Friday, June 7, 2013

Collecting tips for antique cutlery collectors

As well as checking for worn tines on forks, check the bowls of spoons for sign of wear. A worn bowl will have an angled, almost cut-off appearance. The rounded-bowl soup spoon didn’t come into being until c 1900, so what we call a tablespoon actually started life as a soup spoon. 

Set of 5 pieces of odd silver plated cutlery including 2 Christofle spoons
What to avoid?

Thablespoons that have been cobbled to create desirable ‘apostle’ and seal-top spoons by hammering the bowl into a fig shape and the stem into a thin shaft before adding the seal of one of the 12 apostles. A genuine early spoon should have the town mark in the bowl and the other three hallmarks (date, maker and quality) on the stem, whereas fakes tend to have all the marks together on the stem. 

A beautiful hand engraved, French silver plate with gold plating on the bowl, Berry Spoon made by the premier French silversmiths, Christofle.

The 19th century was the great age of over-ornamentation and some plain 18th century tablespoons were later stamped with fruit in the bowl and elaborate chasing on the handles. Buying a later decorated piece is fine providing you know what you are looking at and the alterations are reflected in the price.

Ivory Knife Set 19th Century English cutlery

Collecting tips

Few collectors are fortunate enough to be able to buy a full set of solid silver cutlery, but the choice of individual items such as caddy spoons and fish slices is endless and prices can be as low as £25 for a single piece. In the case of English silver, which is meticulously hallmarked, many collectors buy the maker, pattern or town. 

The truly outstanding set of fish knives and forks are by Elkington, and dated 1856.
So many knives have disintegrated over the years that it is now quite acceptable to buy antique forks and spoons and a set of modern, perhaps bone-handled knives to accompany them.

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