Monday, April 24, 2017

Today's purchases, my month of obsession with silver.

A collection of 18th and first half of the 19th century silver pieces I bought over the past month. 

"Today's purchases is a ongoing-series where I explore antiques and decorative arts I have recently collected. I have never been a big fan of silver mostly because of the cost and upkeep of it. But I have always love American coin silver. Over the years I have collected a extensive amount of American coin silver flatware, piece by piece. I use my pieces every everyday with my meals. Coin Silver may be one of the least understood and most misused terms in the world of antiques. On eBay it is often used to describe European silver or antique coins. In the antique world the term is used to describe American silver flatware and hollowware made before 1870 that is NOT Sterling.

Put simply, Coin Silver is 90% silver. The silver content is 2.5% less than Sterling and is the same composition as American coins made prior to 1964. Silver is most often alloyed with copper for strength. Coin silver, then, also includes 10% copper. Silver then, as now, was a symbol of affluence. It was the product of skilled craftsmen who worked with precious metals. Precious and rare metals. For the early American Goldsmith or Silversmith, the titles were interchangeable until the mid 1800's, access to raw materials was a problem.

Coin silver tablespoon with Sheaf of Wheat on the fiddle face end of the handle. 

Until the opening of the Comstock Lode in 1859 there were no silver mines in the United States of any significance. Before that nearly all silver in the US first came as either a finished product -- bowl, candlestick, spoon, or whatever -- or as a silver coin or bar. Most all silver imports were of European manufacture. Colonial currency was a hodgepodge of Pounds, Francs, and Pieces of Eight. The value of any given coin was determine by it's weight and silver or gold content. For the Early American silversmith to obtain raw materials he either had to purchase silver bars or melt silver coins. A silversmith with a rush order could, literally, reach into his pocket. And from that comes the generic term -- Coin Silver.

Sheaf of Wheat pattern coin silver tablespoon made by Clement Davison who worked in New York, NY c. 1819-1838.  Displayed in a Early 19th century Old Paris porcelain serving dish and platter with a Creole New Orleans history.  

The first piece I bought was a elegant coin silver serving spoon in the Sheaf of Wheat pattern. I have always loved this pattern but never owned a piece until now. The spoon is marked on the back of the handle with an eagle in oval and "C. Davison" for Clement Davison who worked in New York, NY c. 1819-1838. Monogrammed on the handle end in script "JMM". 

 Monogrammed on the handle end in script "JMM". 

The next two pieces of silver I bought was a pair of coin silver Tablespoons with fiddle-back shell handles by American silversmith William B. North Connecticut. The hand formed spoons are stamped "WBN" on the back. The spoons are engraved with the letters "MDL" on the handles and decorated with the raised design of a shell. William B North was a Connecticut silversmith (1787-1838) and produced silverware from 1811-1831. 

The William B North spoons with shell design displayed on a circa 1800 Neoclassical Old Paris porcelain platter with a history of belonging to a Baltimore, Maryland family. 

The 1850's Josephine pattern shell serving spoon displayed on a 1830's Old Paris porcelain French Gothic Revival charger. 

The next piece of silver I bought was a 1850's shell shaped serving spoon in the 'Josephine' pattern. One of Gorham's earliest patterns, 'Josephine' is a classic design with a simple reeded edge terminating in scroll devices at the top. Hanging down from the top is a large acanthus leaf with a engraved 'LR' monogram underneath. This scroll and leaf motif also decorates the back of the bowl.  The shell bowl is scalloped and fluted, retaining its original gilding.  The spoon is stamped "Patent 1855 Coin". As a side note, 'Josephine' was one of Mary Todd Lincoln's patterns and was selected for the White House. 

Late 18th century Sheaf of Wheat pattern tea spoon displayed with a 1770's Old Paris porcelain coffee can and saucer. 

The last piece of flatware I bought was this cute late 18th century coin silver tea spoon in the Sheaf of Wheat pattern. It is my favorate piece out of all of the flatware as I use it every morning with my Café au lait. This piece is unsigned but is American and dates from the 1790's.  

A early 19th century Papal state Vatican made antique silver wafer box lid. 

The next item I bought was a early 19th century Papal state Vatican made antique silver wafer box lid. Marked with crossed keys and orb.mitre. Also makers mark in a lozenge- A, B. I happen upon this piece on ebay. I buy a lot of antique jewelry on ebay and if I find a very nice piece I always look to see what else the seller has for sell. I ended up not getting the piece of jewelry but when I saw this piece I thought the workmanship was beautiful and amazing plus this piece is extremely rare.  As I looked up silver wafer boxes and only found a few of them. Although the piece is missing the bottom part of the silver box I thought I got it at a great piece for 19 British pounds.  I'm going to have it made into a charm to ware on a necklace.   


  1. I too am obsessed with silver, but usually British or European. Your shell shaped serving spoons are delightful.

    I had no idea that there were no silver mines in the USA until 1859. That might explain why early silver goods arrived as a finished product from Europe, and why I have never seen any early American silver in the auction rooms here.

    1. Hi Hels, the only people that collect American silver are Americans!

  2. Thank you for the explanation of what coin silver is. As you know, I adore the wheatsheaf pattern and think your spoons are delightful (the shell ones too!). You are lucky to have found them and I'm glad to hear you enjoy using your antique items also. The best way of keeping silver shiny and bright is by using it, and often.

    1. Chronica Domus, The climate is very humid in New Orleans. It's only takes a few days for silver to tarnish after freshly polished in this city. But I still love using my pieces everyday!