Friday, February 19, 2010

I love Silver - Daryle Lambert's Antiques and Collectibles Blog - Going Back to School.

Scottish Silver - Thanks to USSCOTS.COM

The last two weeks I have really enjoyed buying some great pieces of silver. If you are interested in these purchases, please feel free to visit the Daryle Lambert's Marketplace at Not wanting to follow that old saying, "Fools rush in”, I have decided that I need a little tuning up on silver before I go hog wild with my buying. Thankfully Deniece took pity on me and has been helping me ever since.

A few days ago I admitted that my knowledge of silver, other than American, was quite limited and Deniece sent me a site as a resource that could help me, which it did. But she is so giving that she didn't let it stop there. I guess because she knew I needed real help. I got to thinking that maybe I wasn't the only one that could use some information on silver and that is when Deniece's email arrived. I thought about how to share parts of it with the readers but you know I think that I will just let her speak for herself. Here is her email.

Hi Daryle,

I finally got around to writing this in response to your blogs from 2/8/10 and 2/11/10. At last, my field of expertise. I started collecting English Georgian silver a decade ago and quickly advanced to collecting Irish Georgian silver and the occasional piece of Scottish Georgian silver. While I have reached the point where I can let go of much of the English silver, the Irish, other than the more common pieces, will only be sold if I am starving.

I have many, many silver reference books. Some of them as rare as the silver itself. The two standard references for silver are Jackson's Silver & Gold Marks of England, Scotland and Ireland edited by Ian Pickford ($80+) and for European silver the reference is Tardy's (International Hallmarks on Silver collected by Tardy) ($45+). Both books are out of print, but usually easy to find. Jackson's is available in a pocket version for less than $20; however, the true reference is the complete version which is over 750 pages. The pocket edition is good for taking to auctions and sales. The complete version is a must for identification. The two Irish standard references are both by Douglas Bennett - Collecting Irish Silver and Georgian Irish Silver, both out of print since the 1980's and priced from $200 for the first to well over $600 for the second. Stay away from Seymour Wyler's Book of Old Silver - English, American and Foreign - this book is completely outdated and contains many mistakes. There are specialized books for particular silversmiths, particular items, particular cities, particular countries, etc - if anyone has a particular interest, I could probably recommend a specific reference.

Silver is a very specialized area and there is some knowledge and experience required. There are fake pieces all over eBay as well as those pieces that people have completely misidentified due to their lack of experience. I have made many good buys over the years as a result. The most collectible silver is Irish, especially provincial silver, and Russian silver, then would be Scottish and Scottish provincial, English and English provincial with European following those. Irish, Scottish and English silver are all sterling (925/1000 and Britannia silver at 950/1000) and hallmarks are dictated by law, Russian and European silver vary, usually 800 and up depending on the country and the time period. The smallest change in a hallmark can be extremely significant with regard to the value. Interpreting hallmarks requires references and a knowledge of how to use them, as well as a very keen eye and a jeweler's loupe.

There are many websites that are helpful. As you mentioned is one; however, do not use this site as a complete reference as there are mistakes there. Another great website is Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver (, The Online Encyclopedia of American Silver Marks ( ), Silver Maker's Marks - England, Ireland, Scotland ( Two forums online which are helpful are: hosted by English dealers Franks Antique Silver and SMP Silver Salon Forums ( ) While SMP may help identify a piece they will never discuss value or price. Both forums can be viewed without joining, although joining both is free. SMP leans more toward collectors and Franks addresses both collectors and dealers issues.

I would highly recommend that any silver sold in The Market Place include a clear close-up of the hallmarks, the weight in troy ounces and an honest condition report. Most collectors will not buy a piece of silver without seeing the hallmarks. Condition is primary in determining the value of a piece of silver - dents, repairs, tears, monogram removals -which makes the silver thin in that spot, excessive wear - all reduce the value. Many silver collectors are extremely particular.

One of my finest discoveries was at a well known auction house (the owner is a regular on the Antiques Road Show). It is an 1810 Georgian Irish Silver Gilt swing handled profusely respoussed basket weighing 10 troy ounces. The catalog description, based on scratch marks on the bottom stated it was believed to be Irish, but was unmarked. I examined the piece prior to the sale. There was no direct lighting and the building was rather dark. I had my penlight flashlight and my loupe - I could have used another hand. Holding the basket in one hand, the loupe in the other and the flashlight in my mouth, after only about one minute of looking, I found the hallmarks amid the repousse work. They were in crisp clear condition. Obviously an oversite on the part of the auction house, which in the end cost them and the owner dearly. Even though the house was full and the auction was also listed on line with many participating buyers, I won the bid with just $210 - this is a $1500 - $2000 piece easily. While it isn't normal, it is possible for even well known auction houses to make mistakes. It is up to us to find them.

I would also volunteer to members only, to try to research any silver hallmarks (not silver-plate marks), they have questions about. As I have a plethora of references they might as well be put to good use. I can offer no guarantees, but usually I am pretty accurate unless it is a very obscure mark. I am not so great with European marks but am willing to see what I can find based on what they have. At the very least I may be able to point them in the right direction. I would need a photo of the object and a clear close-up of the hallmarks. If I can't find a mark, I will tell them. They can email me anytime with hallmarks. (Actually this may be the type of thing that could be done in a forum, if photos could be posted in it. That way everyone who has knowledge in one particular area can assist those who don't. Perhaps you can look at the forums I listed above particularly Franks, as it is more user friendly, IMO.)

Anyway that's me on silver. Hope some of it helps someone.



How fortunate we are to have a member like Deniece that is so willing to share.

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  1. Wow, here is a person that knows her area of interest. She has obviously spent hours of time educating herself. What a generous spirit to offer that knowledge to other members. I applaud her!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, the email itself is a gold mine, oops, I mean silver mine!

  2. Deniece, I hope you and Daryle might also find our database of silver hallmarks useful:

    We also have a couple of Irish Georgian lots in our upcoming Fine Silver & Vertu Auction on March 31:*71050*71059

    We have a very knowledgeable specialist in this department, please let me know if we can answer any questions for you!

    Carrie Hunnicutt
    Fine & Decorative Arts Dept.
    Heritage Auctions (
    1-800-872-6467 X1613