When you think of antique silver, many people think about many different things. For some it is their grandmother’s sterling silverware. Others think about beautiful antique silver jewelry. Still others might think about the antique silver trophy a relative won for some sporting event. There are so many different antique objects made of silver you could easily write a book about them. Rest assured that is definitely not my intent here. When I think of antique silver I go back to my first trip of buying antiques in England.
English Antique Silver
We went to a couple of antique fairs in England and invariably the largest group of people would be gathered around the booths of the antique silver dealers. The English, at least the ones going to antique fairs were fascinated with the antique silver booths. Maybe it was because the English had a separate serving and condiment pieces for everything and many of these were sterling silver. The great thing about English silver are the silver hallmarks. Some of the earliest hallmarks go back to about 1300. Starting in the late 15th century, each piece of silver was marked with a date stamp. Starting in 1544 the familiar lion passant was added. So if the marks have not worn away, you can tell the year an antique silver piece was made.
I just find it fascinating all of the little antique sterling pieces that could be found on a dining table in England. I have shown a presentation box that shows a few of the many pieces. You can find the details of this set here and even purchase it if it is still available. Not only is each piece marked, but pieces like the pepper pot that have a top and bottom, each of those parts are also marked. So you can tell if all of the pieces had the same marks and were part of the original set. I have even seen sterling chains where each individual link had the lion passant.
Several years a go we saw a photo of Princess Diana wearing a chain with antique silver fobs on it. We immediately started a search for them on out buying trips to England. Now we have a large collection of them for sell. They make great necklaces and my wife wears a bracelet with six of them like a charm bracelet. These fobs were often given as medals for winning a certain event. The ones prior to 1900 are usually larger and more intricate. If you can find an Albert antique silver chain to wear, it really is a unique necklace. These were silver watch chains and it is hard to find one long enough. But a friend just takes two and connects them, not even worrying about matching them. Then you can attach one or more of the neat sterling silver fobs and have a great necklace. I just went into a little detail here to show just one of the many, many antique silver things you can collect. If you have read some of my other articles on the buying and selling antiques site, you know that England is my favorite place to go antique shopping.
Other Antique Silver
Of course England doesn’t corner the market on antique silver. Here in America we have many great antique silver items, as do many other countries. And some people like to collect antique silver items from a particular country or area of a country. Our native Americans have made, and still make beautiful sterling silver and turquoise jewelry that are favorites of many collectors. I know other who love Mexican silver. They had, and still have, wonderful artisans that make all sorts of beautiful silver items.
Many children and grandchildren have the sterling silver flatware that was passed down to them and hopefully will be passed down to the next generation. For lovers of antique silver like myself, I hate to see all of the silver that is being melted down because of the high scrap values we presently see. I am seeing today’s young people do not seem to care much about antiques and collectibles. Hopefully that trend will change, it usually does. I remember when I was young and wondered why people wanted this old stuff. But that huge baby boomer generation is starting to reach retirement age and a lot of their possessions will be sold off in the coming years. Hopefully the wonderful pieces of antique silver will be appreciated by someone and not be melted down for scrap.
It was always a special gift to be able to replace or add to the sterling silver that your mother had. Back in the 50’s and 60’s when I was growing up, buying a silver charm for the charm bracelet was always appreciated. Silver throughout our history has always been looked at and appreciated for its beauty.
Antique Silver Plate
I don’t think any discussion of antique silver would not be complete without at least mentioning antique silverplate. There are many beautiful pieces that were made of silver-plate. Too many times people look down on silver plate because it is not sterling silver. But some antique silverplate flatware sets are worth as much as sterling sets. Don’t underestimate the beauty of a piece because it is just silver plate and not sterling silver, especially antique silverplate. You want to be sure you know the difference and know what you are buying. I can’t tell you how many people try to sell us a set of inexpensive silverplate flatware thinking it was silver.
As I said in the beginning of this article, there can be books written on the subject. There are even books on just the different marks of antique silver. So this only serves as an introduction to the subject. If you enjoyed this articles on antique silver, be sure and see the many other articles on this site about buying and selling antiques.