antique silverware: collected or curated?

ebay silver

I’m a fan of collecting and using old silverware in unmatched patterns. The idea of it, anyway. Buying a curated place setting from Anthropologie, however, seems to defeat the purpose. For $36, you get a sight-unseen assortment of two forks, two spoons and a knife. Go to eBay, and you can find mixed lots of silverware for starting bids of $9.99 for 57 pieces. As an added bonus, what you see in the picture is what you get. Anyone have tips on finding antique flatware and creating a cohesive collection? — Sarah L.

From our partners

I’ve been collecting mismatched sterling silver flatware for years. If you do a little reseplace, you will find that flatware was a lot more specific in the old days. There were spoons for cream soups, spoons for consomme, dessert spoons, iced tea spoons, etc. I don’t think we’re horrified anymore if our hostess puts out a cream soup spoon for won-ton.

What I do is try to keep things to about the same length for each piece. Soup spoons (often called Dessert Spoons), for instance, come with round bowls or oval bowls. Pick one.

Regular forks come in luncheon size (7″) or dinner size (7.5″). Salad/Dessert forks come with one wide tine or 4 equal sized tines.

Antique knives come with straight, wide blades or more modern contoured blades.

It’s probably best if you decide which option you like for each piece and buy accordingly. My favorite thing is old monogramming, so I try to get things that haven’t had the monogramming erased.

And learn to recognize the difference between sterling silver and silverplated. Both can look nice, but I wouldn’t mix them.


Wow; good tips from m. I have a friend who wants to do this for her new cottage and this info is good to have.

I completely agree about the Anthropologie collection. I love their vibe and styling, but the actual items often seem to be overpriced.

While I’m not sure that anthropologie would be my first choice, there’s something to be said for the appeal of the real silver. If you had 57 pieces of actual silver, you could get more than $10 just selling them for the metal.

Our old house came with a box of mixed vintage flatware, and I am unimpressed by it. It has that cheap, stamped feel to it that I associate with the tableware at summer camps. Flatware has such variance in quality – I’m not sure I would have high expectations of anything I couldn’t hold before I bought it.

Sarah L.

m, I second Sara’s comment. I have to admit, I get overwhelmed when I look through piles of silver and have only bought serving forks and spoons as a result. I’ll keep your tips for sizing pieces in mind.

We thrifted a bunch of cutlery for our wedding. Not silver, just regular old heavy vintage stuff. But then we ended up borrowing another couple’s silver and just stashing what we thrifted. The silver was beautiful, but man is it a lot of work to polish that much! I just dug out the stuff we thrifted to use for a labor day party this weekend. I just LOVE all the random throwback designs. And no polishing required. :)

Francis Hodges

I find it fine to mix and match place settings, but not pieces within a setting. Use different settings with a common theme (art nouveau, art deco, etc). Great for getting the conversation going!