Tips for Identifying Antique Silverware
Identifying antique silverware patterns is tricky. Often, the silver has been passed down for generations, and the name of the design, the manufacturer, and the history have been lost. Fortunately, each piece of silverware offers clues marked right on it. Once you learn to decode these, you can identify antique silverware patterns and tell if your old silverware is valuable.
Baker-Manchester Daffodil Pattern
The first step is to try to find a maker's mark on your silver. This mark is generally located on the underside of the handle. If the silver is tarnished, you may need to clean it or polish it to find the marks. Often, you'll see the name of the manufacturer or a silver hallmark that indicates the company that made the pattern. This is your first clue about your silver's history.
This pattern is Daffodil by Baker-Manchester, circa 1900. The hallmark for Baker-Manchester is a letter "M" inside a shield with a bird on either side of it. This beautiful Art Nouveau pattern is indicative of the flowing lines that were popular in this era.
Towle Georgian Pattern
Another important antique silverware marking will tell you whether your flatware is sterling silver or silverplate. Sterling is almost always marked "925," "sterling silver," or "sterling." Silverplate isn't always marked with silver content.
The Georgian pattern by Towle was created in 1898 and is marked as sterling. It is an intricate design pattern with an elegant look. The handle is created to look like a Greek column with curves capitals on the top edge. Notice the rose on the top of the handle as well as partway down, and the rose motif added again, where the handle meets the body of the fork.
In addition to the fork, this image shows an old French hollow knife. Notice how the shape of the knife blade is rounded at the end with a slight upcurve. The handle is called "hollow" because it isn't solid metal.
Mount Vernon Adolphus Pattern
In addition to different styles of knives, you'll notice that antique silver has some different spoon shapes too. In fact, at the height of the silver production during the Victorian era, there were specific types of utensils for just about everything. It can be fun to collect a certain type of spoon in lots of different patterns. Shown are a coffee spoon and a chocolate muddler.
Adolphus by Mount Vernon is an interesting pattern that shows that not all Victorian silver flatware needs to be ornate. Created in 1904, this pattern has a floral top and a beaded edge. The simple, flowing shape of the handles shows of the intricate details, making this a great pattern to mix and match with older or newer silver.
Durgin New Art Pattern
Just as there were special spoons for every purpose, most antique silverware patterns include a wide range of serving pieces for very specific uses, such as ice spoons and tomato servers. You'll even see aspic knives designed to cut and serve savory gelatin that was all the rage at this time. Many patterns feature dozens and sometimes even hundreds of different serving pieces.
New Art by Durgin was created at the height of Art Nouveau style in 1899. The Art Nouveau influence is very apparent in these pieces with their graceful, almost moving forms. Notice that the braided stems of the lilies form the handle, while the floral design is carried lushly into the body of the piece. There is a smooth oval area left at the top for monogramming. This is a multi-motif pattern, which means it features slightly different designs on each piece.
Whiting Mandarin Pattern
Many antique silverware pieces are stamped with a patent date, but the style of the pattern can also help you determine how old it is. Around 1915, many silverware manufacturers began to transition from the elaborate patterns of the Victorian era to the simpler geometric style and clean lines of the Art Deco period.
Whiting created the Mandarin pattern in 1917, and it clearly shows this transition. This pattern transitions from the flowing lines of Art Nouveau to the graphic perfection of Art Deco. There are still some of the graceful, curving elements of the prior style, but geometric design has found a place in this pattern. The center motif on the handle is classic Arts and Crafts.
The combination of these elements gives this pattern a style that is almost Asian in feel by incorporating several artistic expressions in one. This silver would have looked just right on a Roycroft table or in a Greene and Greene bungalow.
Pictured are a pate knife and a horseradish scoop.
International Madrid Pattern
Silverware pattern identification is about combining everything you know about the flatware to figure out the pattern. You can start with the manufacturer and a patent date if you have one. Add in any information you have about the style, such as Art Deco, and what you know about the silver content. Then look at all the flatware patterns made during that time period by that manufacturer. Yours will be one of them.
International Silver's Madrid pattern was released in 1927 at the height of Art Deco style. It is a simple and elegant pattern with an etched edge. A raised silver thread outlines the handle in classic Art Deco elegance.
Here, you can see a soup spoon and a dessert fork.
Frank Whiting George III Pattern
Another thing to consider is monograms. Although they can negatively affect the value of antique silverware, monograms appeal to some collectors. Some are incredibly ornate and are works of art in themselves. Some collectors also love the provenance these monograms can provide, since the engraved letters can provide clues about previous owners.
You can clearly see the monograms on these pieces in the George III design by Frank Whiting. Released in 1891, it is lavished with decorative elements that were favorites in Victorian design. Acanthus leaves, shells, and claws all find their place in this pattern. Identifying antique silverware patterns is often a matter of noticing the small design details. They are more often than not good indicators of the era in which the items were released.
Shown are a fish fork and a mustard ladle.
Reed and Barton Majestic Pattern
When it comes to some antique flatware patterns, the design can feel timeless. If you have one that looks like it could fit in multiple eras and it isn't marked with a patent date, take a close look at the details. They can give you some clues and help you differentiate it from similar patterns.
Reed and Barton's Majestic pattern was released in 1894. It carried a lot of the Victorian design elements but was done in a much simpler manner than the George III pattern in the previous image. The carved lines on the handle indicate the Greek columns that were coming into vogue at this time. Acanthus leaves gracefully decorate the edges.
Shown are a sugar spoon with a shell-designed bowl and a fish knife.
Gorham Décor Pattern
You'll notice that silverware patterns changed as other decorating trends shifted. It was still common for people to own a set of silver flatware during the middle of the 20th century, but it had a decidedly different look than the ornate pieces of the Victorian era. You can identify silverware patterns from the 1950s and 1960s by their cleaner lines and modern motifs.
The Gorham Décor pattern was released in the post-war boom of the mid-century. In 1953, women were enjoying a new level of entertaining in suburbia with cocktail parties, luncheons, and formal dinners. It was a similar society to the very socially aware Victorians. This pattern has all of the grandeur and curves that would make a Victorian happy. Décor is an unusually fussy pattern for the 1950s; most homemakers bought silver with straight lines and little decoration to coordinate with the sleek lines of their atomic age homes.
Shown are a salad fork and a butter knife.
Alvin Bridal Rose Pattern
Some patterns have a very distinctive style that's easy to identify. For example, a large rose motif makes this design easy to spot.
The Bridal Rose pattern was released by Alvin in 1903. It is a sweet and feminine design with many roses in the pattern in addition to the central rose on the handle. Shown are a sugar spoon and a nut scoop.
LoveToKnow wishes to thank Antique Cupboard for supplying the images used in this slideshow. Antique Cupboard has images of hundreds of different silver patterns and can help you identify your heirlooms.
Setting an Elegant Table
There is nothing as elegant as a table set with heirloom silver, fine china, and antique crystal. Once you identify your pattern, you can work on adding to or replacing the pieces for an elegant heirloom that spans generations. Collecting antique silver is a wonderful hobby, and you can show off your collection at special meals.