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.
(From left to right: “Avalon” 1901, “Flower De Luce” 1904, “Old Colony” 1911, “Heraldic” 1916, “Victory” 1918, “Ambassador” 1919)
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!)
(From left to right: “Grosvenor” 1921, “Guild-Cadence” 1932, “Friendship” 1932, “Lenox” 1933, “Sylvia” 1934, “Coronation” 1936)
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
(From left to right: “Virginian” 1942, “Memory/Hiawatha” 1937, “Grenoble” 1938, “Classic Filigree” 1937, “Margate” 1938, “Desire” 1940)
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
(From left to right: “Queen Bess II” 1946, “Morning Star” 1948, “Eternally Yours” 1947, “Remembrance” 1948)
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.