Antique Silver

Collecting antique silverware has become popular again in the last few years, as people look for new methods of investing their money.

Popular items include teapots, jugs and cutlery, serving spoons, candelabras and pocket watches.

British silverware has been hallmarked since 1300 and so silverware is easy to check for authenticity if it is British. There are always four marks on an object and five if it was made between 1785 and 1890.

The first mark is the Lion, which means it is made of sterling silver. You might also see the Britannia mark, if it was made between 1697 and 1720. 

The second mark tells you where it has been made, for example; a leopards head is London, an anchor is Birmingham and a crown is Sheffield. There are other marks from other cities including Ireland and Scotland.

The third mark will be the duty mark, but only if the item was made between 1785 and 1890. This mark was to show that the tax had been paid. The mark is the head of the reigning monarch and they show three King George III and the IV, then King William IV and finally, Queen Victoria.

The fourth mark relates to the year the object was made. These are in the form of letters from the alphabet and they are in capitals or lower case with different patterns and shapes.

The fifth mark will normally be a set of initials which indicate who made the object.

If the silverware was made to be imported, it will also have an import mark.

Antique silver teapots from the 17th and 18th century are quite rare and therefore have a high value. Victorian teapots are very collectable and are available in all price ranges. Tea pots were beautifully engraved and very ornamental.

Antique silver spoons are another great collectable. You can obtain silver spoons from the 17th century onwards. There are so many different types and shapes. Famous spoon makers of the 19th century were the William Chawner Company and The Bateman family. Hester Bateman took over her husband’s company when he died and then passed it on to her sons. Spoons bearing both these family names are available for collection today.

Antique silver candlesticks look beautiful in any home, and are therefore a popular choice with collectors. Antique silver jewellery is also a favourite, especially silver charms, earrings, rings and pocket watches, from the Victorian period. Queen Victoria loved jewellery and influenced the Victorian upper and middle classes in their jewellery choices.  

Once you have your antique silver, make sure you take great care of it. If your silver needs washing, put it in a bowl of soapy water and clean out the crevices with a soft brush. Dry thoroughly. Polish silver with a soft cloth, but don’t polish too often, it doesn’t need it and it will remove the silver. 

You can buy antique silver from antique shops, fairs and antique auctions, the most famous of which are held by Sotheby’s and Bonham’s, both have  some of their silverware displayed on their website, together with the details of the auction dates and times.