Silverplate Flatware: all you ever wanted (or didn’t want) to know

I first began my journey into the world of silverplate flatware when I inherited a set that had belonged to my great-grandparents. My siblings were highly disappointed as they believed it was solid silver, being the eternally curious human being that I am I had to find out for myself (it was silverplate, not sterling). The set turned out to be a late 1920’s “Grosvenor” pattern by Community Plate. I started using the pattern for small parties until a friend with sticky fingers decided to lift a number of the salad forks; I promise I’m not bitter though I am puzzled by the incident as she knew the sentimentality of that particular set. We also don’t speak anymore as she believes I am anti-semitic for telling her that Schindler’s List was not a documentary but a movie based on a book that is historical fiction (I know! I was surprised too, I always thought it was a documentary!) Oddly enough she is not at all Jewish while I have a very small percentage; as if that matters. (Fun fact, I sat next to Steven Spielberg (director of Schindler’s List) on a flight to Hawaii a few years back; he was quite short with me but I think it was because I didn’t know who he was. I only discovered I had sat next to him years later when I watched the behind the scenes to Bridge of Spies.)

So, the first point is that silverplate will show you who your real friends are for a small fee.

Secondly, a fun parlor trick you can learn is to be able to identify the pattern era by learning stylistic elements indicative of that era (you can also do this with the shapes teacups.) It’s straightforward enough. When you think about what was going on in history during each of these decades the patterns begin to make sense.

1900-1919

1901 to 1919 silverplate patterns

(From left to right: “Avalon” 1901, “Flower De Luce” 1904, “Old Colony” 1911, “Heraldic” 1916, “Victory” 1918, “Ambassador” 1919)

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1900-1919 This was an era when Victorian and Edwardian influences were still strong stylistically. Handles were elaborate and very elegant. The detail work has very elegant, natural designs. (This is my favorite era, just in case you were wondering!)

1920-mid-1930s

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(From left to right: “Grosvenor” 1921, “Guild-Cadence” 1932, “Friendship” 1932, “Lenox” 1933, “Sylvia” 1934, “Coronation” 1936)

1920s and 1930s silverplate flatware patterns

The 1920s to mid-1930s These patterns are much more distinctive stylistically than the previous period. These patterns were simpler than earlier 1900 patterns with more bold, geometric designs incorporated into the traditionally delicate floral patterns.

Mid-1930s to 1940

1940 to 1946 silverplate patterns

(From left to right: “Virginian” 1942, “Memory/Hiawatha” 1937, “Grenoble” 1938, “Classic Filigree” 1937, “Margate” 1938, “Desire” 1940)

Mid-1930s to 1940 silverplate flatware

Mid-1930s- 1940s The shapes of handles began to change. A handle with a more square end to with a bit of a curve (I’m sure there is a technical term for it, I just don’t know it) began to show itself over and over.

Mid-1940s to late 1940s

Mid 1940s to late 1940s silverplate patterns

(From left to right: “Queen Bess II” 1946, “Morning Star” 1948, “Eternally Yours” 1947, “Remembrance” 1948)

mid-1940s to late 1940s silverplate flatware

1950s-The era post World War II was an era marked by optimism. Styles returned to the more elaborate style of Edwardian designs with a modern twist (many of them do not have the intricacies in the patterns that you see in the early 1900s patterns.) In the late 1950s, the patterns became much more sleek (comparable to 1960’s design-i.e. mid-century modern.)

I don’t collect 1960’s silverplate as it can be very modern looking; it is not nearly as elaborate as earlier decades. I also don’t collect it because I’m a little bit of a snob when it comes to silverplate flatware. I love the soft, silver patina that you only get with older silverplate patterns.  I’m also a little bit of a history buff so the historical significance and how it relates to the design fascinates me.

I could write endlessly about different porcelain mixtures from different parts of the world, historical consumer confidence as it relates to color selection and antique linens. (Have I mentioned that I borderline hoard antique linens? Okay, I do rent them out too, but I get really, really excited about early 1900’s to 1930’s quality linens.) I digress.

This is what happens when you blog at 2 a.m.

 

 

 

 

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Finding Your Forever China; choosing a china set that fits you

Many of us are completely overwhelmed when, after the initial ecstasy of the engagement wears off, we are thrust into the world of wedding registries. Buying your first set of ‘grown-up’ china is almost a right of passage among women.  With this important decision there is often little thought or research that goes into choosing our china; leaving us scanning random pieces of china, wondering if our wedding guests will really buy us enough settings to actually set a table.  As we get older many of us inherit china sets from friends, neighbors and relatives. In the end we are left looking at our bursting china cabinets, thinking “Where did all of this come from?”

Whether you are collecting china for your trousseau or sorting through the piles of china sets you have collected, here are some thoughts to consider when purchasing or purging china.

In marketing we were taught the 4 P’s: Product, Price, Place, Promotion.  Here are a different set of 4 P’s to consider when gauging china: Personality, Purpose, Placement and Price.

Personality:  Which colors are you drawn to over and over? Write them down, find color swatches and keep them in a binder. (I often catch myself pulling paint swatches from Lowes and Home Depot to add to files of projects I am working on. For some reason having a physical color swatch helps ground me to the look and feel of an event.) Realizing your relationship to color, which ones you are naturally drawn to, is a great first step in finding your forever china.

Here is a sampling and possibly a starting point to the patterns I have come across and love, divided into broad categories.

(This post is not sponsored by replacements.com, they simply have a wonderful archive of patterns that I often use for reference.)

Vibrant Hued Sets: 

“Dresd” Winterling Bavaria                https://www.replacements.com/webquote/wigdre.htm

“Arbre Bleu” Haviland                        https://www.replacements.com/webquote/h__arbl.htm

“San Luis Rey” Shumann Bavaria     https://www.replacements.com/webquote/schsalr.htm

“Forget Me Not” Lomonosov            https://www.replacements.com/webquote/losfomn.htm

Pastel Sets:

“Annette” Haviland                              https://www.replacements.com/webquote/h__ann.htm

“Crinoline” Haviland                              https://www.replacements.com/webquote/h__cri.htm

“Schleiger” florals Haviland                    https://www.replacements.com/webquote/h__sch138-3.htm

“Aurelia” by Winterling Bavaria         https://www.replacements.com/webquote/wigaur.htm

“Telca” Noritake                                      https://www.replacements.com/webquote/n__tec.htm

Simple Yet Unique Sets:

“Brighton” Hutscherneuther                https://www.replacements.com/webquote/hutbri.htm

“Clover Leaf” Haviland                          https://www.replacements.com/webquote/h__cll.htm

“Dresden All White” Hutscherneuther   https://www.replacements.com/webquote/hutdre.htm

“Flower Embossed White” Spode      https://www.replacements.com/webquote/sp_flew.htm

Estate China Sets:

“Atalantha” (Gold Scrolls) Wedgewood    https://www.replacements.com/webquote/ww_ata.htm

“Savoie” Haviland                                  https://www.replacements.com/webquote/h__sav.htm

“Cobalt Net” Lomonosov                      https://www.replacements.com/webquote/loscon.htm

Country Chic Sets:

“Acora Blue” Spode                              https://www.replacements.com/webquote/sp_acob.htm

“Billingsley Rose Pink” Spode            https://www.replacements.com/webquote/sp_birp.htm

“Asiatic Pheasants Blue” Wedgewood      https://www.replacements.com/webquote/ww_asphbo.htm

“Eleanor” Royal Winton                        https://www.replacements.com/webquote/rwiele.htm

“Margaret Rose” Royal Winton         https://www.replacements.com/webquote/rwimaro.htm

“Birds of Paradise” Hutschenreuther  https://www.replacements.com/webquote/hutbip.htm

Purpose: What are you going to be using your china for? Will the set be used for holidays only or will it be used weekly for a Sunday dinner? Does the thought of hand-washing each item overwhelm you or do you prefer to hand-wash your dishes? Make a mental note of how many times you think you will use the dishes per week, month or year.

Placement: Where will you predominately use the dishes? What are the colors and the style of your dining area? If your dining room is ultra modern you may want to go with a more modern set of dishes whereas if your house is country chic you can play with creamware or pretty much any traditional French or British china.

Price: Often while shopping or searching online for inventory I come information on vintage china that is at best uninformed and at worst outright lies. People lie about antiques online and in person all the time in order to make a quick sale.  Knowing the history and value of your china, or the china that you plan to buy, will not only save you money but will also save you the heartache of being conned (I know, over the years I have bought my fair share of hyped-up, uninformed china.) Lastly, if you are organizing your search by a budget here is a brief overview of some of the brands I have used and purchased over the years to help refine your search.

$- Anchor Hocking glass dishes, Seltman Weiden 1940’s

$$- Mikasa, Noritake 1940-1950’s, Meito 1940’s-1950’s, Haviland pre-1980, Homer Laughlin 1930’s-1940’s, Edelstein pre-1960, Hutscherneuther, Winterling Bavaria.

$$$- Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, Lomonosov, Theodore Haviland Limoges, Haviland Schleiger, Haviland Limoges, KPM Berlin, Pre WW2 Rosenthal…the list goes on and on.

 

If you have found your forever china or are, like most of us, somewhere in the process I’d love to hear about it from you.  Please leave a comment below.

 

My Story

To me, hospitality and china are inseparable. As a young girl growing up abroad, having people over for tea was a weekly occurrence. Hospitality meant pulling out your best china to show honor to your guest. Good china wasn’t merely ornamental it was used often. When I was ten I picked out my first teaset which was an unspoken right of passage for a young lady (oddly enough it was a coffee set, not a tea set but I liked the shape of the cups.) Each Christmas I would stare longingly into my grandparent’s china hutch at the countless sets of china they had inherited and collected from various European countries. I remember looking at my great grandparents wedding china and thinking “If I ever had china like that, I’d have it made!” Incidentally, I did inherit that china, so by my seven-year-old standard, I guess I have it made! Haha! If only it were that easy. Needless to say, china has always been something that has interested me. It is not only a sign of hospitality but a piece of history that encapsulates another time, place and style that is long gone. Everywhere I go I am constantly looking for interesting pieces to add to the collection from French crystal to anchor hocking, from Haviland Limoges to antique creamware. I am always aware of the quality, the texture and the beauty that pieces have in combination with each other which is why I began collecting flatware and linens as well. This china rental journey began a little over a year ago and I am excited to see where it goes.

Making Mother’s Day Memorable

Time flies. The older I get the more I wonder how each passing year seems to pass more and more quickly. Recently I’ve begun to wonder if the year is merely a series of consecutive holidays all strung together. For me, the prep time on them seems to be eating up the time between celebrations. It has been my understated goal for the year to live, and consequently celebrate, more simply. Mother’s Day is no exception.

Stores are bursting with cards, flowers and all kinds of gift ideas for ways to make the mother in your life feel special. But let’s be honest, one day and a few bucks spent on flowers and bath balms don’t come near to compensating mothers for the time, energy and effort that it takes to be a mom.

My mantra for the holidays is this: Keep it simple. Make it special.

  1. Make the day about her. Whether she loves chocolate, tea, daisies or old books make the celebration personal to her. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money doing it. Print off a picture of the flowers she loves and collage them into a special card, create your own bath salts with essential oils she loves, write a poem for her.
  2. Write a real, heartfelt note to her. While cards that say “World’s Greatest Mom” are great, they can be cliche. Instead, write a heartfelt note thanking her for the part she has played in your life and the qualities you love most about her.
  3. Keep it simple. Focus on doing one or two things really well for Mother’s Day. Make one or two things that she absolutely loves for breakfast and don’t stress about everything. For example, I picked some knockout roses from the garden and arranged it with lavender, placing it in a small cup. The china I used pulled colors from the roses and made everything look cohesive. If your mom doesn’t like cut flowers then get her a little potted plant-just something to brighten up the table or tray. Make the personalized things you chose shine by making everything else elegant but simple.
  4. Don’t stress. More than anything else, I have found that stressing over an event kills creativity. Relax and go with your strengths; if you are a great baker, bake, if you are a phenomenal artist, draw something. And whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to your Pinterest board or Instagram feed. This day is about making the mom in your life feel special, not trying to impress people you don’t know or like.

That’s all I have for you-oh, and if you have beautiful china, by all means, use it!  

Happy Mother’s Day!

​Gold Rush: a practical guide to gold flatware

Over the past few years gold, and consequently gold flatware, has been all the rage. The reasons people are flocking to buy gold flatware is obvious. Gold flatware makes an undeniable statement. Gold flatware instantly dresses up the most simple table.

While the virtues of gold flatware are evident, the impracticality of it is often overlooked.

The first thing to understand about gold flatware is that gold flatware is maintenance heavy. Most gold flatware does not age well and here is why.

The coating on gold-plated flatware is very thin; about 30 trillionths of an inch or 20 times thinner than the thinnest aluminum foil. The coating of gold on this flatware is also very soft and scratches easily.

Once the gold flatware is scratched enough it is essentially ruined. The base of gold flatware is almost always stainless steel and the silver-color will show through when the soft gold surface is scratched. Gold flatware can be re-plated but this process is generally as expensive as buying new gold flatware. However, if you are unsure you can get a free estimate here: http://hilesplating.com/repair-re-plating-and-restoration-of-flatware/ or http://oexningsilversmiths.com/services.html (I am not affiliated with or sponsored by either of these companies.)

If you have gold-plated flatware do not ever put it in a dishwasher. The dishwashing detergent will ultimately destroy the gold coating. Gold flatware should always be hand washed, though never soaked, in lukewarm water with a mild dish detergent. Gold flatware should be dried immediately after rinsing with a soft cloth that is specifically made for drying crystal or fine china. Drying your gold flatware with too coarse of a towel will scratch its delicate surface. Also, resist the urge to polish the gold flatware. It should not need to be polished and many times the polish will scratch the gold and hurt or ruin the patina. A good gold-plated flatware will not need to be polished because gold does not tarnish.

Did I mention gold flatware is maintenance heavy?!

However, not all gold flatware is gold-plated. There is solid gold flatware but it is very rare and very expensive. In all practicality, unless you are eating at the home a billionaire or a middle eastern royal family you will probably never see solid gold flatware.

It’s also worth noting that some gold-looking flatware is not gold-plated at all. Almost a year ago I purchased some gold flatware from Hobby Lobby. Later, after purchasing actual gold-plated flatware I was surprised at how different the two colors of flatware were. The flatware from Hobby Lobby had a distinctive green tint to the gold, which did not photograph well.

There are four main colors of gold flatware to consider.

Yellow Gold
Antique Gold
Champaign Gold
Rose Gold
If you are wanting the flatware to be the most striking visually then stick with yellow gold. Antique gold is a bit softer and more understated. Champaign gold is almost a silver-gold which can easily look very soft and feminine. I typically shy away from rose gold because rose gold, to me, seems to be a fad and I shy away from fads. This is not to say that rose gold flatware cannot be very beautiful with the right palette.

There are also distinctively different styles of gold flatware. The most common ones I have found are:

Minimalist modern
Mid-century modern
Colonial/British classic
French baroque
The look and feel of your event would dictate which style of flatware would best suit your event. If you are purchasing gold flatware for your own table stick with a flatware the complements your china, dining room and personal style. For my table, I use Dirilyte “Regal” which is a bronze alloy that closely resembles the patina of antique gold. I like Dirilyte because I don’t have to worry about the flatware being scratched and ruined. There are some dishes that I have that dictate that I use a gold-plated yellow gold but those dishes are only used on holidays. The yellow gold gold-plated flatware I have been the most impressed with is the mid-century modern “Florentine” sets. I am not sure why these seem to hold up better than the others on average but I am sure it has something to do with the manufacturing process that was used.

Also, remember that owning your own personal 8 to 12 place settings of gold flatware is a different ballgame then trying to manage gold flatware for a large event.  I know the allure of owning 100 to 200 place settings of gold flatware may seem glamorous to some but unless you adore hand washing every piece of flatware and by nature have a slightly obsessive personality then renting gold flatware for your large events will save you a huge headache.

 

 

 

The Backstory

Every great story has a great backstory. Mine began when I was a young child. I remember gazing into my grandparents’ china cabinet thinking that if someday I had china like theirs at that point I will have “made it” in life. When I was ten I received my first coffee set for my birthday. In my early twenties, I inherited my great-grandparents’ wedding china. As I began a family of my own I began collecting beautiful china around me.

A little over a year ago I realized that the beautiful china I had collected shouldn’t be limited to my own table. At that point, I began actively collecting the most beautiful antique china, linens, and flatware that I could find. My search led me to estate sales, antique shops, thrift stores, and countless dealers online. Each time I would add a piece to my collection I would almost obsessively learn everything there was to know about that piece and how that design was influenced by what was happening in the world at that time. I didn’t just want to collect the most visually appealing pieces, I wanted to understand the history and story behind each piece. For me, collecting beautiful things is more about understanding those things and honoring what was put into creating them then about simply amassing stuff. Buying something for the sole reason that you can afford it is vulgar. Understanding and surrounding yourself with beauty is a journey to find the eternal in the transient. I hope that you will walk along with me on this journey as the story unfolds.  There is so much beauty to be found in the world. My wish is that in some way this blog will encourage you to actively seek out and add it to your own life and family.

Cheers.

R.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” -Coco Chanel