as pure
silver is soft. Silver can be hammered into sheets so
thin that 100,000 of these stacked sheets would measure just
an inch and can be drawn
into a wire finer than a human hair. Sterling may be
the most hygienic metal - with actual germ-killing
properties and it si through use and gradual accumulation of
microscopic scratches that sterling achieves its lustrous
patina. As silver bullion increases in price so to
does sterling tableware.
Silverplate has a base
metal - usually an
alloy of nickel, copper and zinc - that is then plated with
liver which is electrostatically applied or coated to the
alloy base. The old Sheffield process for silverplate
was discovered by accident when a cutler was repairing a
knife blade and heated two metals - silver and copper -
which fused to create a silver sandwich around the copper.
The quality of silverplate is based on the amount of silver
deposited on the base.
Stainless steel is an alloy comprised of steel, which is
composed of iron, chromium,
and nickel. The terms 18/8 and 18/10 refer to the
ratio of chromium and nickel. 18/10 has more nickel
which assures a satin-like sheen. The weight of
stainless is an indication of its quality, as is the balance
of the piece. To manufacture stainless, blanks of
steel are rolled to the right proportions for bowls and
tines then dies are used to stamp the pattern.
Brass dates to 500 B.C.
to the Greek island of Rhodes. During the 18th Centry,
brass was formed by sand casting where sand and clay were
packed around the pattern of an object to be cast to form a
mold. Today, a brass rod is heated to 1400 degrees and
placed on a set of dies which are stamped on the brass and
which forces the metal into the sape of the die. The
process is called forging.
Of all the metals, pewter has one of the richest histories,
but it also has the hardest time dispelling its negative
myths. Today, pewter is lead-free and primarily
composed of tin which is combined with antimony and copper.
Pewter is a relatively soft alloy because its primary
element, tin, is a soft metal. Because pewter is more
flexible than other metals, it can be formed in many ways
including casting or spinning. Because pewter is sot,
it can scratch easily, a distinction which enables craftsmen
to give pewterware a range of finishes from mirror bright to
satiny low luster.