Tag Archive for: silver

Jasper52 showcases Antique to Modern Sterling Silver, Sept. 14

On Wednesday, September 14, starting at 3 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will present a sale of Antique to Modern Sterling Silver, consisting of precisely 133 lots. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Treasures on offer include a set of eight Georg Jensen goblets in hammered sterling silver; a Reed & Barton Art Nouveau five-arm silverplate epergne centerpiece; a late 19th-century large oval dresser box by George Roth, festooned with a courting scene; a sterling silver water pitcher by Priesner; a mid-century sterling silver Revere bowl by Tiffany & Co.; and a 19th-century chatelaine fob in the form of a ram’s horn.

Large antique sterling silver basket, est. $2,000-$2,500

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Choice and stylish selections in Sept. 6 all-silver auction

A Hans Hansen Art Deco sterling silver sauce jug, a pair of George I silver candlesticks made in London in 1714, and a 19th-century silver vase from Germany will vie for top lot status at Jasper52’s American, English and Continental Silver auction, which will be conducted on Tuesday, September 6 at 8 pm Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

The sale boasts 138 lots in all, representing a wide range of antique, vintage and modern silver treasures. British-made standouts include a George III silver tankard and cover rendered in 1781 by the noted woman silversmith, Hester Bateman; a pair of late 18th-century George III silver entree dishes by artisan Robert Sharp; a pair of Victorian sterling silver coasters from 1838 by John Hunt; a George V silver cake basket created in 1924 by Charles and Richard Comyns; and a 1930 Modernist silver bowl on foot with handles by Sheffield silversmith Henry Wilkinson.

Hans Hansen Art Deco sterling silver sauce jug, est. $2,000-$2,500

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 sets the table with fine antique silver, May 10

On Tuesday, May 10, starting at 7 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct a sale of Fine Sterling Silver and Decorative Art. The carefully curated auction features just 57 lots that nonetheless represent a deep and broad survey of the silversmith’s art. Earning a place in the lineup is a Georgian-style sterling silver epergne centerpiece, fitted with four baskets and dating to 1909; a pair of 1809 shell-shaped Georgian Rococo Revival sauce boats; and a five-piece Victorian tea and coffee silver set with kettle.

The highlights continue with a circa-1880 French silver gilt, glass and enamel inkstand clock; a sterling silver and wood horseshoes game set from 1996 in a velvet-lined case, a 1763 George III silver tea caddy with chinoiserie decoration, a 1937 pair of sterling silver ewers by Omar Ramsden, and a mid-century Georg Jensen vegetable tureen, dish and cover, part of pattern no. 228. Also included in the sale are: an Art Nouveau table clock from 1913 in the Tree of Life design, a George II silver gilt lidded trophy dating to 1738, a four-piece silver condiment set created by Gerald Benney in 1968, a pair of solid silver pheasants, a cock and a hen, rendered in Germany in 1938 but featuring an English import mark; a George III sterling silver basket for cake, bread or fruit, with an elaborately detailed rim; a solid silver lidded box or bowl, made in Iran circa 1940; antique candlesticks, tankards and trays; and a large French silver cigar box from 1910.

Pair of Arts & Crafts sterling silver ewers by Omar Ramsden, est. $16,000-$19,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Silver or Gold? With vermeil, you get both

A pair of vermeil silver Champagne coolers by English silversmith Paul Storr sold for €32,000 (approximately $33,675) plus the buyer’s premium in June 2018. Image courtesy of Colasanti Casa D’Aste and LiveAuctioneers.

Gold is easy to work with on its own – just heat it and form it as desired. It is heavy and luxurious, but because of its price, it isn’t always practical. A solution since ancient times has been to apply gold over other metals, like silver, a time-honored choice. But early methods of applying gold to silver to create vermeil (pronounced vehr-may), also known as silver-gilt, were sometimes difficult and dangerous. 

The Incas of South America married their Sun God of gold and Mother Moon of silver in their religious artifacts through what’s known as a depletion-gilding technique, a process that employs acids, salts and heat to bind the gold to the silver. European artisans came up with a fire-gilding process by which an amalgam of gold and mercury is heated to slowly dissolve the mercury until the gold chemically binds to the outer surface to produce ormolu. This practice was finally outlawed around 1830 due to its seriously harmful effects on the health of the metalsmiths.

A French silver-gilt breakfast set once owned by August Ludwig Viktor, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, achieved NT$1,700,000 (about $58,000) plus the buyer’s premium in June 2020. Image courtesy of Yu Jen Taipei and LiveAuctioneers

French artisans discovered electrolysis in the late 18th century, a far-safer process that binds gold to silver by passing electric currents through the metals. Electrolysis is now the standard technique for creating works of vermeil.

It should be said that vermeil is not interchangeable with pieces that are gold filled or gold plated. The rules for the manufacture of the latter two are looser. Gold-filled pieces feature a layer of gold electroplated onto an alloy of copper, brass or other base metal that has no less than 5% of its total weight in gold, while gold-plated works have less than 1% of their total weight in gold over alloy. No specific karat-weight of gold is regulated for either type, although each can be identified by a hallmark such as GP for gold plated and GF for gold filled.

A circa-1809 French Empire silver-gilt platter and cover made for Prince Camillo Borghese and Pauline Borghese (nee Bonaparte) achieved £34,000 (about $42,500) plus the buyer’s premium in July 2021. Image courtesy of Kinghams Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers.

Vermeil, in contrast, always has a base of fine or sterling silver – not an alloy. American government regulations require the layer of gold to comprise no less than 2.5 microns, which is about five times thicker than that used in gold plating. Also, the gold overlay can be no less than 10K in weight. With its combination of both gold and silver, vermeil is classified as demi-fine jewelry. It is by far the most coveted of the three gold-layered variations at auction.

As pointed out earlier, vermeil is created by electroplating pure gold onto a solid silver surface, but it need not be done when a piece is first made. A work of silver can be elevated to vermeil at any time. 

A circa-1950 decorative basket by Cartier featuring silver gilt bands, enameled strawberries and white enamel flowers achieved $1,400 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2017. Image courtesy of Quinn’s Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

Any object made from gold will have a hallmark declaring its full karat weight, but items of vermeil, which have a layer of gold over silver, are not usually hallmarked for their gold content. They should sport a hallmark of .925 for sterling silver or .999 for fine silver to identify the purity of the base silver alloy. 

A circa-1900 sterling silver-gilt vermeil centerpiece bowl by Marcus & Co., sold for S1,100 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2019. Image courtesy of Auctions at Showplace and LiveAuctioneers

Telling the difference between a gold object and one that was originally cast as vermeil is straightforward but involves multiple steps, starting with checking for discoloration, general wear or tarnish. Pieces that have a history should show wear in logical places. If something appears too new for its age, the layer of gold you see was almost certainly added after its completion.

A 54-piece vermeil dessert service realized $2,400 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2018. Image courtesy of Leighton Galleries and LiveAuctioneers

Just feeling the weight of an item can help determine if it is gold or vermeil. The atomic weight of silver is 47 and the atomic weight of gold is 79, a difference in weight of about 41%. Vermeil jewelry, teacups, clocks, flatware and even royal crowns will feel lighter than their solid-gold counterparts and a bit heavier than those made from an alloy of brass and copper. 

A case in point is the 17th-century St. Edward’s Crown that Queen Elizabeth II wore at her coronation in 1953. Composed of solid 22K gold and more than 440 precious gems, it weighs nearly five pounds, a challenge for anyone to manage, whether high-born or not. 

“It weighs a tonne,” Her Majesty once told an interviewer. 

An openwork vermeil and diamond bangle bracelet earned $550 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2016. Image courtesy of New Orleans Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers

Magnets are good tools to have at hand when testing objects of vermeil. 

Magnets will not interact with gold, silver, brass or copper, but they will stick to anything that contains enough nickel, iron or steel. If the piece comprises anything except gold over silver, it’s not vermeil. 

Most vermeil items appear at auction in the form of jewelry and personal accessories, but the metallurgical technique has been used to produce other objects as well, both functional and fanciful. Teasets, mantel clocks, candlesticks, presentation bowls, serving trays and Russian icons adorned with vermeil are seldom bypassed at auction.

This Russian icon, chased and embossed with vermeil over a wood panel, sold for €1,500 (about $1,600) in November 2020. Image courtesy of Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Dusseldorf and LiveAuctioneers

The White House has a Vermeil Room on its ground floor that showcases one of the largest collections of vermeil pieces ever assembled. Dedicated to the first ladies, the collection contains about 1,000 examples of flatware, tableware, chalices, tureens and a wine cooler donated to the Eisenhower administration in 1956 by socialite Margaret Thompson Biddle.

According to the White House Historical Association, the collection includes 18th-century vermeil in the English Regency style by Paul Storr, French Empire-style pieces by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, and examples by Philip Rundell, a London metalsmith. Vermeil designs by all of these revered names remain very much in demand.

A pair of mid-19th-century French silver and vermeil double salts by Maison Odiot, patterned after the original model by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, earned $2,600 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2020. Image courtesy of Freeman’s and LiveAuctioneers

Contemporary artisans such as Jacquie Aiche, Alfred Phillippe, Dina Mackney and Kendra Scott create vermeil jewelry in vintage and classical designs to suit any event, even a reception at the White House Vermeil Room.

A 20th-century sterling silver vermeil desk clock with a Breguet movement sold for $20,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2016. Image courtesy of Kodner Galleries Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

Owning vermeil, be it a centuries-old decorative object by a renowned artisan or a head-turning piece of jewelry finished last week, can make economic sense. If you don’t care to consider pure 24K gold coins, bars, bullion or jewelry part of your investment strategy, vermeil might be a sensible option.

How to determine the condition of silver like an expert

This article will explain what experts look for when determining the condition of silver. It will also give you the tools to determine if any condition issues are present in a piece of silver that you own.

Carefully assessing condition is an important step in accurately evaluating a piece. If you discover an issue that negatively impacts the value of your silver, experts can determine if restoration will increase the potential resale value of the piece and recommend a restorer.

Always handle silver with clean, dry hands or with cotton gloves. Do not use Latex gloves when handling silver, as it can cause the silver to tarnish.

Place the silver on a clean, nonabrasive surface in a brightly lit area. Never drag silver across a surface when moving it, as it can damage both the object and the surface. When examining the bottom of a piece of silver, place a thick towel or folded cloth on the table to protect the silver from damage.

Once you’ve set up the silver for examination, you should look for the following issues:

  • Dents
  • Nicks and Gouges
  • Bends
  • Pitting and Corrosion
  • Wear
  • Scratches and Abrasions
  • Repairs
  • Tarnish

  • Dents
    Scrutinize the surface. Are there any depressions or indentations? Pay particular attention to the sides and also the feet or base of an object, as well as any handles, spouts or finials.
  • Nicks and Gouges
    Run your fingers over the outside of the piece, paying special attention to frequently touched areas, such as handles, edges of bowls and tines of forks. Do any areas feel sharp, rough or coarse?
  • Bends
    Do any parts of the piece appear bent or warped? Pay particular attention to thin or vulnerable areas such as handles and feet.
  • Pitting and Corrosion
    Pitting and corrosion is caused by exposure to an acid during cleaning, to salt or certain types of food residue. It appears as tiny black spots on the surface that cannot be polished away. The dark spots in this photograph are corrosion.
  • Wear
    Look closely at the decoration. If some areas appear highly detailed and crisp and others look like the detail has been polished and smoothed, it is likely worn.
  • Scratches and Abrasions
    Is the surface scratched? Are there areas that appear duller than the rest of the piece?
  • Repairs
    Are there any areas that look like they might have been repaired or cut out and inserted? (Monograms or armorials are sometimes “cut and pasted” into, or out of, a piece of silver when it changes hands). Look for inconsistencies in the surface and decoration, as well as any soldering that looks suspicious. Silver solder is usually applied cleanly so that it is barely visible. If you see heavy drops of solder or discolored areas around the soldering, it may be evidence of a repair or addition.
  • Tarnish
    Is the surface of your piece blackened and dull? Silver tarnish is a surface layer of oxidation caused by environmental factors. Tarnished silver appears a dull yellow, gray or black. Tarnish is removable and generally does not harm silver. If your piece is tarnished, you should polish it before taking photographs of the work for sale.

Hammering out the art of repousse

This Gorham coin silver standing bowl featuring hammered repousse in the Greek style sold for $1,000 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2013. Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center and LiveAuctioneers

Making objects out of metal has an absurdly long history. The Bronze Age (approximately 3300 BC to 1200 BC) is so named because it marks the time when human metallurgists figured out how to combine copper and tin, opening up a new world of functional possibilities.

Making metal look pretty is another thing altogether. It is quite literally a different set of skills, and one of the most important of those skills is repousse. Derived from a French word that translates as “to push out,” repousse [pronounced ruh-poo-SAY] combines the brute strength of the hammer blow with the gentle touch needed to create patterns in metal that are long-lasting and visually appealing. The art really is in the detail.

This J.E.Caldwell & Co., sterling silver tea set is graced with richly detailed floral and armorial-crest repousse. It achieved $3,400 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2019. Image courtesy of Tremont Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

You might think you’ve never seen repousse, but you’d likely be wrong. Examples of the metal technique are hard to miss. The skin of the Statue of Liberty was produced in repousse. The golden death mask of King Tutankhamun, the star attraction of the still-legendary King Tut museum exhibit, was also fashioned in repousse. And if you’ve served tea to your guests with a gorgeous antique silver tea service presented on an elaborate sterling silver tray? Yes, one or more or all of those pieces were almost certainly works of repousse.

The repousse process begins with a sheet or plate of copper, bronze, steel or alloy, and also precious metals such as gold or silver. Three-dimensional designs require sheets with sufficient depth to be hammered into the desired shape. For example, the Statue of Liberty was made from about 300 separately hammered copper sheets that were each 3/32 of an inch thick, equivalent to the width of two Lincoln pennies.

A silver-alloy repousse wall charger featuring the Hindu deities Rama, Sita, Lakshama and others sold for $550 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2019. Image courtesy of Kensington Estate Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Each metal plate, no matter its size, must be softened just enough to allow it to be malleable when hammered. This technique, known as “annealing,” has the artisan hold the sheet over a hot fire to loosen up the metal. Then the sheet is hammered in bas relief, following a pattern drawn upon it. To create monumentally large works such as the Statue of Liberty, softened copper sheets were hammered over a wooden mold. Pieces for use in comprising smaller works are usually placed over compacted sand, or a heated putty-like substance called “pitch,” to absorb the hammer blows. The artisan swings the hammer many, many times before the three-dimensional design starts to emerge.

Repousse has a diametric opposite in chasing, a technique that gains its name from a French term meaning “to drive out.: Repousse designs are created on the reverse, or back side, of a metal plate, while chasing relies on specially designed punches, some blunt and some sharp, to push the metal inward from the front. The depth of the punch helps to create the effects of depth and distance, as well as ornamentation and texture, one carefully placed punch at a time.

This medieval-style humidor displays hammered brass and pewter repousse, and a cedar and porcelain interior. It realized $850 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2013. Image courtesy of Neal Auction Company and LiveAuctioneers

Of course, chasing is also its own art form, seen on metal pieces to include decorative cups, vases, jewelry and plate ware. But it’s common for both repousse and chasing to appear on the same piece, especially when the artisan wants a startlingly realistic life-like appearance for ceremonial pieces such as the death mask of Tutankhamen. 

Learning repousse and chasing requires “… a lot of skill, a lot of energy, knowledge of application of force, and an intuitive sense of where everything was,” said Maureen Drdak, who studied with the great Nepalese repousse master Rabindra Shakya. She remembers that she “… picked up a hammer and sat down at the anvil [and] realized making a straight line was nearly impossible,” according to a 2019 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The maker of this 19th-century Asian nipple gong relied on repousse to hammer out a brass plate to exactly match the musical note needed when struck by a padded mallet – no easy feat. The gong sold in June 2019 for $350 plus the buyer’s premium. Image courtesy of Oakridge Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

While the art of repousse has been practiced for millennia, it became prominent in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, particularly in silversmithing and gold work. Complete tea sets with repousse scrollwork and charged armorial bearings were a fixture in the homes of merchants and wealthy families, and were handed down for generations. Tea sets from these centuries are sought after at auction, especially if the set is complete.

The Greek Revival period that enraptured America in the early to late 19th century included Greek-inspired repousse silverwork, which is frequently seen at auction. Repousse tea sets, flatware, chargers, candle sticks, boxes, mirrors and picture frames were routinely produced by American silversmiths such as Paul Revere Sr., Bartholomew Le Roux, Cesar Giselein of Philadelphia, and Thauvet Besley.

A highly detailed 15th-century silverwork repousse Christ figure sold for £600 (about $782) plus the buyer’s premium in June 2011. Image courtesy of TimeLine Auctions Ltd. and LiveAuctioneers

In the aforementioned Philadelphia Inquirer interview, Drdak detailed how challenging and unforgiving repousse can be: “If you’re making a sculpture or statue from bronze or metal, you’re usually working with a model made out of malleable material made from wax or clay. You can correct the mold. Even after you cast the material, you can correct certain issues. But with repousse, you’re working on the finished piece, stretching it and compressing it. It requires you to be a master of the tools immediately.” In other words, repousse is not the sort of thing you can pick up in a few afternoons of practice. It’s the metallurgical version of working without a net: you can recover from a small slip-up, maybe, but big ones ruin the whole thing. 

Pablo Picasso’s ‘Tete en forme d’horloge,’ a design rendered in solid repousse silver by Atelier Francois and Pierre Hugo in France, achieved $60,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2017. Image courtesy of Wright and LiveAuctioneers

Yet, the art of repousse has remained popular for millennia precisely because of its complexity in form, design and presentation. It can withstand the ravages of time better than other art forms such as glass, ceramic or even fresco painting. Repousse combines exquisite artistry with the comforting heft and substance of metal. For that reason, it will always be a constant at auction.

Antique silver takes center stage at Jasper52 Dec. 4

On Saturday, December 4, starting at 4 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will conduct an Exclusive Silver Auction, spotlighting 51 tightly curated lots of exquisite antique pieces rendered in the time-honored precious metal. Items on offer include an early 18th-century George II cylindrical coffee pot; a child’s christening mug made in 1836 in Scotland; a pair of 18th-century octagonal cast candlesticks; an early 19th-century four-piece tea and coffee set; an 18th-century Queen Anne fire gilt tea caddy that takes an octagonal shape; a christening mug made in 1838 by London silversmith John Tapley; and a pair of early 19th-century gadroon border sauceboats.

Christening mug made in 1838 by John Tapley, est. $800-$1,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Gorham silver shines as brightly as ever

Wright sold a Donald Colflesh Circa 70 coffee service with tray in June 2012 for $25,000, which is still a house record for the Gorham silver design.

For centuries, American silversmiths could not afford to play. The precious metal was too scarce and pricey for artisans to take a flyer on a cutting-edge silverware pattern, no matter how fun and fashionable it might seem.

Everything changed when news of the discovery of the Comstock Lode spread in 1859. The biggest silver strike on American soil freed the country’s silversmiths to experiment. None embraced this freedom more ardently than the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island.

Founded in 1831, it jumped to the front of its pack of rivals and stayed there by offering a wide variety of silver patterns, ultimately releasing more than 100. During its late 19 th century peak, it relentlessly presented America’s middle class with hot new must-haves ranging from ice cream hatchets to grape shears to sardine tongs.

Rago sold a 1929 Gorham silver cocktail set containing a shaker and 12 cups for $10,000 in October 2018.

In that same period, Gorham employed thousands, including almost 200 in its New York store on Broadway. The company grabbed attention at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago with a display that boasted a six-foot-tall sculpture of Christopher Columbus made from more than a ton of silver and cast in a single pour. (The statue was melted down after the fair ended.) Pieces bearing the Gorham hallmark rank as some of the best created in the medium in the 19th and 20th centuries.

None of that was enough to save Gorham from the effects of huge cultural shifts in how Americans lived their lives, but its past glories helped buy it a few more decades of relevance before it effectively disappeared in 1967. Today, the company’s gleaming record of achievement, along with its fundamental refusal to stick its customers with the same patterns it offered to their parents and grandparents and rest on its laurels, makes Gorham silver a favorite among collectors.

A late 19 th century Gorham Martele silver tea and coffee service fetched $18,000 at Rago in April 2018.

“Gorham is a superb example of American craftsmanship with a devoted collecting base globally,” said Megan Whippen, senior specialist at Wright. “As someone that works mostly with early 20 th century pieces, Gorham, as a firm, continued to define what modern was in their pioneering silver designs. Even in their selection of artists they were conscious of the interests of their buyers.”

Gorham’s last triumph as an innovator in silver was Circa 70, a tea and coffee service designed by Donald Colflesh. In June 2012, Wright offered a complete Circa 70 set, containing a hard-to-find but much-coveted matching tray that was released a few years after the original set. Estimated at $20,000-$30,000, it sold for $25,000, and remains a house record for that particular item of Gorham silver. “One of my favorite details on the Circa 70 service is that it was designed in 1958. The name demonstrates the forward thinking that is so majestically captured in the form,” Whippen said, adding, “Colflesh was hired by Gorham just after he graduated from Pratt, and I have always felt that New York City and its modern buildings and energy informed these soaring forms.”

Today, the Circa 70 silver service exudes retro-cool, but imagine how futuristic it must have seemed in the late 1950s. Gorham silver always included conservative, traditionalist offerings while demonstrating a willingness to push the envelope well before that phrase became a cliche.

Gorham silver deliberately aimed for the moon with its Martele line. Launched in 1897 by in-house designer William Christmas Codman, it drew its name from the French verb marteler, which means “to hammer.” Each piece of Martele is technically a one-off; the labor-intensive manufacturing process ensures that no examples are strictly identical, even if two or more take the same form. “Martele is like a different species. It really is the epitome of high-style handwork in sterling,” said Russ Carlsen of the Carlsen Gallery in Freehold, New York. “It deserves the audience it has. It’s pretty spectacular material. You’re talking about rich people’s silverware. It’s above and beyond.”

An 1899 Gorham Martele vase standing almost 19 inches tall and containing almost 80 troy ounces of silver commanded $60,000 at Carlsen Gallery Inc. in September 2013.

In September 2013, Carlsen offered a Gorham silver Martele pattern vase dating to 1899, which contained almost 80 troy ounces of silver and stood almost 19 inches tall. Estimated at $2,000 to $5,000, it rocketed to $60,000. “I remember it very vividly,” he said, adding that though he was surprised by the result, “I thought it was worth every penny of it. It was substantial. It had scale, which is important. It was very large and flashy, and the craftsmanship was undeniably the best.” Carlson said that if the vase was reconsigned to him now, “It probably would do better in today’s world, because the cream of the crop continues to excel.”

The Gorham silver company also enjoys the good fortune of having had its archives, and many of its greatest masterpieces, land in the hands of curators who love it, understand it, and want to share it with the public. The holdings of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) contain almost 5,000 items of Gorham silver and related material, such as design drawings and other company records. In 2019, RISD mounted a blockbuster exhibit titled Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance 1850-1970 that raised the profile of the brand and introduced it to a 21st century audience who grew up with little or no genuine silver tableware in their homes. Obviously, it’s too late to see the show, but RISD keeps A-list pieces on view such as a Martele writing table and chair that consumed 10,000 hours of labor and 75 pounds of silver, and also Erik Magnussen’s 1927 Cubist coffee service, a bracingly modern design that was evidently a bit too modern for Gorham, as it never advanced past the prototype stage.

Setting aside the pieces created for world’s fairs, much of what Gorham made had a mundane purpose and function—to hold flowers, to serve food, to convey morsels to the mouth. We no longer live in the world for which Gorham silver was made, but our world still has a place for it. In June 2018, D.G.W. Auctioneers in Sunnyvale, California offered a set of flatware from Gorham’s St. Cloud (pronounced “San Cloo”) pattern. Described as “extensive,” the set didn’t just merit the term, it required it. Numbering 206 pieces and containing a total of 254 troy ounces of silver, it was estimated at $4,000-$6,000 and sold for $16,000.

A 206-piece set of Gorham flatware in the St. Cloud pattern sold for $16,000 at D.G.W Auctioneers in June 2018.

Patricia Knight, a longtime dealer and appraiser of silver who has served as a consultant to the California auction house, was not surprised to see it sell so well. “To have a gigantic set like this, all one pattern, all with the same monogram, knowing it’s very rare, very important–that provoked desire in bidders,” she said, explaining that the St. Cloud pattern was designed by Antoine Heller, a French silversmith who Gorham lured away from Tiffany; it had a relatively short lifespan on the market, perhaps about five years; and it has not been revived or reproduced.

The flatware set also contained Gorham silver items that are relatively tough to find. “Some of the pieces in there are very rare—individual knives, ladles, big, heavy pieces,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the asparagus tongs sell for $1,000 in and of themselves.” Though the set sold for almost three times its high estimate, by Knight’s calculations, the bidder walked away with a bargain; $16,000 divided by 206 works out to $77.66 per piece. She is convinced that if the set was consigned to auction today, it could “definitely” sell for far more. “I would market it as an original set, all the same monogram, a very heavy, very rare pattern from Gorham,” she said. “If you wanted something really sensational for your table, it could get up to $25,000 or $30,000.”

Whippen, Carlsen, and Knight agree that Gorham silver will always have an audience who targets and collects the brand specifically. People seek Gorham by name now; there’s no reason to believe they will ever stop. “Nobody has a problem selling Gorham,” Knight said. “Say the name, and you hear, “Ah, a good company that has a good reputation.”

Gorham silver shines as brightly as ever

Jasper52 auction heavy into French sterling silver Jan. 13

French sterling silver abounds in an Exquisite Decorative Arts online auction that Jasper52 will conduct on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Two magnificent Louis XVI-style tea/coffee sets are offered as well as several large sets of flatware.

Louis XVI sterling silver tea/coffee set by Puiforcat, eight pieces, 1850-1899. Reserve: $24,549; estimate: $29,000-$35,000.

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Sterling silver at the heart of Jasper52 auction Oct. 28

Nearly 350 lots of decorative arts, exquisite finery for the home, are offered in an online auction that will be conducted by Jasper52 on Wednesday, Oct. 28.

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.