Rostfrei silverware is stainless steel and silver cutlery and ware produced in Germany.
Background and Description
‘Rostfrei’ is a German word that translates literally as ‘rust-free’. However, it also means ‘stainless steel’ when stamped on cutlery, such as the blade of a knife. A ‘Rostfrei’ stamped knife is likely to be a stainless steel blade, made in Germany, Switzerland, or other German-speaking countries, after 1912.
The process of creating a stainless steel was discovered long before the 20th century, however, it was only in 1912 in Germany that corrosion resistance and good mechanical properties were achieved, and stainless steel brought into production. This year, stainless steel was patented by Krupp.
If an item is indeed 'Rostfrei silverware', this would refer to the 'Rostfrei' stamped portion being stainless steel, and another portion being made of silver plate or sterling silver, for example, the handle of the knife. Therefore, ‘Rostfrei silverware’ is composed of both the ‘Rostfrei’, or stainless steel and silver. If there is no silver included, the item can be Rostfrei, but not silverware. An item of silverware that is purely sterling or silver plate would not be described as ‘Rostfrei’.
Many seeing this mark assume that this is a manufacturer’s name – it is not. Generally the item will include another mark indicating the manufacturer or city of origin.
Much stainless steel and silverware marked ‘Rostfrei’ originates in Solingen, an area of Germany renowned for its steel production. These items can come from various manufacturers.
Collecting Rostfrei silverware and its value
Rostfrei silverware as a genre is not really collectible. It is more likely for someone to collect a specific make of Rostfrei silverware, or a specific design, such as Art Deco Rostfrei silverware.
Some Rostfrei silverware was used by the German army during the two World Wars, as sets of mess cutlery. This is particularly collectible.
As many people mistake the ‘Rostfrei’ stamp as a manufacturer’s mark, many sellers are not entirely familiar with what exactly they are selling. Care must be taken over ascertaining the true value of an item of Rostfrei silverware.
Cheap copies of European stainless steel and silverware were produced in Asia, and often marked ‘Rostfrei’ in imitation. These should be avoided by any discerning collector, as they are of lesser quality.
The value of Rostfrei silverware would be entirely dependent on the maker, its age, and whether it is considered antique, as well as how much of the item is ‘Rostfrei’, or stainless steel, and how much of the item is composed of the more valuable silver. Items advertising themselves as ‘Rostfrei silverware’ have sold on eBay for $8-$100, depending on whether they consist of a single item of cutlery or a whole dinner set.
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