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A Showcase of American Sterling Silver

Guests are coming for dinner? It’s time to break out the sterling. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing this weekend in our auction of great American silver. Set the impressive scene with these silver pieces and sets from the past two centuries. This diverse collection features world-renowned American silversmiths.

Heading the collection is a mid-19th century coin silver serving tray by William Gale of New York City. This large tray features impressive rococo and foliate handles and masterfully engraved vignettes of Mount Vernon, Monticello, West Point, a castle palm trees surrounded by more wildlife. The unique iconography and quality suggest a special production – not a special commission, where one would expect a more cohesive iconography and certainly some sign of ownership in the center. The thought is that this was therefore either a shop sample, kept to show the skill and repertoire of the engravers at Gale’s command, or a piece produced for exhibition, whether in his own shop window or in a formal event, perhaps the New York Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1853. In excellent condition, this unique piece is expected to serve up bids in excess of $10,000.

Large engraved coin silver serving tray by William Gale, New York, N.Y., circa 1851, 232 troy ounces. Estimate: $10,000-$12,000. Jasper52 image

 

Hosting dinner for 12 people? No problem with this expansive sterling silver flatware set of Towle’s desirable Debussy pattern. The 131-piece set made in the late 1950s weights 185.5 troy ounces and has an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.

Towle sterling silver set of flatware, Debussy pattern, service for 12 plus service pieces, 1959, 185.5 troy ounces. 1959 Debussy. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000. Jasper52 image

 

For a more intimate gathering, we offer this 44-piece set of sterling silver flatware in the Richelieu pattern from Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. sterling silver Richelieu flatware, 44 pieces including, partial service for six. Estimate: $5,000-$7,000. Jasper52 image

 

Also from Tiffany & Co. is a highly engraved sterling silver brandy flask. Numbers stamped on the bottom date the flask to 1879. The detailed engraving of grapes hanging from a vine is in excellent condition, as is the gold flashing on the inside.

Engraved sterling silver brandy flask stamped Tiffany & Co., monogram ‘AR’ on one side, 374 grams, 7 5/8in x 3 7/8in x 1 3/4in. Estimate: $6,000-$8,000. Jasper52 image

 

From America’s jazz age comes a trio of sterling silver tazzas in the Modernist style by Reed & Barton in Taunton, MA. Pieces in the same motif are in the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Set of three Art Deco tazzas by Reed & Barton in the ‘Modernist’ style, circa 1928. Estimate: $4,500-$6,000. Jasper52 image

 

An extraordinary decorative arts piece is this Tiffany & Co. fully hallmarked sterling silver and 24K gold gilt “topiary.” The exquisite handmade potted plant dates to the 1950s.

Tiffany and Co. sterling silver and 24K gold gilt ‘topiary’ with exquisite handmade details, circa: 1950s, 11in high. Estimate: $4,500-$6,000. Jasper52 image

 

The 102-lot auction also features more than a dozen items made by Gorham including a punch ladle and ice scoops. Take a look at the full catalog here.

The History and Resurgence of Mexican Silver

Beginning in the 1930s, silver workshops clustered in the mining town of Taxco spearheaded a revival in this traditional craft in Mexico.

At the same time, the artists and artisans working there took a new direction in design that mixed age-old motifs from native cultures with 20th century Modernism. The objects and jewelry they produced have become extremely popular with discerning collectors. Each piece provides a hands-on aesthetic appeal when used or worn. In other words, this silver makes daily life a little more beautiful.

Mexican silver dinner bell, circa 1960, marked ‘William Spratling, Taxco Mexico.’ Heritage Auctions image

In a past auction, Cincinnati Art Galleries offered a large group of Mexican silver, much of it from a single collection. Karen Singleton, who, at the time, was the firm’s art glass expert, explained, “This was the first time we had a round of Mexican silver. I accepted the lots because I keep telling them that we could sell more than pottery and glass.” The pieces were signed by many important makers in this field, including Williams Spratling, Frederick Davis, Hector Aguilar, Los Castillo, and Margot de Taxco.

Part of the sale was devoted to hollowware of silver and mixed metals, including a teapot, coffee pot, and chocolate pot by Spratling. There was also a selection of jewelry, some set with Mexican amethyst, malachite, and onyx. Singleton said, “I appreciate the jewelry. I put some of the necklaces on and was amazed how comfortable and light they were… They contoured themselves to the body.”

Any story of modern Mexican silver begins with the biography of artist and author William Spratling (1900-1967), who served as a catalyst for the industry’s revival. Born in New York state, he was an associate professor of architecture during the 1920s at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he shared a French Quarter apartment with author William Faulkner. He first traveled to Mexico to study architecture, then became enchanted with Taxco, and moved there in 1929.

Drawn by the inspirational scenery and post-revolutionary spirit of the country, many artists and writers lived and worked south of the border. Spratling met American writer Hart Crane, who finished one of his last great poems in Taxco, and became friends with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, for whom he organized an exhibition in New York. Looking for a way to support himself as an expatriate artist, Spratling noted the city’s silver-mining history and opened a workshop, the Taller de las Delicias (Factory of Delights). He would later write: “Nineteen-thirty-one was a notable year in modern Mexican silversmithing. A young silversmith from Iguala named Artemio Navarrete went to Taxco to work for a small silver shop, founded with the germ of an idea, where Artemio as a nucleus, began to form silversmiths. The present writer, encouraged by his friends Moises Saenz, Dwight Morrow and Diego Rivera, had set up that little shop called ‘Las Delicias.'”

Large silver bracelet with malachite stones, marked ‘Spratling Made in Mexico.’ Courtesy Treadway Gallery.

The major authority on Spratling’s work is Penny Chittim Morrill, Ph.D., who co-authored Mexican Silver: 20th Century Hand-wrought Jewelry & Silver with art dealer Carole Berk. Morrill served as Guest Curator for the 2002 traveling exhibition William Spratling and the Mexican Silver Renaissance: Maestros de Plata, organized by the San Diego Museum of Art.

In her catalog essay, Morrill wrote, “In establishing silver as an artistic medium, what Spratling achieved was a delicate balance, a synthesis of abstract tendencies in the existent folk art tradition and in contemporary fine art, resulting in a visualization of concepts and ideas. As importantly, the Taller de las Delicias became the paradigm for other silver designers to follow. Las Delicias was a community in which imagination and innovation were fostered and encouraged as the men learned the art of silversmithing while producing for profit. In the hierarchy of the workshop, these silversmiths advanced according to their ability, enthusiasm, and technical expertise.”

Many alumni of Spratling’s workshop eventually ‘graduated’ to set up shop on their own. Antonio Castillo, who became a master silversmith there, left in 1939 with his brothers to establish their own successful Taller and shop, Los Castillo, on the Plazuela Bernal. Hector Aguilar, who had managed Spratling’s shop, also left in 1939 taking a number of silversmiths with him to found the Taller Borda.

Not all Mexican silver was marked by the maker. This 4 3/8-inch-wide silver cuff bracelet with a traditional feathered-serpent pattern is stamped 950 for the silver content. Courtesy Cincinnati Art Galleries.

One of the most important silversmiths from an artistic standpoint, Taxco native Antonio Pineda began his career studying painting at the Open Air School of Taxco, established by Japanese artist Tamichi Kitagawa who lived with his family. After further studies in popular arts and sculpture, he worked as an assistant in Spratling’s workshop and opened his own studio in 1941. A 1944 exhibition in San Francisco led to an early commercial coup, when his entire presentation of 80 objects was purchased by a prestigious northern California store, Gump’s.

Although he was born into the artistic tradition of Mexico, some of his most successful works of hollowware and jewelry are modernist, even futurist in concept. Examine the sculptural shapes of the circa-1960 tea service design, illustrated here as a set which sold in a 2005 Sotheby’s Modernism auction for $39,000. Morrill and Berk commented on the design in Mexican Silver: “Antonio Pineda has molded and manipulated the material to effectively convey an aesthetic idea. The sugar and creamer and teapot are no longer simply utilitarian vessels, but have taken on the qualities of works of art.”

Mexican silversmiths produced tableware for all aesthetic tastes. This pair of sterling silver candelabra in traditional style (height 20 inches, weight 184 troy ounces). Courtesy Cincinnati Art Galleries.

Most of the silver sought by collectors today was produced during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Spratling continued designing jewelry and serving pieces until his death in a car accident near Taxco in 1967. Books, such as the references mentioned above, are extremely useful because success bred many imitators; popular designs were quickly copied by competitors.

The Taxco output ranges from the dramatic silver necklaces and cuff bracelets of great weight made by Spratling’s workshop, to the less interesting trinkets made for tourists. Many travelers stopped at the silversmithing town, just off the main road from Mexico City to Acapulco. Pieces they brought back with them turn up at auctions and antique shows throughout the United States. Evaluating the quality and value of vintage Mexican silver takes considerable study. Sterling – 925 parts silver in a thousand – is the standard, but pieces in higher grade silver were made and may be stamped “980” or even “990.”

Penny Morrill said at the time of the Spratling exhibition, “You have to envision this market that was created by Spratling; he created opportunity for thousands. At any one time, there were so many silversmiths working in Taxco itself and a number working in Guadalajara and Mexico City marking their pieces ‘Taxco.’ They were sending their stuff to Taxco because they knew that was where people were buying.”

Morrill noted that even works by unknown makers can have merit: “A lot of the material is in 980 silver, a lot of it is interesting, you put it on, and it makes this incredible statement. I tell people over and over again, if you like it, wear it. If it costs $150, go for it, if it makes you crazy. It may be that one stellar moment when this little silversmith had a wonderful idea.”

Kevin Tierney, silver consultant to Sotheby’s in New York, has a great admiration for the best Mexican designers and their creations. Tierney said of Spratling, “He woke them up, he combined American know-how with an appreciation of their cultural history. They had the silver, and he provided the employment for artisans who needed it. I love the mix – a bit of European style with the motifs of Mexico enhanced by their superb ability to handcraft the silver.”

Interested in seeing more beautiful Mexican silver? Take a look at this week’s Mexican silver auction here.


Adapted from original piece by Karla Klein Albertson in Auction Central News

Georg Jensen: Godfather of Danish Modern Silver

In the realm of silversmithing, the name Georg Jensen is the epitome of the craft. Longtime collectors seek out Art Nouveau-influenced Jensen hollowware – the large tableware that is both highly decorative and functional. Younger consumers, on the other hand, tend to favor the modernist flatware and jewelry – the more-affordable pieces that still reflect the uncompromising quality long associated with the Jensen marque.

“It’s like the names Tiffany and Cartier,” said Michael Millea, co-owner of Millea Bros. Ltd., the Madison, N.J.-based auction house. “Jensen is the kind of thing that is always popular.”

Georg Jensen Sterling Silver “Melon” Bowl, designed in 1911 by Georg Jensen. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Jasper52 image

 

The Georg Jensen name takes in more than just the creations of the artist himself. More than 90 craftsmen worked for the firm during the founder’s lifetime and beyond, covering some 95 years of production and an evolution of styles. Born in 1866 in Dyrehaven, Denmark, Jensen was trained as a goldsmith, sculptor and ceramicist.

His best-selling products in the early years, however, were silver rings, brooches, bracelets and hat pins, adorned with amber, malachite, moonstones and opals. They weren’t costly to make or purchase, and they appealed to middle-class shoppers. Jensen’s style reflected themes from nature, in tune with the Arts & Crafts movement in England and Art Nouveau in France. The pieces were all carefully, lovingly handmade, as if each were a work of art unto itself, as opposed to the machine-stamped, mass-produced lines of the Industrial Revolution.

Pyramid pattern flatware set, service of 12, designed by Georg Jensen. Sold for $1,800. Jasper52 image

 

The Jensen craftsmanship was then carried over to the production of flatware and hollowware. His teapot with a floral motif called Magnolia was expanded into a full tea or coffee service. His work in utilitarian pieces blossomed into bowls, boxes, pitchers, candelabra, chandeliers, clocks, dishes and trays.

Finding and being able to acquire those large pieces from the Jensen workshops has become increasingly difficult, according to Millea.

This sterling silver cake service, with stylized bud handle, was designed by Georg Jensen in 1945. Courtesy of Brunk Auctions

 

Robin Rice, silver specialist at Brunk Auctions in Asheville, N.C., said Jensen hollowware is still appearing on the market, often coming from the shelves of collectors who are downsizing. They tend to end up in the hands of
 other advanced collectors, though.

Younger customers tend to pay more attention to Jensen jewelry, such as brooches, cufflinks and tie clips, or to the flatware, said Michael Millea. His design-conscious peers are often more interested in the “clean-lined” designs. “The Pyramid-patterned flatware and the fluted patterns appeal to the modernist aesthetic that is so popular now.”

 

Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Large Meat Platter or Serving Tray No. 290B, Circa: 1930’s. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Jasper52 image

 

Rice said the most desirable, larger pieces are the trays, pitchers and bowls. Flatware designed by Georg Jensen himself, particularly in the Grapevine and Blossom patterns, are also highly sought after and remain among the more affordable Jensen products. While the Jensen artists intended their work to be beautiful objects that could and should be used, collectors of the hollowware and flatware don’t always concur. “Whether it’s Jensen or English silver or something else, there are certain collectors who like to surround themselves with antiques and feel that using them is part of owning them, and that they should be used,” Millea has found. “And there are certain people who feel just the opposite – that they should be looked at and admired but not used. That’s true in most collecting categories, whether it’s Jensen or other antiques.”

A 1945 sterling beaker by Georg Jensen. Courtesy of Brunk Auctions

 

Jensen Jewelry

Interest in jewelry produced by the Jensen workshops is stronger than ever, according to Gloria Lieberman, director of Fine Jewelry at the Boston headquarters of auction and appraisal company Skinner Inc.

Jensen sterling silver and green onyx necklace. Courtesy of Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers

 

“I think the popularity is growing because there is a larger population looking at Jensen (through) the Internet,” Lieberman explained. And because Jensen pieces are easily identified by their name and number, the Internet is a reliable marketplace, she said. Web searchers are purchasing Jensen’s modernist styles, many of which were not as popular a mere 10 years ago. And the hottest trend in Jensen jewelry is the gold line. The name Jensen is primarily associated with silver, but at age 14 Georg Jensen apprenticed with a goldsmith in Copenhagen. So gold actually goes back to the designer’s roots, as well.

“It has been around for a while,” Lieberman said, “but nobody cared about it years ago…not until the last year or two.”

 

Georg Jensen Silver Moonstone Bracelet, made by Georg Jensen in Denmark circa 1926. Estimate: $3,500-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

Collectors still chase after the larger silver pieces as well. “The bigger and drippier, the better,” Lieberman said. “But those pieces were not in large production, so they fetch a high price.” Past sales at Skinner have seen the sale of a large brooch and early necklace, each reaching the $10,000 range. “It is, of course, about rarity,” Lieberman added.
 Jensen’s jewelry was not always so dear in price. “He was part of the Art Nouveau movement, and that was not about using precious stones and precious materials. It was about handcrafted floral designs. It was about silver, and the look of jewelry forged by hand.” In Jensen pieces, the hammered work and markings are plainly visible, and the stones were not the principal concern.

“But customers loved his combination of amber and green stones. Collectors love the moonstones still.”

 


By Alan Jaffe

Adapted from original article appearing in Auction Central News

A Shining Welcome For Fine Silver

We are proud to present Jasper52’s inaugural Fine European & American Silver auction this week. This 120-lot collection ranges from an early 18th century Queen Anne chocolate pot to a German-made Hanukkah Menorah from the 1920s.

The Queen Anne silver chocolate pot was crafted by Simon Pantin in 1709. The standard tapering plain form is over 9 inches tall and has a fruitwood scroll handle. Bearing a noble-looking coat of arms, it is estimated at $10,000-$12,000.

Two views of the Queen Anne chocolate pot, which is estimated at $10,000-$12,000. Jasper52 image

 

The 800 silver Hanukkah menorah was designed by Karl Junker of Hanau, Germany. The present owner’s family came to America in the mid 1930s. A ring is soldered to the back of the Menorah, which allows it to be hung.

Hanukkah menorah, Karl Junker, sterling hollowware, Germany, circa 1927, 8.5in high. Estimate: $6,000-$7,000. Jasper52 image

 

Also from Germany is a late 19th century silver nef, which is a model of a sailing ship. The three-mastered ship is ornately decorated throughout with sea serpents, cherubs and dragons.

Silver nef, Germany, circa 1880, 17.5in high, 33.5 troy ounces/1040 grams. Estimate: $7,000-$8,000. Jasper52 image

 

Additional outstanding Continental silver is a beautiful Georg Jensen tazza standing 7.5 inches high.

Georg Jensen sterling silver tazza, 7.5in tall, 591 grams. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

American sterling silver is highlighted by this Gorham tazza, or fruit stand, that displays a Japanese influence. Crafted in 1872, the stand measures 12 inches in diameter and is accented with two figures of birds. The stand has four legs and each leg has a different Japanese motif on it, a flower, a fan, a bird, and a butterfly.

Gorham sterling silver fruit stand/tazza with Japanese influence, 1872, 7.5in high x 12in diameter. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

A sterling silver brandy flask stamped Tiffany & Co. is dated to 1879. The monogrammed flask joins this collection from Nevada.

Tiffany & Co. antique sterling silver brandy flask, 374 grams, 7-5/8in high. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

To view this entire collection of Fine European & American silver, click here.

Antique Silver Auction Features Time-Honored 19th and 20th Century Silver Pieces

Famous names in the art of silversmithing are repeated throughout the catalog of this Sunday’s Jasper52 on September 25th. As the most versatile of precious metals, silver stands as both the backdrop and centerpiece of a tastefully decorated home. The select collection of about three dozen lots opens with a Frantz Hingelberg sterling silver flatware service for 12 in the Thread pattern. The 1940s set consists of 96 pieces and has a $10,000-$12,000 estimate.

Frantz Hingelberg sterling silver flatware Thread pattern, service for 12. Estimate: $10,000-$12,000

Frantz Hingelberg sterling silver flatware Thread pattern, service for 12. Estimate: $10,000-$12,000

Next is a Martelle Art Nouveau sterling silver tray (below) measuring 16.75 inches in diameter. It is inscribed on the bottom “From the Tailors of the Stein-Bloch Co. 1855-1905.” The tray is estimated at $8,000-$10,000.

Martele Art Nouveau sterling silver tray. Estimate $8,000-$10,000.

Martele Art Nouveau sterling silver tray. Estimate $8,000-$10,000.

A Kay Fisker designed sterling silver pitcher (below) for Anton Michelsen has the clean lines of Danish Modern from the 1950s. The 1.5-liter pitcher stands 10.4 inches tall and carries a $5,000-$7,000 estimate.

Kay Fisker for Anton Michelsen sterling silver pitcher. Estimate: $5,000-$7,000

Kay Fisker for Anton Michelsen sterling silver pitcher. Estimate: $5,000-$7,000

From 1905, a Georg Jensen sterling silver Blossom No. 2 tea caddy of sterling silver (below) is expected to sell for $3,200-$3,900. It stands 5.25 inches high by 3 inches wide.

Georg Jensen sterling silver Blossom No. 2 tea caddy. Estimate; $3,200-$3,900

Georg Jensen sterling silver Blossom No. 2 tea caddy. Estimate; $3,200-$3,900

A fine example of Chinese export silver is found in a finely decorated humidor (below). The 9-by-3-by-6-inch box is Monogrammed “A.G.L.” and dated “16/11/47.” Preauction bidding has drawn closer to the $1,000-$2,000 estimate.

Chinese silver export humidor. Estimate: $1,000-$1,200

Chinese silver export humidor. Estimate: $1,000-$1,200

Seven lots are Grand Baroque pattern items by Wallace and four lots by Tiffany & Co. are also available. There’s even an Italian sterling silver Judaica etrog box, which has a $600-$800 estimate.

View the fully illustrated catalog presented by Jasper52 – and be sure to register to bid absentee or live on September 25.

Sterling silver adds formal touch at Jasper52 auction Aug. 21

Sterling silver has historically been a popular vehicle for creativity and innovation in design, and the treasures in this Jasper52 auction are exquisite examples of this. Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Grand Baroque are just a few of the ornate motifs offered in the auction, which takes place Aug. 21.