Silver Plated Spoons

You have probably noticed my antagonism whenever I talk about silver plated spoons. This subject has been bothering me for awhile and I have decided to put my "ranting and raving" to the ultimate test -- the scrutiny of the world (or at least a small part of it).

I think that the basic reason that I dislike silver plating is that its main purpose is to deceive.

I dislike when something masquerades as something else with the intention to deceive or defraud--regardless of what it is. For example, a fraudulent copy of a computer program CD would fit this criteria. It pretends to be an original product but its primary purpose is to defraud the company which originally produced it or the consumer.

I do not have a problem with a person pretending to be Elvis Presley, for example, because it is commonly known that he is dead. But a person who pretends to be someone famous who is now alive, would invoke my wrath. That is an obvious attempt to deceive. If the purpose is obvious satire, then that would also be acceptable, but if the purpose is to defraud then it must be stopped.

Unfortunately, the whole history of silver is rife with fraud.

From the beginning of work in silver, some silversmiths sought to deceive their clients. Because as a pure metal, silver is too soft to be used on a everyday basis, ancient silversmiths discovered that they could make the metal more practical by the addition of a little bit of copper. The basic silver metal would retain its beautiful shine, but would last much longer in regular use. I do not have a problem with that basic concept, because without the addition of copper, silver metal would not have had its long and illustrious history.

However, some metal workers then carried the process a step further and told the client that they were diluting the silver with a small amount of copper, but actually diluted it by a large amount. This is fraudulent. It was also a crime that was very lucrative and very hard to detect which is why it proliferated.

The English apparently had a major problem with this and adopted the sterling standard in the 1300's. Other European countries also had a problem and many laws or ordinances were passed, but they did not enforce the standards as strongly as the English. The problem was not severe in Asia or Africa as they did not revere the metal as was the case in Europe. The problem was also not as severe in North or South America as there was plenty of silver available. That is not to state that there was no fraud, just that it was not a major problem.

In the 1700's a process of attaching a very thin sheet of silver to copper was developed in Sheffield, England. This basic fraud was allowed to flourish because it allowed the noblemen the opportunity to buy larger more impressive looking pieces for considerably less money. The established silver industry try to point out the obvious fraud, but they lacked the political power to enforce this point of view.

Then in the middle 1800's, the modern form of electroplating silver onto a base metal was developed. The item would first be crafted out of a white metal (usually a combination of different elements) and then a very thin plating of pure silver would be overlaid onto the metal by electrical means. This was just "out and out" fraud. The whole purpose was to compete against real quality silverwork by making a look-alike product that was hard to detect when new and was much cheaper than the established product. Of course, at this point in history, major changes were being made in the use of machinery and many crafts were undergoing change. I think that if the silverplaters were required to mark their product by law, that I would have a different opinion, but that is not the case.

Some people would defend this as an innovative advanced invention which would allow more people to have the opportunity to acquire "silver looking" items. I don't think that I would have a major problem with a truly innovative product. Progress is a fact of life, and if another product can do the same job for less money, then it deserves to win the marketing battle. My problem is that deception and fraud are at the very beginning and marketing of the silver plated look-a-likes.

The imitators have been able to market their fraudulent low cost wares to such an extent that they have put almost all of the legitimate silversmiths out of business and a large portion of the public now thinks that "silver plated" is a "good" quality, when in fact it is a very poor substitute for the real thing. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who do not know the difference between sterling silver and silver plated. Unbelievably, I have had dealers who offer me sterling silver items cheaper than silver plated items. That, to me, signifies a very stupid seller.

I do not have a problem with a spoon which is made out of copper or wood or some other material, as long as no attempt is made to deceive. I have even featured some nice aluminum spoons, for example. I willingly admit that I prefer nice sterling or good quality silver spoons, but I will acquire other material spoons when possible. However, I try to avoid silverplated spoons like the plague.

I do not have a problem with modern plating when it is used in electronics or space or in advanced equipment. The field of material plating offers lots of possibilities for advanced designs and I believe that those advanced qualities should be exploited to their full potential. I would only object if the purpose of the plating is to defraud.

Thank you for allowing me to express my feelings. If you have any comments, please feel free to write me.

Return to Spoon World Index