Collecting antique silverware has gained popularity again as both an enjoyable hobby and a great investment. Here are some tips to aid the start of your new collection:
We would advise you learn a little about sterling silver before you start a collection, from the expectancy of hallmarks, their competitive value and their care. This will provide you with the appropriate knowledge to make informed decisions on your investment.
Before a purchase is made it is imperative that you have seen the authenticity that the item is sterling silver. Whilst some continental hallmarks may have a wide range of pictorial marks, they do often declare their quality of silver numerically (925 being sterling silver (92.5%).
However, the British hallmarking system has been in place since the 14th century and in England the sterling silver mark is a Lion Passant. For British silver marks, these should be genuine and correctly placed and to retain more value the town mark, date letter and quality mark should be as clear as possible in relation to the age and use of the item. If your piece bears the maker’s mark, once identified this can be a valuable addition and also provide another collecting point.
Understanding the difference between sterling silver hallmarks and silver plate hallmarks (silverplate, electroplate, EPNS, electro-plate nickel silver) is one of the key factors when looking for new pieces.
Collecting pieces with an interesting history or provenance can be very rewarding, adding intrigue to your arrangement and great conversation starter if they are on display. There are some collectors who will focus on one assay office, maker or date range; with the general rule that the older the piece is the more value it holds; thus, many enjoy collecting items from the 18th century or earlier. Many more modern pieces however have a better value if they can be connected to a renowned maker; the maker’s reputation can take a piece a long way.
Whilst you may enjoy a certain period in history, your personal preference in a style or design of item plays a major part of a collection. If you prefer a simplistic surrounding in your home, a Rococo collection may be too ornate to be included. Styles include the geometric and simplistic Art Deco movement (1915-1935), the floral and animal inspired Art Nouveau movement (1890-1910) and the simplistic nature and Asian influenced Aesthetic movement (1860-1890). Researching styles, you prefer is advisable for any assemblage.
If you do not have a specific item style you wish to collect, focusing on unique and individual items can create a more valuable and interesting assortment to showcase. A diverse arrangement of decorative objects, cases and flatware can create an interesting collection and allows you creativity as to the piece you wish to add next; and some true treasures can be found with this method. Whilst saying diversity is key, many collectors will have one focus, such as: age, style, maker or item type.
The condition of any item is one of the many factors the dictates the price. A well-maintained piece will have a higher value and appear to more collectors, so whilst you may be collecting for personal reasons, their value as an investment is higher if the piece is in exceptional condition. A good colour and patination are amongst the most desirable attributes sought by a collector - old silver develops a marvellously deep tone over the years.
Items with damage, dents, heavy corrosion and even silversmith patches will detract from the value of the piece; if, however the item is rare or old, there is not always as much effect on desirability.
The weight is helpful when judging the quality of an item, often reflecting the affluence of the original owner. If you are faced with two silver objects of the same type, condition and weight then the heavier of the two would be better.
Furthermore, examining the nature of any decoration and if it shows signs of wear will show how the piece has been cared for or ornamented at a later date. Armourials and inscriptions are often added some time after the item was made, but they should be in the same style as the object they adorn. A good contemporary coat of arms can add to the value of an item, whereas in some instances later engraving makes the piece less desirable.
Silverware needs to be stored properly in order to avoid damage. There is also the nature of tarnishing which needs to be considered. Here at AC Silver, we provide anti-tarnish storage bags with our silver items so when they are not in sure they can be protected in storage, however, if you wanted a collection which could remain on display, it would be advisable you bear in mind the mere volume of the silver for cleaning purposes, in addition to the space taken in the home. It can always be recommended to polish silverware as little as possible, as each time you polish a piece you remove a tiny portion of metal, so finding a routine or storing your items when not in use is key.
Learn more about collecting and cleaning antique silverware
If you are looking to form a compilation of silverware it is advisable that you join a community of likeminded individuals, who can provide other avenues to connect with enthusiasts, items and also provide aid with the conjoined knowledge. We are always happy to help with any purchase and advise on further items if you wished to share the nature of your assemblage.
If you wish to make your collection a sustainable hobby it is best that you provide yourself with a budget. Overspending drastically may cause missed opportunities in the future to expand you arrangement further; however if there is a unique or special piece, having an additional budget for this would allow your collection to take a new level.
However, the value of advice from a reliable and experienced source should never be underestimated.
Here are AC Silver we understand our customers forming a collection will want to exam the item and hold the piece in their hands to feel the silver and high quality of our pieces. For those local to us we can offer appointments in-store, alternatively we offer a full money back guarantee to allow the new custodians to appraise the item in their own home and return the piece if they are not 100% satisfied with their new addition.