Research on Antiques & Collectibles


SILVER & SILVERPLATE DURING THE VICTORIAN ERA: A Period of transition from High Art to Status Symbol

Silver was the chief status symbol of the Victorian era. There was nothing new in this: gold and silver had long been used as the expression of power and wealth of those in high places, and from the beginning of the eighteenth century at least, they had become important to people lower down the social scale. In the earlier part of the century, members of middle-class families often had their portraits painted grouped around a table on which the family's silver tea service was displayed. From the 1760's onwards, the invention of Sheffield plate and methods of mass production, made silver items available to an increasing number of people. This process was accentuated during the nineteenth century. The discovery of ....   Read Full Story


CARE, CLEANING and CONSERVATION METHODS for ANTQUE METAL WARE:  Useful tips in restoring Antique Lamps, Clocks, Ormolu, Spelter, Bronze etc

In general, the first step in the care and conservation of an antique piece of metalwork is the removal as far as possible of whatever is causing deterioration, such as rust in the case of iron and steel, then thorough cleaning and polishing followed finally by the application of waxes or lacquers to help to delay decay.

It is impossible to arrest decay on antiques completely: all one can do is to delay it for as long as possible. As in any other form of antique a moderate even temperature is required, and it is necessary to avoid extreme cold or damp. These are in effect the main essentials of what is known in an antiques museum as 'conservation'. What techniques and practices you use and how you tackle the work depends largely on....   Read Full Story


SILVER & SHEFFIELD (Rolled) SILVER PLATE: What it is and how it begun

It was about 1743 when Thomas Boulsover discovered that an ingot of copper could be given a coating of silver by means of fusion by heat, and that the two metals united could be worked into shape as one. Most importantly, the copper always retained its silver covering, however thinly it was rolled. At first, Boulsover used plated copper for making buttons, boxes and other small wares. However, in the 1750s and 1760s the new process was taken up by other manufacturers and quickly became one of Sheffield's most important industries.

The manufacture of plated goods was also carried on in Birmingham and at the beginning of Victoria's reign, Sheffield plate was being....   Read Full Story


LADIES’ COMPACTS: Yesterday’s useful Jewelry, now a desirable Collectible

As the corseted and crinoline Victorian era gave way to the age of the flapper, the changing status of women revealed itself in curious ways. Among them was the unspoken right of liberated ladies to smoke and to powder their noses in public. Out would come the powder compact - often enameled, sometimes even bejeweled - from the beaded, velvet or silver-mesh bag. In its myriad shapes, materials and designs, the compact was more than a fashionable accessory, more, even, than "the weapon of a fantastic coquetry," as Vogue magazine put it in a 1923 issue. It was often an object of impeccable period beauty, and that period, more often than not, was Art Deco. Today these little relics of social history are being snapped up in increasing numbers at....   Read Full Story




Jean Despres is a unique case in the history of French metalwork between the two world wars. He belongs to a group of artists who were strongly displeased with the first major international exposition of decorative arts – the huge Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes - which was held in Paris in 1925. It was this exposition that gave Art Deco its name. Among Despres's cohorts were the architects Le Corbusier and Robert Mallet-Stevens, the silver designer Jean Puiforcat, the sculptor Gustave Miklos and others. Despite differences, they had one common fascination:....   Read Full Story


WRISTWATCHES: How a practical evolution of the Fob Watch is still a timeless collectible

Imagine it is 1928 and you are a young man, perhaps home from school, sitting under the clock at New York's Biltmore Hotel. You are waiting for a girl. After smoothing your hair, you check your flannel pants for puffs of lint and pull your camel coat close. Everything's just swell. But where is that girl? You pull up your sleeve and look at your new Bulova wristwatch. She is ten minutes late. Maybe I should leave, you think, with a touch of irritation. But then you soften and press the little button on your watch. Up pops the watch face, and there, nestled against your wrist and framed in the gold watchband, is her picture. You smile, sigh and decide to wait. That moment, she floats through the revolving doors. In the twenties, the wristwatch was all the rage....   Read Full Story


STICKPINS or STICK PINS: Jewelry for Men

Snapping gold terriers. Roaring tigers with sparkling gems in their jaws. Greek goddesses, minutely carved in crystal. These are all antique stickpins, and they are also - as dealers will happily tell you - very much in fashion. While prices for antique jewelry have soared in recent years, old stickpins of every variety - from a classic pearl tiepin to a whimsical platinum-and-diamond winged elephant - can still please the collector without emptying his wallet. And for those seeking the truly fine piece to add to their collections, there is the occasional stickpin by such notable firms as Tiffany, Lalique or Faberge, or by a master craftsman whose personal signature can greatly enhance its value. Stickpins found nowadays in antiques stores generally date....   Read Full Story



MOSES MICHAEL HAYS, a merchant who lived in New York, Newport, and Boston in the stirring years of the second half of the eighteenth century, is of interest to us today primarily because he was a link between two outstanding figures of his time - Paul Revere the patriot, and Myer Myers the New York silversmith. He was, however, an interesting figure in his own right. Hays was born in New York on May 9, 1739, and died on the same day sixty-six years later. His father, Judah, was a merchant; his paternal grandfather was born in Holland. By 1769 Moses had been made a freeman of New York, and sometime later the family moved to Newport, Rhode Island. His commercial...   Read Full Story



The fondness of the Pennsylvania Germans for ornamenting even the simplest of their handicrafts is proverbial, and the piercing or punching of the sheet tin used for household objects as a means of enhancing their beauty seems to have been particularly popular. True, pierced tin performed both a utilitarian and a decorative function in the familiar "Paul Revere" lantern, and in the more or less ubiquitous footwarmers, both of which tare of eastern seaboard rather than purely local provenance. But it remained for the Pennsylvania German craftsman to turn a merely convenient practice into something of an art. Tinware, pierced or punched, seems to be almost entirely a...   Read Full Story






Collectors of American Silver have long been puzzled by the maker's mark IGL that appears on comparatively few pieces of silver, most of which seem to have had their origin in the neighborhood of Albany, New York. As recently as 1937 the mark was ascribed to Jacob Gerritze Lansing and the date given was 1736. In 1938 it was assigned in two different forms to Jacob Gerritse Lansing (1736 - 1803). Still later it was given to a John Gerrit Lansing, who is said to have been born and died on the same dates and to have worked from 1765 to 1790. In ‘American Silversmiths and their Marks, III’ by Stephen G. C. Ensko, the mark is given in one form to Jacob Gerittze Lansing...   Read Full Story




The increasing interest of collectors in the silver-ware of eighteenth-century England has stimulated intensified research into the lives and business of the craftsmen whose marks are impressed on their wares. The records of Goldsmiths' Hall in London, and of the principal assay offices in such provincial centers as York, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Dublin, have provided us with a wealth of names of silversmiths who were working during the eighteenth century, though in many cases further records have been lost. We have a good deal of information about some of the most prominent craftsmen, like Paul de Lamerie and Paul Storr, not only because the....   Read Full Story



Many varied and interesting heirlooms have come down in American families from the days of the Old China Trade. Perhaps the most fascinating of these, and certainly the least known, are bracelets, brooches, and earrings made of a translucent ivory-like substance that is almost never recognized by modern jewelers and collectors - hornbill ivory, a strange product from an equally strange bird. The Old World has some sixty varieties of hornbills, ranging from Africa across India and southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands; but only one of these bears the dense, smooth-textured substance....   Read Full Story



Silver was a highlight of luxurious living in the eighteenth century, as it has been in other eras. Silver vessels for eating and drinking, silver ornaments, silver lighting devices, suited the taste of the time for elegance and refinement, and their forms answered the demands of new customs. New delicacy in table manners was made possible by the use of forks, which became general at the beginning of the century. Like the cabinetmakers and....   Read Full Story



Not long after the Raleigh Tavern was built sometime before 1742, the ‘Virginia Gazette’ reported that "last Friday being the Anniversary of our Most gracious Sovereign's Accession to the throne... the City was handsomely illuminated." This sounds very brilliant - "handsomely illuminated" - until we recall just what early illumination was like. As late as 1775 Gilbert White recorded in his ‘Natural History of Selbourne’ that rushlights were still being used in....   Read Full Story



The appreciation and therefore the collecting, of French domestic (US) silver is comparatively recent. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that several far-sighted amateurs, realizing the beauty of old French plate and its rapidly increasing rarity, began to acquire it themselves and took steps to educate others against its destruction. Probably the domestic silver of no European nation has been so ruthlessly destroyed in the past as that of France. The French converted large quantities of....   Read Full Story



In check lists of the colonial silversmiths, many a master craftsman who lived soberly, fathered a dozen fine children, was a deacon in his church and captain of the militia, rates a dull three-line notice. Samuel Casey, whose respectable career came to a scandalous end, is given half a page. Samuel Casey was born 1723/4 at Newport, Rhode Island. He may have been apprenticed, as Kathryn C. Buhler has suggested, to Jacob Hurd of Boston, for whose daughter Ann he made a spoon dated 1751. Casey was made freeman in 1745 in....   Read Full Story



There is evidence that enamels were made in England during the earlier part of the eighteenth century. A ‘General Description of all Trades’, published in 1747, states that "Enamelling is a curious art, and not much labour but that of laying and painting colours, plain or in figures, on metal. The masters in this way are not many . . ." Contemporary trade journals refer to "toy-makers" in the Midlands but there is no means of identifying individual workshops or any examples which could be attributed to this early date. Judging by the 1747 reference quoted...   Read Full Story



The vast amount of artistic silversmiths' work produced by English craftsmen in early days provokes many interesting questions. The inventories of church goods show that there was scarcely a church which did not possess a wealth of vessels in the precious metals far more than sufficient for its needs, while the wills of private individuals prove that they considered the possession of silver a convenient method of storing their riches. Perhaps the most outstanding example is the great quantity of silver vessels accumulated by....   Read Full Story