We've seen sellers describe sterling flatware pieces as being in "estate" condition. We think they usually mean that the pieces are used but as far as we are concerned, the term does not define the condition. Some add descriptive words, such as "Very Fine Estate Condition". If I am familiar with a seller and understand how he describes pieces, this description will help. But if I am not familiar with a seller, I still don't really know what the piece looks like.
Many sellers include definitions of their descriptive terms when they offer a piece for sale. Then, at least, you have some idea of actual condition. For example, when we sell something, we assign an evaluation to it using the following definitions:
- Excellent Condition: May show very slight signs of wear; might be tarnished because of age and have a few faint scratches.
- Fine Condition: May show minor scratches; minimal damage; patterns and relief will be well-defined.
- Very Good Condition: Patterns may show wear; may show signs of regular use.
- Good Condition: Pattern may be worn; signs of damage or improper cleaning may be seen.
We sometimes will say that a piece is in fine to excellent condition if it is between categories in our judgement. Sometimes for knives and other pieces with distinct components, we will say something like the blades are in very good condition and the handles are in fine condition. We often add another descriptive sentence or two such as, "We did not rate the spoons as 'excellent' because they have light abrasions from normal use."
If you are buying a piece of used sterling flatware, you have the right to understand its condition. If the seller is not clear, ask specific questions before buying.
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