The Story Behind this Blog

Being from the South, Silver is a very big part of my life. It doesn't have anything to do with wealth. Although those with more money - old money, tend to have more of it. New money tend not to spend their money on Silver. They do not have the appreciation for the warmth of the metal, the beauty of the patina, the story it tells of the generations past who have used it. A true southern girl comes of age when she chooses her silver pattern, long before she chooses her mate. If she is smart, she chooses that of her mother, grandmother, or favorite great aunt who in their benevolence will pass their silver on to her. It is the pieces in those sets, the pieces on our tables, along with the pieces we find in the corners of the displays in antique stores that prompted me to start this blog. They are beautiful, they are odd, but what are they, and what in the hell do you do with them?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Damascus by Frank Whiting

Like many patterns of the height of the Victorian period, Damascus by Frank Whiting (1894) exhibits a strong design with the curled leaves around the stem and terminal, yet has a few blossoms in the stem to maintain the femininity. 

Sugar Spoon (5 5/8 inches)

Olive Fork (6 1/4 inches)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Gorham Corporation, Its Sterling Division and its Markings

What is now The Gorham Corporation dates back to 1831 when Jabez Gorham founded it in Providence, Rhode Island. And in the years following it has been the choice of Mary Todd Lincoln, its pattern Chantilly is used on Air Force One, and it has successfully bought, merged with, or absorbed many of its smaller competitors to become one of the largest sterling silver flatware companies around at one time.

If you ever question whether or not a piece of flatware is a Gorham pattern, look for the markings. Below are the markings they have used over the years. Of course you may have a piece from a company they acquired, years before it was "gobbled by Gorham". 

Some of these companies include: Mt. Vernon, Roger Williams Silver, Whiting, William B. Durgin, Alvin (which remained a separate entity), McChesney, Quaker Silver Co., Friedman Silver Co.,  and Graff, Washbourne, and Dunn. In 2005 The Gorham Company was sold to Lenox. Then 2007 Lifetime Brands acquired Gorham's Sterling Silver division.

And through it all, its most popular pattern has remained Chantilly.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Floral Series #7 by Watson

Watson's Floral Series #7 is yet another open design. This one is unique in that the open design continues as it tapers down the stem. I could only find references to  Teaspoons and Fruit/Orange Spoons in this pattern. However, there are an abundance of different flowers represented. 

They include:Apple Blossom, Buttercup, Calla Lily, Carnation, Clover, Chrysanthemum, Columbine,Forget Me Not, Fuchsia, Golden Rod, Holly, Hops, Iris, Jessamine, Lily of the Valley, Narcissus, Pansy, Passion Flower, Pond Lily, Poppy, Rose, Snow Drop, Sweet Clover, Sweet Pea, Violet, Wild Rose.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Is It Sterling or Not

I am often asked the most basic question of all, "Is there a way to know if the piece I have (or wish to purchase) is sterling silver or silver plate?".

Yes Virginia, there is a way. Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.7% some other metal. Often you will see the numbers "925" on the back of the piece. This is an indication it is sterling.

Also, you should see the word "Sterling" or the letter "S" or letter "SS" stamped on the back. Usually a sterling silver piece will have one of these marks on it. Beware of "SP", for that indicates Silverplate and therefore is not sterling. Often "Silverplate" or "Silverplated" may be stamped on the back of such a piece.

If all else fails, try a strong magnet. Sterling Silver will not stick to a magnet. If what you have is attracted to the magnet, chances are it is not the real thing.

I hope these tips help. 

I usually carry a small jeweler's loop with me when I go looking for sterling pieces. The markings on the back are very hard to read without some magnification. It also helps to be familiar with the manufactures' markings which can be very confusing because there are so many. Some companies have several markings they have used over the years. There are reference books that will help you with the markings. However, finding a piece in a pattern that you do not recognize and only having the manufacturers markings to go by can be a proverbial needle in a haystack. It helps to be familiar with the markings of the more popular companies so you at least can identify a piece as possibly among one of them and go from there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Love by Wallace

Another fairly nondescript pattern by Wallace, My Love was introduced in 1958. I decided to post on some of these patterns because I am sure there are folks out there who have inherited or found pieces in these patterns and had no where to start identifying them, short that they were manufactured by Wallace.

Sugar Spoon (6 1/4 inches)

Fruit Knife (7 1/8 inches)

Cheese Knife (7 3/8 inches)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Melanie by Wallace

Amedie J. Germain designed Melanie for Wallace and it was introduced in 1959. The pattern is fairly basic with a design of swirls around the edges of the terminal and a motif on the tip. From what I can find the pattern was discontinued in 1980.

Pierced Tablespoon (8 1/2 inches)

Short Handled Pickle Fork (5 3/4 inches)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Alice by Fessenden

Silas H. Manchester designed Alice for Fessenden in 1895. It is a lovely pattern described as "Dots and Flowers", very befitting for a lady. The detail on the serving pieces is elegant.

Long Handled Olive Spoon (6 3/4 inches)

Master Butter Knife (6 3/4 inches)

Preserve Spoon (7 5/8 inches)

Large Sardine Serving Fork (5 1/2 inches)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Grape by Dominick and Half

Grape was introduced by Dominick and Haff in 1895 and was designed by Gilbert L. Crowell Jr. He also designed the patterns Victoria, Gothic, Basket of Flowers, Cupid, and Rococo for Dominick and Haff. The design speaks for itself.

Teaspoon (6 inches)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Irving aka Old Atlanta by Wallace

In 1899 Wallace introduced their Irving pattern. The pattern was discontinued several years later. However in 1960 Wallace reintroduced the same pattern under the name of Old Atlanta which has since also been discontinued. The design itself is one of scrolls around the edges.

Fork (7 1/2 inches

Roast Carving Fork (11 inches)

Lettuce Serving Spoon (8 1/4 inches)

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Gorham Became One of the Motherships

Over the years Gorham managed to adsorb, purchase, or make many of the smaller silver companies part the Gorham Company. Here is a chart of how they managed to get some familiar companies such as Mt. Vernon, Alvin, Durgin, Knowles, Whiting, and Woods and Hughes just to name a few, under their umbrella. Often after several years of having the smaller companies on board, Gorham would break the dies and casts of the smaller company's designs. The idea being that there was not enough demand for production of so many different patterns. The more popular patterns were kept.

I'll offer my caveat -  The following is best I could do to chart out the flow. It may not be correct. The information is confusing at best coming from different sources. But it gives you an idea of how all the smaller companies ending up merging.