How to Buy an Antique Solid Silver Cutlery Set

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How to Buy an Antique Solid Silver Cutlery Set

An elegant set of antique solid silver cutlery is a great way to spruce up a dining table or beautiful way to add charm to a display cabinet. Antique solid silver cutlery is a collectible that is over 100 years old. The value of purchasing antique solid silver cutlery can be found in its rich in history, tradition, and aesthetics. Often, a set of antique solid silver cutlery (usually called a canteen) was a family heirloom passed down for generations. There are many different styles, pieces, and types of sets of antique solid silver cutlery that are available, and a deeper understanding of the these differences can help purchasers in finding antique solid silver cutlery that appeals best to them.  Factors to consider when purchasing antique solid silver cutlery include the number of people at each sitting, the types of dishes typically served, the design of the cutlery, and budget limitations.  

History of Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Antique solid silver cutlery is often associated with the Victorian and Edwardian eras in Europe and the colonial Americas, spanning the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. At the height of fashion, there could be over 100 pieces of solid silver cutlery used in a single sitting. Sterling silver, made with 92.5 percent silver and7.5 percent copper or other metals, originated in 12th century England. As sterling was the currency at the time, items that were crafted from silver had to be tested at local assay offices to ensure the sterling standard had been met.Purity was indicated and maintained through the use of hallmarks, which were pictures or symbols stamped onto each item. Common hallmarks on solid silver cutlery included the purity mark, maker’s mark, and date mark. Solid silver cutlery patterns tended to follow and reflect the current styles in architecture in different periods of time. Hallmarks and patterns are often the best way to determine the age, quality, and value of antique solid silver cutlery.

Discover Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Purchasing a canteen or even individual pieces of antique solid silver cutlery has many benefits. As an antique, these pieces are collectors’ items that can increase in value over time and may be lovingly restored to their former glory in a few easy steps. From elegant to ornate, there are a wide range of styles and designs of antique solid silver cutlery that can satisfy even the most discerning tastes and collections. Items that are older and those that are more difficult to find tend to be considered more valuable. The lustre and quality that can be found in a set of antique solid silver cutlery can add elegance to any dinner engagement.

Typical Parts of Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

A standard place setting consists of 5 to 7 pieces of solid silver cutlery. However, there are many additional pieces that can fill out a table setting, as well as a vast array of serving utensils available.

Part

Description

Table Knife        

Assists with cutting or spreading during the main courses.

Table Fork

General eating implement to spear, hold, and cut items in main courses.

Soup Spoon

A spoon with a fuller basin to use during the soup course.

Dessert Spoon          

General eating implement to scoop and hold softer desserts.

Dessert Knife

Assists with cutting or spreading during the dessert course.

Dessert Fork

Helps spear, hold, and cut items during the dessert course.

Teaspoon

Helps stir and remove teabags from a teacup. Usually placed on or beside the teacup saucer.

Types of Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Antique solid silver cutlery is usually available in sets, or canteens. There are several varieties and options to choose from. Canteens can come in a fitted box, in cutlery rolls, or as loose separates.

Type

Description

Advantages

Considerations

Full Canteen 

Completes 12 place settings.

Enough to entertain guests and family gatherings. Spare settings in case of damage.

Smaller families may prefer sets with less place settings.

Half Canteen

Completes six place settings.

Ideal for smaller families. Less work to polish and maintain.

Perhaps not enough place settings to entertain larger groups or special occasions.

Double Canteen

Completes 24 place settings.

Plenty of place settings for large parties. Many spare settings in case of damage.

Time-consuming to polish, maintain, and store.

Straight Canteen

All pieces feature the same design, same maker, and more or less the same date of manufacture.

Greater value as a collector's item. Consistency when setting a table.

More expensive.

Mixed Canteen

All pieces feature the same design, but don't strictly have the same makers and date of manufacture.

Consistent table setting with more histories of origin for each piece or grouping.

Less consistency than a straight canteen. Less value when sold as a set.

Eclectic canteen

Features different designs, different makers, and different dates - although generally there are matching sets to each course or purpose.

A more personalised canteen for each course. Varied styles and histories. Less expensive.

Less consistency throughout the duration of a meal. Less value when sold as a set.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Before purchasing antique solid silver cutlery, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Plated Cutlery – Watch out for silver-plated cutlery. In the 18th and 19th centuries, techniques emerged to make affordable silver-plated cutlery for the middle and upper classes. Sheffield plating is an older and more expensive version, while newer electroplated silver tends to be slightly cheaper. Silver-plated cutlery does not have assay marks because it is not made of pure sterling silver throughout. This may be a sticking point for some buyers, along with the relatively newer age of these products.
  • Number - The number of pieces in each canteen should be determined by the number and types of courses served, along with the number of guests at the table.
  • History - There were many makers of antique solid silver cutlery at the height of production, and the manufacturers have their own history and prestige to take note of. The hallmark on each cutlery piece will indicate the date of manufacture by a lettered symbol.
  • Design - There are literally thousands of antique solid silver cutlery designs to choose from, ranging from simple to ornate. Choose a pattern that suits existing table décor.
  • Be wary of replicas - Antique solid silver cutlery sets are highly valuable. There are hallmark replicas on the market, which use dies or punches to copy the hallmarks of real companies. Inspect hallmarks carefully for authenticity and consult hallmark guides before purchasing antique solid silver cutlery.

Typical Features of Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Listed below are some features to look for in antique solid silver cutlery canteens.

1. Fitted Box or Container

Some canteens are presented in beautiful wooden cases that hold each piece separately; others come in loose pieces or are already rolled into place settings.

2. Hallmarks

These are usually symbols or pictures found on each piece of solid silver cutlery. Usually, pieces contain for hallmarks each. Hallmarks identify the silver purity, maker, place, and date of manufacture.

3. Design

There are thousands of designs ranging from simple to ornate for your antique solid silver cutlery. Some of the more popular designs include Chantilly, King's, Fiddle and Rat-tail.

4. Pieces

A traditional place setting has 5 to 7 pieces each. Serving pieces may come separately.

How to Care for Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

Silver is a precious metal that tarnishes when exposed to air. Tarnishing can turn the finish a discoloured yellow, and the silver pieces can eventually go black if left uncared for. Tarnish can be prevented through regular washing and minimizing exposure to air.

To clean your antique solid silver cutlery, put a small amount of silver polish on a soft cloth or moist cellulose sponge and rub gently to remove the tarnish. Wash and rinse the polish off immediately, then dry quickly (dampness encourages tarnishing). Remove any polish stuck in deep crevices with a cotton ball. Be careful when using silver dip, as this powerful cleanser can strip the patina from antique solid silver cutlery if left in for too long. Silver dip can be used to remove tough stains or after eating sulphurous foods. Read the instructions of any cleaners very carefully, as incorrect use can damage the silver or could be hazardous to the user.

Popular Antique Solid Silver Cutlery Manufacturers

Some well-known manufacturers of antique solid silver cutlery are listed below. Looking for signature hallmarks can help identify the manufacturer of antique solid silver cutlery pieces.

  • Alexander Clarke Manufacturing Company Ltd. Founded in 1891.  Known for the marking AC Co/LD.
  • Atkin Bros. Founded in 1841. Known for the marking HA.
  • Carrington and Co. Founded in 1880. Known for the marking C and Co.
  • Charles Boyton and Sons. Founded in 1825. Known for the marking CB.
  • C. J. Vander Ltd. Founded in 1886. Known for the marking CJV.
  • Francis Higgins. Founded in 1817. Known for the marking FH.
  • George Maudsley Jackson. Founded in 1883. Known for the marking GMJ.
  • Henry Wilkinson and Company. Founded in 1828. Known for the marking HW/and Co.
  • Holland, Aldwinckle and Slater. Founded in 1838. Known for the marking HH.
  • James Dixon and Sons. Founded in 1806. Known for the marking JD and S.
  • James Deakin and Sons Ltd. Founded in 1868. Known for the markings JD/Ws.
  • John Nowill and Sons. Founded in 1700. Known for the marking JN and S.
  • Josiah Williams and Company. Founded in 1832. Known for the marking JW/ and Co.
  • Mappin and Webb. Founded in 1797. Known for the marking M and W.
  • Thomas Bradbury and Sons Ltd. Founded in 1836. Known for the marking RM/EH.
  • Viners. Founded in 1900. Known for the marking EV.
  • William Hutton and Sons. Founded in 1800. Known for the marking WH and S.

Accessories and Add-ons for Antique Solid Silver Cutlery

High-quality, non-abrasive sterling silver care products are the best accessories for antique solid silver cutlery.

  • Silver foam - A strong cleaning agent that should be mixed with water to remove heavy dirt from antique solid silver cutlery.
  • Cloth roll - An impregnated cloth that can typically store and prolong the life of up to 12 pieces of antique solid silver cutlery.
  • Silver dip - A fast way to clean antique solid silver cutlery. It's very powerful and should be used in moderation to prevent damage to the patina of the silver.
  • Silver polishing gloves or cloth - Apply polish and gently rub into antique solid silver cutlery for an impressive lustre.

Finding Antique Solid Silver Cutlery on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique solid silver cutlery you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on the sub-category 'silver' then the sub-category 'sterling silver' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Solid Silver Cutlery on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique solid silver cutlery. For example, to find Edwardian antique solid silver pastry fork, type 'Edwardian Silver Pastry Fork' into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customize the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique solid silver cutlery with keywords. If you can’t find the exact piece of antique solid silver cutlery you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion

Search eBay to bring the timeless elegance of antique solid silver cutlery to any dining table for special occasions and regular use. Be sure to check the hallmarks for a deeper understanding of the history and design of antique solid silver cutlery canteens. Whether it’s an individual piece or full set, eBay has a wide variety of antique solid silver cutlery to suit individual purpose and tastes. Once you have collected this information, you can buy antique solid silver cutlery safely and securely on eBay.

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