Saturday, May 21, 2005

Silverplate Covered Butter Dishes

Many years ago, cooking in America called for tremendous amounts of butter. Alhough margarine made its appearance during W.W.II, there was no substitute for butter. It was during this time when most of the silver and silverplate covered butter dishes were produced.

During this time, butter was sold in large one-pound blocks, a dish was invented that not only helped with the presentation at the table, but was a necessity. Most silver and silverplate butter dishes consist of three silver parts: the lid, the pierced liner, and the base. Butter was placed on the liner, allowing the excess condensation from the butter to drain through the piercing. If the weather was warm, ice was added with the butter on top, and the melting ice could drain through the piercings or drain hole.

These silver and silverplated dishes are also known as domed butter dishes, covered butter dishes and silver butter dishes. These more ornate butter dishes are more rare than the more commonly seen rectangular butter dishes that are just slightly larger than a stick of modern butter. Rarely does one see these rounded butter dishes in use anymore, and they have achieved a strong following for collectors.

For fancy dinners, the hostess may have had one of the servants make fancy molded pieces of butter called butter pats or butter balls, which were served on crushed ice in the butter dish to be picked up with a butter pick. These required yet another butter serving piece, itself known as a butter pat. Butter pats are tiny plates placed at each individual setting, to be used for a single piece of butter. They range in diameter from approximately 2 2/5 inches to about 3 ¼ inches, and were made in sterling silver and silverplate as well in porcelain and china. Many sterling silver companies produced butter pats to match their sterling flatware patterns.

As butter began to be commercially produced for distribution in individually wrapped quarter pound cubes, the larger form of butter dishes became obsolete. Thus the butter dish began a new form. This new dish usually had a crystal liner, to protect the silver from the salt used in making the butter. Salt is the number one enemy of sterling silver and silverplate. Most of the new butter dish forms are 8 – 9 inches long.

We at Abe's have a fine selection of antique quadruple silverplate butter dishes for your collecting and fine dining needs. All of the silver butter dishes are available for immediate sale, and you can view our selection of butter dishes at Silver Butter Dishes.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Identifying English, Irish and Scottish Silver

Excerpt from the Antiques Council: Since the late 12th century silversmithing in Britain has been regulated by Parliamentary Acts and Royal Ordinances. This means that objects have to be stamped with 'hallmarks', a term derived from Goldsmiths' Hall which was the guild hall of the London Goldsmiths' Company. The first marks were overseen by this body. In 1300 the Sterling standard was established at 925 parts per 1000. All objects had to assayed (tested) before leaving the craftsman's hands. The system calls for various hallmarks which enable us to tell when something was made, by whom, where it was tested for purity and most importantly how pure it is. London was the first assay office and then others were established in the English provinces and Ireland and Scotland.

Now we know what is meant by a hallmark we need to find out what we are looking at.

MARKS OF ORIGIN Each assay office has its own mark which identifies the town or city where the item was assayed, and probably manufactured.

MAKERS' MARKS Since 1363 silversmiths have been required to stamp their work with a registered mark. From early in the 18th century on initials are found, prior to that a slightly different combination of marks were used.

DATE LETTERS Used in England from 1478, in Scotland from 1681 and Ireland from 1638. The date stamp uses a letter of the alphabet, changed to the next letter annually in a regular cycle. Each new cycle was given a new style of lettering and shape of shield to distinguish one cycle from another.

STANDARD MARKS From 1544 a specific standard mark, a lion passant, was introduced to be marked on items which met the Sterling standard as the coinage (up to then 92.5 % pure) had been debased to only one third silver. In 1697 the Sterling standard was replaced by the Britannia standard of 058.4 parts per 1000 to stop the melting down of coins for plate, the Britannia figure replaced the lion passant. From 1720 we are back to using the lion passant and standard Sterling although Britannia continued to be used to 1974, usually to celebrate a special occasion.

DUTY MARKS 1784-1890 Between 1784 and 1890 a duty (tax) was imposed on silver in Britain. To prove that the duty had been paid by the silversmith an extra mark depicting the ruling monarch's head was struck on most items during this period. There were some who evaded this duty, so the mark is not always present.

HOW TO READ HALLMARKS When looking at hallmarks, begin by studying the mark of origin to find out where the piece was assayed. If you don't see an assay office's mark the piece is probably from London as this was where the greatest amount of silverware was produced. Using your handy Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks turn to the relevant city's section. Now look at the date letter, not the easiest part of the process, as you have to check (a) is it a capital or lower case (b) what kind of script it is in (c) note the shape of the shield containing it. You must get an exact match to your hallmark to be confident about the date. For reference at home or at a library ,Sir Charles Jackson's English Goldsmiths and Their Marks is essential if you wish to identify makers.

-provided by Kathleen & Roger Haller

Thursday, May 19, 2005

American Silverplate

Recommended book on American Silverplate! The Elegance of Old Silverplate and Some Personalities (Edmund P. Hogan, Schiffer Publishing, 1980). Hardbound, 189 pages. Descriptions of many tablewares such as napkin rings, butter dishes, pickle casters, and a special section on the Vintage flatware pattern. Many black and white photographs, reproductions of old catalog pages and much more. A "must have" for collectors, dealers and novices.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Antique Silver Flatware Sets

You may not have a complete 78, 124, or 144-piece antique silver flatware set, and you may not be able to afford an entire set in a particular pattern.

But many people have the most beautiful and interesting silver flatware sets by simply adding pieces of a similar style or manufacture, which is much more affordable and makes a much more interesting dining experience for your guests.

Complete and matching silver and silverplate flatware sets are becoming passé in many entertainment circles.

Nothing else can compare to the lovely patina of antique silver and silverplate flatware. The designs are exquisite, the weight and feel beyond compare.

So don't be afraid of mixing patterns!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Completing A Silver Set

I recently sold an antique quadruple silverplate sugar bowl to a woman in the Netherlands who seemed to have 7 pieces to an American silverplate tea set, sans the sugar bowl. In searching the Internet, she found Abe Silverman's Antique Silver Shop, who had just listed the silver plated sugar bowl, with the same design/pattern number as her tea set. She now has an 8-piece tea set and couldn't be happier.

Even if you do not have the complete set, or wish to add to a set you already have, either with matching items or similar styles, one can eventually find a quality antique silverplate piece to fulfill your desires. Keep searching!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Display Antique Silver

Antique sterling silver and silverplate hollowwares can add beauty and elegance to a table buffet or your home. But isn't proper caring for silver items like candlesticks, serving trays and silver tea sets difficult and time consuming?

Antique silver pieces were meant to be used and enjoyed! With regular and proper care, most silver pieces will stay beautiful for years and years. The most common culprit of silver is tarnish caused by humidity. The ideal level of humidity for storing and displaying silver, according to Caring for Collectibles by Ken Arnold, is 45% to 50%. Since your home is not a museum, it won't always be possible to maintain a constant humidity level, but making an effort to keep your silver out of unusually damp environments will certainly help cut down on tarnish.

Avoiding excessive tarnish buildup in the first place is a good idea. This makes cleaning occasionally much easier. However, over-polishing silver can wear down the silver finish, especially on silverplated pieces, so take care not to overdo it.

When removing tarnish, use a clean cotton cloth to dust the item as a first step. This is important since dust can scratch the finish if not removed before cleaning.

Candle wax can be removed from a silver holder by simply running hot water over the area holding the wax. The softened wax should be easy to pry out with a finger. Never risk scratching the piece by using a knife or other sharp metal tool.

Once all dust and wax are removed, wash the item by hand with warm water and a gentle dishwashing soap to remove any dirt, dust and food, but don't soak the silver in water for any length of time.

Rinse your silver well with clean water, distilled is best, and dry immediately with a soft, lint-free cloth. A hair-dryer set on warm helps to dry hard-to-reach places.

Wearing plastic gloves rather than rubber (rubber will react with the silver) lay the item on a soft towel on a stable work surface. Use a soft cotton cloth or jewelry sponge and a good non-abrasive commercial silver cleaner or polish. Goddard's, Gorham's or Wright's as recommended. Some people find foams and liquids easier to manage than pastes, but it's really a matter of personal preference.

Apply the polish in a gentle circular motion. For intricate areas, use a cotton-tipped swab to apply the cleaner. Make sure all polish is removed when you're finished, using additional cotton swabs if needed. Once the silver piece looks clean and shiny, stop polishing even if you're still seeing dark residue on your cloth.

Wash the piece again and dry with a lint-free cloth. Items not used for food consumption can be waxed with a thin coat of microcrystalline wax to protect against tarnishing, if desired. Never lacquer your silver piece! It's best to store silver flatware in specially designed flatware chests or anti-tarnish bags.

After your silver is clean and completely dry, wrap pieces individually with acid-free, buffered tissue, or washed cotton, linen, or polyester to store. Do not use wool, felt, chamois leather or newspaper, which can cause tarnishing or even worse, remove plating. Wrapping silver pieces in specially made bags or silver cloths designed to deter tarnish make good storage choices as well.

If you'd like to display your silver rather than storing it, a glass-enclosed cabinet makes a good choice. And if you use glass shelves, make sure they're sturdy enough to hold heavier pieces.

Desiccant packets can be added to the cabinet help prevent tarnish, but don't let them actually touch the silver pieces. Special anti-tarnish papers and cloths containing activated carbon or silver salts can be placed in display cases as well. You can purchase these items from jewelers or department and specialty stores where new silver pieces are sold.

You'll want to avoid displaying or storing silver near cotton felt, wool or velvet as well. These fabrics contain sulfides that attack the metal. Direct sunlight doesn't actually cause tarnish, but it can accelerate the progression of the unattractive film, so place your silver display case away from sunny windows.

You'll also want to use white cotton gloves when handling silver if possible. The salts, oils and acids in your skin can cause corrosion. Arnold's book also mentions that fingerprints can even be etched into silver if left uncleaned for a long period of time.

So pull out that heirloom silver you have been hiding in the back of your buffet and start enjoying the beauty of your antique silver!