A sumptuous place-setting of gilt 19th century (pre-1888) German silver flatware. The set is marked "Freidberg 12 Loth Silb", indicating a fineness of 75%. These pieces are very heavy and ornately decorated - both signs of good quality silverware.
The mobile computing revolution has taken over the world - and our lives along with it. Smart phones, tablets and laptops are ubiquitous in today's society. They keep us connected to the world in ways unimaginable a mere few decades ago. But some would argue that they really hold us captive, making us slaves to work, the 24 hour news cycle and even our friends. Somehow, amid all the texts, tweets and pics we forgot our birthright. We neglected the legacies that our grandparents held dear. We turned our gaze from the shining truth of yesteryear's golden-age to watch the latest sports scores scroll by on a 4 inch LCD screen. You will not bequeath your iPhone to your grandchildren. Your Amazon Kindle tablet will not become an heirloom treasured by future generations. But there are some parts of our illustrious patrimony that can be readily reclaimed by those who are willing. Among them is beautiful, useful and durable Continental European silverware, an investment that will surely be cherished for many generations to come.
Continental European silver is the perfect intersection of pragmatic serviceability, uncompromising old-world craftsmanship, and hidden value. For hundreds of years, solid silver flatware and hollowware has been used as a store of value and a signifier of noble status. And today it is possible to acquire fine Continental European silver originating from France, Germany, Russia or other European nations for relatively modest sums. Most pieces encountered today were manufactured between the early 19th century and the mid 20th century, although it is still possible to occasionally find specimens from the 18th century. In contrast to the British sterling standard of 92.5% fineness, Continental European silver was crafted in purities varying from 75% fine to over 95% fine. Regardless of these inconsequential differences in fineness standards, Continental European silver can easily match, or even surpass, British silver in terms of workmanship and artistry.
Affordable Continental Silver Tableware For Sale
Continental European silver is usually less expensive than its British equivalents. The primary reason for this is because Great Britain has a very consistent and well documented hallmarking system that has been in place since medieval times. This makes British sterling silver easily attributable to not only maker, but also city and year of manufacture. Continental European silver, in comparison, has a plethora of confusing and poorly recorded hallmarks that can make identification challenging, or sometimes even impossible. As a result, collectors of high quality silver have traditionally tended to gravitate towards the more easily identified British pieces, driving up their prices. This has created a unique opportunity for the savvy connoisseur to acquire stunningly beautiful Continental European silver at very attractive prices.
Gilded French Silver Tableware For Sale
Often gilt, French silver drips with remarkably beautiful floral, scrollwork or ribbon motifs. It possesses an organic je ne sais quoi that appeals to the most discerning of collectors. The most prominent French silversmith is the venerable firm of Puiforcat, a maker of highly coveted silver for over 150 years. The French hallmarking system was one of the first to go decimal in the world, doing so shortly after the French Revolution. There are primarily two different French silver finenesses that are encountered: first standard at 95% silver and second standard at 80% silver. Both are denoted on most items by the Minerva's head hallmark accompanied by either the number "1" or "2" beside the head of the goddess, depending on the standard.
French Silver Tableware by Puiforcat For Sale
German silversmiths produced silver in similar, although ever so subtly more reserved, styles compared to their French counterparts. However, Germany produced silver to just as high a standard as the French. German silver tends to feel a bit heavier and more solid than similar pieces by French silversmiths. The pre-1888 fineness standard for silver in the German States was the loth (or lot) system, with 16 loth corresponding to 100% fine silver. Usually German silver is found hallmarked with 12, 13 or 14 loth purities, which translates into finenesses of 75%, 81.25%, and 87.5%, respectively. In 1888 Germany adopted a unified hallmarking system that employed the familiar decimal standard. A crescent moon and crown hallmark beside the number "800", representing 80% fineness, is the typical mark found on these later pieces.
German Silver Tableware For Sale
Russian silver usually exhibits bright-cut designs in a flat, two-dimensional style that is almost medieval in its texture. Russian silversmiths also indulged in profuse gilding of their creations, recalling the gold-leafed onion domes that are so iconic in Russian architecture. Russian silver's other trademark techniques are niello and cloisonné enamel. Niello is a mixture of silver, copper, lead and sulfur that is selectively applied to the surface of a silver object, producing a high contrast between the hematite-colored niello and bright silver. Cloisonné enamel is produced by using wire to segment the surface of a metal object into many different cells to form a pattern or design. Powdered enamel is then carefully put into the cells, each one with a different color. The entire piece is then fired in an oven at a high temperature, causing the powdered enamel to liquefy and become glass-like. The result is a stunningly colorful glass-mosaic-over-metal effect. These unusual techniques cause Russian silver to be very distinctive from what was produced in the rest of Europe contemporaneously.
Russian Silver Tableware with Niello For Sale
Russian silver falls into two broad categories: pieces from the Soviet Era, post 1917, and those from the Czarist era, pre-1917. At the current time, silver from the Czarist period is in high demand and hence more expensive than silver from the Soviet period. It should also be noted that Russian pieces are generally somewhat more expensive than other Continental European silver. The Czarist Russian fineness standard was based on 96 Zolotniks, which equals 100% pure silver. The two alloys usually encountered are 84 or 88 Zolotniks, equivalent to 87.5% and 91.67% silver, respectively. As in so many other countries, hallmarking was switched over to the decimal system in the 20th century during the Soviet era.
Russian Silver Tableware with Cloisonné Enamel For Sale
A magnificent set of gleaming Continental European silverware at an upscale dinner party conveys the elegance and sophistication of its host far better than an iPhone. And one doesn't have to be a member of a centuries old noble family to purchase such pieces either. Flatware and small hollowware items start around only $100, while full tea sets or 12-person place-settings can run into the several thousand dollar range. And sometimes these sets can even be found in their original presentation boxes, something that boosts their desirability and value even further. In a time when most people clamor for the dubious benefits of the latest tech gadget, devoting some money to a set of exquisite Continental European silver will surely prove a shrewd financial move.