Sunday, July 27, 2008

Researching Antique Silver Jewelry

So I figured it was about time I put something in this blog besides “Please come look at our jewelry!”

I do hope to make this blog a viable resource for people researching antique jewelry instead of just a vehicle for self promotion. There just do not seem to be enough hours in the day lately, but I am going to do my best to update it with good information more often. Although I will not completely give up “Come look at our jewelry!” - I DO think we have cool stuff : )

I thought I would start out with some of the available books and online resources available to research silver jewelry. I love silver jewelry and through the years almost every fine designer has worked in silver - from Faberge to Tiffany & Co. to David-Andersen. Typically (though not always) pieces are more affordable than gold, yet done with as much attention to detail as the finest gold or platinum. From the funky stuff sold by artisans at street fairs to the highest priced Faberge tiara, there is a charm and beauty to silver that is priceless. A couple of my favorite books I use to research a piece are –

Fred Rezazadeh’s - Collectible Silver Jewelry: Identification and Value Guide
This is a great book, with beautiful pictures and good examples and overviews of silver jewelry from many eras, broken down by country with lots of information on marks. If I had to choose just one silver resource book, it would be this one.

Dorothy T. Rainwater’s - American Jewelry Manufacturers
Is an indispensable book for the jewelry collector. It is a must have no matter what style/era/metal you may collect.

Dale Reeves Nicholls & Robin Allison - Antique Enameled Jewelry

Chock full of eye candy for the enamel lover, this wonderful book addresses both gold and silver enameled jewelry. Great information on the major jewelers from the turn of the century to more modern ones, the pictures are just incredible and will have you looking for enamels everywhere you go.

Penny C. Morrill & Carole A. Berk - Mexican Silver: Modern Handwrought Jewelry & Metalwork
If you love Mexican silver, this book is another must have. Again, the photographs here are the star, but there is good information on the major and most collected tallers along with lots of marks to help you research some of the lesser known ones. I begged for this as my birthday present one year from my husband and have never regretted it!

Jackson's Silver and Gold Marks of England, Scotland & Ireland
This one is great to help date UK silver, along with being able to attribute it to a maker.

Online resources are varied and many, but one of the first places I start is –
I cannot praise this site enough, it is an amazing resource for silver of all types and is well-researched and easy to use. I pretty much start here first and rarely go away disappointed. There are photos of over 2,500 silver marks, hallmarks & maker's marks in categories of American Silver Marks, Gorham Date Marks, Tiffany Marks & Dates, British Hallmarks, Foreign Silver Marks, Georg Jensen Marks, David-Andersen Marks, and Mexican Maker's Marks. It also has sections on the history of silver, caring for silver and even Registry and patent dates and ring size converter!

Chicago Silver
is where I go when I think the piece dates from the Arts & Crafts era. They have a great database of makers with pictures of marks, as well as an extensive list of research links. There also is a drool worthy collection of jewels – I love Arts & Crafts pieces!

Online Encyclopedia of American Silver Marks
Has a good database of American silver marks, with a great “Unknown Marks” section where you can post a picture of a mark you can’t figure out.

M. Schon
Marbeth Schon is the editor of “Modern Silver” magazine, as well as the author of two books on Modernist Silver, so is the first place I go when I have a piece of Modernist silver. She also has a “Mystery Marks” section, as well as a link to Christie Romero’s “Basic Hallmark Identification” – a must read for those just starting out or a good memory refresher when confronted with a new mark.

Spratling Silver
The definitive Spratling Silver Resource on the web, including history, hallmarks and discussion forum!

So there you go – that should get you started on your research. If anyone has any questions or a specific piece they are trying to research, don’t hesitate to ask for help! I love trying to figure out a mystery or will get you pointed in the right direction.


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