Sterling flatware alloy

Good Morning Orchidland,
I have a question about using sterling flatware in making jewelry. It seems to me that the sterling alloy must be different than standard sterling. After all, the pieces are durable and unlikely to bend in normal use. So, is it a production process or a unique alloy that gives sterling flatware it’s hardness and durability???

Inquiring minds - at least mine - want to know.
Thanks for any information.
Judy in Kansas, where temps have gone from 88 to near freezing and I’ll need to cover some sensitive plants!

I’m fairly certain that it’s regular sterling. The reason flatware is so hard is because it’s die struck. The one person who would know for sure is Jeffery Herman.
Jo in Oregon where it’s the 111th day of a rainy, dark, and cold January 2023.


I’ve melted flatware and cast it; it worked fine. If the alloy is different, it can’t be much different - it’s 925 parts fine silver and 75 copper, as far as I know. The work-hardening that happens in the process of making flatware would account for its resistance to bending.

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If it says sterling, it better be sterling. That only accounts for the metal, how it was produced is another thing. We have talked a lot about the differences among pieces that are die struck, forged and cast…Rob


Inheriting a 12 piece place setting of Birks sterling (+ all the other pieces) is what got me into this business. That was seven years ago, but I actually used some of it just yesterday. It’s actually fairly easy to bend by hand if you really want to, though the first piece of real equipment I bought was a rolling mill, to make it easier to use.


As folks are saying sterling silver is traditionally 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% copper. I think it’s safe to assume that if it’s vintage flatware and stamped sterling silver that’s what it is.

In recent times, folks are interpreting sterling silver to be 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% other metals, (like palladium to create palladium silver).

But again if it’s vintage sterling flatware I think you can be confident that you have traditional sterling silver. Adding the little bit of copper strengthens the silver and makes it be easier to cast.

I forgot to say, one thing to be careful of with older vintage sterling flatware are table knives. They can be a mixture of steel, silver and sometimes lead. Sometimes the handles are hollow and filled with lead. If the handle on a table knife is thick, there’s a good chance that it’s hollow and filled.

Hope that helps!



Yes, the knife handles are a pain. I took them apart, used what was easily separated from the other stuff inside. The rest went with my other scrap to my local coin dealer - he melts out the interior, which only takes a few minutes, to get the right silver weight.

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I recently made a bunch of jewelry directly from a client’s flatware. When stuff was hard to bend, I annealed it. But it changed the texture of the finish even though I protected it. I liked the result better when I didn’t heat it. In this case, your hydraulic press is your friend. I used my PUK to put the stuff together. The stuff had a monogram so it was useless in the used market, thus the jewelry. I refined the remainder and it paid for my work and returned a nice sum to the client. I made 6 pendants, 10 key fobs, a ring and a bracelet.

The hit was a link bracelet - but fitting it remotely was painful.
As you would expect, everything was tumble finished to a high shine.