Continental Silver

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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"Continental silver," is really a catch-all kind of term. Rather than defining Continental silver by what it is, let's establish first what it's not. It is not American silver. Nor is it British, Irish, or Scottish silver. It is silver, made to differing standards of silver content, from dozens and dozens of countries, all of which are located on the continent that contains all of Europe, Russia, etc. Therefore, silver from France, Spain, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, etcetera, would all be appropriately referred to as "Continental Silver."

Continental Silver: Making Sense of the Standards

Though there is no universal standard, most continental countries have two to three standards of silver content, ranging typically from 95 to 75 percent. Pieces are sometimes stamped with letters or numbers to indicate grade. For instance, top quality might be stamped with a "1," or "A;" second quality with a "2" or "B," etc. Another identifier might be the purity indicated in decimal form, i.e., .850 for 85 percent, .950 for 95 percent, and so on.

Another key distinction is size. Continental silver is considerably larger than traditional American silver. "Place size" is the traditional American silver size.

As an example, dinner knives that are "Place size" are 9 inches long. Continental size dinner knives are 10 and a half inches long. Of the rest of the standard table pieces, only teaspoons and salad forks are of the same dimensions. All other pieces have a minimum of a 5/8 inch difference.

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