I have spent the fall and winter caring for Emma. This past Sunday was the first day off I have had away from the children since November 1. I was really looking forward to antiquing with my mom in Atlanta. We went to Scott's Antique Market. It is located just off either side of the 285 exit of Jonesboro Road the second weekend of every month - two huge buildings filled with most anything you could want, some overpriced and some incredible bargains! All beautiful!!!
I would have loved to buy these pale blue glass plates with the fleur-de-lis!
And I almost couldn't breathe over these GORGEOUS yellow Fostoria glasses.
Beautiful things, right? Well, we were headed there for silver.
On this visit, the sterling silver pickings were slimmer than ever before. Some of our beloved dealers have quit coming. Dealers selling by the ounce have replaced them. Sterling patterns are often thrown together in torn plastic freezer bags. They are haphazardly piled about. Many of the new dealers have no idea what they have, they just know what it weighs and what they will sell it for. And that was really depressing. Sterling prices have risen steadily, but now vintage and new pieces are disappearing.
We inquired from one dealer about a pattern we didn't recognize.We'd never met him in the past, and we were immediately put on our guard that he didn't know what the pattern was. It was simply marked State House Silver, and there were 6 teaspoons, 6 soup spoons, 6 salad forks, and 6 dinner forks. (I managed to identify it through Replacements. It is Inaugural, discontinued in 1942. I have posted a link to a picture here. http://www.replacements.com/webquote/SHSINA.htm Look at the forks. They are so pretty. *sigh*) I remarked to my mother how easy it would be to put this classic pattern on the table with mother-of-pearl knives.
Get ready to be shocked.
The dealer snatched up the silver and put it on the scale, telling us at 36$ an ounce, it was coming in at just under a thousand dollars. As the mother of a sick child who has stayed home, (and not worked much), since the beginning of November, that was not an amount I was going to spend. I hedged politely. The man became angry, threatening to melt it for that much. "I'll melt it right in front of you. I don't care!" He growled at us! He was aggressive, leaning towards us, holding two soup spoons! "You don't care if it gets melted?!" He carried on. Was loud. And louder. He was shaking the spoons and his fist!
And he bent the two soup spoons in front of us, destroying them forever. Who has ever heard of such of a thing?
Needless to say, we moved on.
As we browsed the decent dealers, describing the incident, we heard the same story over and over. They can't move inventory at these prices. They have to sell at the melting price or they can't replace their inventory. They talked about the great silver meltdown of the 1980's, (Hunt brothers), that destroyed the silver value. It is sickening to think of the destruction of these precious items with such artistic and unique value.
One justification for buying silver is that it will always be worth something. People are certainly discovering that in this time of high silver prices. But I think the cost of the destruction of tons of silver heirlooms is even higher. I realize that silver needs care. And it's easy to make a quick buck right now pawning off grandma's goodies.
But how can you part with these precious pieces? They may be some of the only things you own of real value, both in terms of the silver itself, but also in terms of the design, artistic merit, sentimentality, and historical significance.
For instance, my pattern, Sir Christopher (begun in 1936) by Wallace, is named for Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The motifs on the silver mimic his most famous works. The pattern is notable because it was designed by William Warren and is one of his masterpieces to carry a discernible pattern on the front and the back of each piece. He also designed Grande Baroque, Rose Point, Stradivari, Romance of the Sea, and Grand Colonial. One brief source on the history of Wallace Silversmiths is Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace_Silversmiths_Inc..
I understand the practicality and ease of stainless. I have several stainless patterns in addition to the silver patterns in our house. There are some really amazing designers in the world of stainless. The first that comes to mind is Stanley Roberts. But the more you use your silver, the less you have to polish it. And can stainless compare to the timelessness and beauty of silver?
One last thing:
The day was not a total loss! We made friends with a new silver dealer from Americus, Georgia. We discussed New York theatre and classic plays and films for at least a half hour. I am currently trying to save Apollo by Alvin (1900). And my mother and I saved pieces of Blackinton's Cherry Blossom (1903) and Reed & Barton's Francis I.
Francis I is Emma's pattern, and the pieces were gifts because she was not allowed to go due to her illness. The first was a gold-washed master salt spoon. We got a good price because the dealer knew we weren't melters. Most good dealers have a soft spot for those of us who treasure the silver for its intrinsic value.
But the second item we bought for her was somewhat of a mystery. The sweet dealer knew and loved his silver, but this fork was a mystery to him as well. It appeared to be a well-worn piece. We asked around and did our research. There were some strong contenders for what kind of fork this was, but we had a hard time verifying any of our guesses with Reed & Barton or any other image on the internet. We guessed a ramekin fork, a lobster fork, and a lemon fork.
In the end, we learned it is a lemon fork! Thank you, again, Replacements, for picture of items you do not have in stock!
What a fun mystery to solve and a wonderful piece to add to her collection. So, we are doing our part trying to save vintage silver and its dealers one piece at a time. Feel free to help us!