Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is it Sterling?????

French Sterling Tea set bought at a St.Louis,Mo. Estate Sale. Tray was not with it, I added it latter and it, like most trays, is plate.

Ms. Susie's English Sterling Punch set. Found in her closet in a pillow slip.

I think this was a Dog Show trophy at one time. I bought it at an auction in Chicago and it was really reasonable. I did not know when I bought it, that it was sterling. Found the marks latter. So was a real find.

I found the sterling pheasants at the ABC Carpet and Hope store in New York city. They have an antique section. I went over board on these. I might need a doctor!
   When I had my antique shop in St.Louis, I always carried a lot of  silver items. Large epergnes, tea sets, flat ware and punch sets. The first  question most customer would ask, is, "Is it sterling." More often  than not, it was not, sterling, but silver plate. Some people just don't seem to get it.They are both wonderful, and some of the old silver plate pieces are far more wonderful,  than most sterling pieces, and are actually affordable.  I  have had, a love-hate relationship, with silver for many years. I love how it looks when all shined up, bright and pretty, but, hate when I have to do all that polishing to make it that way. Over the years, I have weeded out the silver garden and have kept only a few favorite pieces. I thought, let some one else polish and love you.If you are looking for perfectly polished silver, don't continue on this post. I do the best I can.
    Because of the memories they evoke for us, I think antique silver objects are often among our most treasured things. Handed down from one generation to the next, they become one of the threads in a family history. Often, when I had my shop, 35-40 year old couples would call and want to sell there mother's flatware. I would always say," when you grow up", you may wish you had this. My Mother never had any sterling flatware, but if she had, and had given it to me, I bet you're life, I would never have sold it. I would want to pass it down to the next generation.

All the spouts are Eagle heads.

   Silver is also a part of special celebrations-the festive punch bowl and its generous ladle at Christmas, the gleaming silver coffee urn on the side board at an anniversary dinner or a simple salt and pepper shaker set on a everyday table. These pieces travel with us through our lives, growing older with a special grace.
    My punch set was found in the bottom of a cloths closet. A very dear friend, who had once been part of a very well to do family, had fell on hard times. She was forced to live in a carriage house and do housework for her rent. She died there and I had the task to clean out her things. I found this beautiful punch set in a pillow slip under piles of cloths. I knew I should give it to her family, but in the end,I thought,I'm the one that loved her, looked after her,gave her a funeral,so I felt I should have it, in her memory. It is English Sterling and it has a proud place in my Dining Room. When I use it, and I often do, I always raise a cup and say," here's to you Susie!"
    I like to use a silver pitcher to serve water at my everyday meals, nothing looks lovelier than the silver beaded with moisture as I set and have dinner.
    When buying or collecting silver, I study a piece and there are three criteria that must be met. It must have a good design, fine craftsmanship and be in good condition. After this-labels enter in, age,makers mark, historical connections, rarity of form and anything else that makes the piece special,.my mind is looking and weighing and judging all these criteria at the same time. One can always find  marvelous pieces, you need an open mind to get out and discover them. Since the price of sterling has risen to all time high, it makes it a little harder to snatch a bargain. Sterling is selling to day at $35.47 a troy once. Makes people want to sell there old things, which is so sad, as you know they are going to melt them down and they will be lost for ever. A troy once is the way silver is weighed, it is far more complictaed than this, but basically, they subtract the weight of the alloy, from the total weight of an piece, and that is the troy once. My sterling, French, hand chased tea set, was a real find. I went to an Estate sale,  several days before it opened to the public. The set was wonderful, I knew I wanted it, but, could not have ever been able to pay the amount they had on it. I left a low bid and said, that's all I can do. Well, at the end of the sale, I got a call and I had won the bid. Today it is one of my most prized items.

I loved the dog, that is why I bid on this item.
This coffee urn came from a antique show in Chicago. I  did the show and I loved this piece. I could not really afford it, but the dealer that had it, did some horse trading for it, (I learned that from my Daddy.) The handles are stag heads.

   Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% of silver and 7.5%, by mass, of another metal, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum of 925 sterling. It is basically  agreed that sterling originated in Continental Europe, and was being used for commerce as early as  the 12 century. In England, as early as 1158 during the reign of Henry the 1st. The first legal defination of sterling appeared in 1275, when a degree from Edward 1st, specified that 12 ounces of silver for coinage should contain,11 ounces of silver and 1 ounce of an alloy. Silver alone is very soft and  would never hold up with out the alloy.
   Around 1840- United states and Europe were using sterling flat ware to set a proper table. And there was a marked increase in the number of silver makers at that time.The craze for sterling made companies make paper clips,pencils,letter openers,calling card holders,cigarette cases and boudoir pieces.
    Over the years, some countries have developed a system of hall marking silver. This would indicate the purity of silver, identify the silver smith and date/and or location of the manufacture.The standard mark of English sterling is of a lion Passant , the form of a lion walking, to the left, with one foot up. It was introduces in 1544 and guarantees the the 92.5 percent sterling standard.
     As the purity of the silver decreases, the problem of tarnishing increases. Chemically, silver is not very reactive-it does not react with oxygen or water, so it does not easily tarnish. However, the other metals in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen in the air and cause the silver piece to tarnish.
     There are several  terms that are common with silver: Repousse', is a process used to roughly emboss a metal object from the back or inside with  larger punches than those used in chasing. Basically mean, push out. Chasing, is a technique of detailing the front surface of silver with various hammer stuck punches. Hand forged, is a process that has as it's primary purpose the alteration of the original thickness of metal. This usually is through hammering. Forming, is changing a sheet of metal into a three-dimensional object. Sinking, is hammering a flat sheet of metal into a bowl shaped form to create a concave piece of metal.
   The first silver smiths were coin makers. Latter they developed there trade to making useful and beautiful objects.

There is a Eagle on the top of each piece.

I don't really polish these. I like them this way. I do hit them a lick or two while I am doing other polishing.

    Sterling  on todays market is selling for $35.45 a troy ounce. Last year silver has more than doubled, more like a 80% increase in price. This is all figured in troy ounces, which is the weight of a piece less the weight of the alloy metal. I am so sad that they never consider the age, craftsmanship and beauty, they just consider the dollar value. Please stop people from melting our precious Sterling treasures. Money is not every thing.
   Thanks for stopping by, My Old Historic House. I hope you enjoy this tour and my Sterling. Come by any time for a real tour. I will leave the lights on and Sissy Dog will meet you with a jump and a Kiss. Heck, we will even have some punch from Susie's punch set.
   Finally, I did a post around Memorial Day ,about a shopping trip, I made to buy mercandise for my gift shop. Well all my great stuff was delivered yesterday and I have it priced and in place. I have included a photo to share my joy. Come shop sometime.
This is some of my new stuff, that I found at the importer shop, in Jacksonville,Ill. I think it all makes a nice grouping.