- Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:00
- Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:00
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Shortly after the Second World War, a couple assigned to Japan bought these four sterling silver tumblers. They are marked “Sterling 950”, and are in excellent condition, but the owners do not know the name of the company that made them. They also do not know the weight of each tumbler. They are not engraved or monogrammed.
These pieces are typical of Japanese silver production. Japanese sterling always is 950, whereas American and British sterling are 925. These figures indicate the silver content per ounce. American coin silver is 90, meaning it is 90% silver. German silver is 800, and Hungarian is 600, meaning the alloy content is 20% and 40% respectively.
After the War, Japan plunged into the silver industry, finding a ready market in the Americans who came to occupy the country, and bought in great quantities. As a rule, Japanese sterling pieces, as with Mexican ones, bring significantly less on the market than American sterling. In part, this reduced value results from the lesser quality and appearance.
I suggest weighing each tumbler to ascertain the silver value, remembering that silver per ounce is calculated by troy weight, rather than by avoirdupois weight. Obviously, they are worth more than the pure silver value. As a retail value, each is worth $150. American ones would be almost twice as much. A set of four is worth more than the total of individual items.
The absence of engraving or a monogram is an asset, as engraved ones bring less, and frequently wind up being sold for weight, with an ultimate fate of being melted for scrap. Particularly in the early 1980s, when the Hunt brothers were trying to corner the silver market, many fine pieces of sterling ended by being melted. When the bubble burst soon thereafter, they had been lost forever.