A Brief History of Antique Silver Candlesticks

Although known before the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) there are so few silver candlesticks in existence that it is virtually impossible to describe a definitive style and there would be little chance to acquire any examples.

The earliest examples of English silver candlesticks tend to be made of hammered sheet metal but by the later seventeenth century candlesticks made by the method of casting was the prevailing method of manufacture right up to the 1770s when the stamping of candlesticks from sheet metal became the dominant technique.

Candlesticks right up to the mid eighteenth century are usually of a relatively small size with the great majority in the 6-to-8-inch range (15.25 cm-20.3 cm) and are mostly made without detachable nozzles. By the mid eighteenth-century candlesticks are usually in the 8–12-inch height range (20.3 cm-30.5 cm) and made with nozzles.

For an overview of some of the major styles available from c1680-c1780 please look at the inset photograph which gives an idea of the major styles that can be found with their approximate dates, this is by no means a definitive list.

By the later 18th century onwards styles become somewhat more varied and often hark back to earlier times. When purchasing candlesticks condition is of utmost consideration and here at William Walter we probably have one of the finest collections of candlesticks from the early eighteenth century right up to the present day with several pairs and sets of four with important and interesting historical connections.

Why has so little silver survived before the middle of the seventeenth century.

I am sometimes asked why so little silver survives before the middle of the seventeenth century. Was it because little was made? Was it not fashionable? The answer to the question is not totally straightforward as there are a multitude of factors that come together to provide the answers.

To set the scene it is worth investigating a little bit of the history of England in say the late 15th century to early 16th centuries. The population of England today is somewhere around 56 million people but in 1500 it was marginally less than 3 million. The demographic of this small population would have been somewhat different as todays with a lot of very poor people and the nation’s wealth in the hands of a wealthy elite. The middle class of today was broadly non-existent. Other considerations would be the demand for silver articles and the cost of silver both in terms of the raw material and the workmanship.

As mentioned in previous blogs the cost of workmanship was relatively low as compared to today. But what of the price of silver? It is at this point that most people would be somewhat shocked. The cost of silver in 1477 for example was (rebased into 2022 US dollars) approximately 1400 dollars per ounce (more than £1000 pounds per ounce. When one sees that today it trades at just over 22 dollars per ounce (£16.50) it is obvious how valuable the metal was – and renders the claim by financial professionals that bullion has given great protection against fiat money and inflation as nonsense. Even when The Potosi silver mines (Bolivia)opened in The New World in 1545 the silver price remained in the 3-400 hundred US dollar range (£ 230-300 pounds) well into the seventeenth century.

So how much silver was made and where has it all gone? When one looks at sixteenth century inventories one can see the wealthy had a broad range of objects. It is amazing today when looking at them that for example such obvious items as candlesticks are mentioned. Today I know of no sixteenth century candlesticks that exist and have only ever bought and sold two pairs of Charles II candlesticks (c 1670) in forty years. Having established that even a small spoon would have cost over a thousand pounds in the early 1500s it should be obvious how highly prized it was.

So where has it all gone? There are two main reasons for its disappearance. Silver was very much fashion driven a little like modern day clothing for example. When a piece of silver started to look a little old fashioned in form it would have been melted down so it could be reused and reworked into a more modern form. The other main reason was that various English Kings needed money. Henry VIII in the 1530s appropriated and destroyed an awful lot of silver with the dissolution of the monasteries and Charles I and Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s needed ready cash to pay their troops. When you add in The Fire of London and general wear and tear and loss you start to build a picture.

What is somewhat strange in my eyes is that the value of some of this very early silver is far too low in respect to its rarity. For example, a reasonably good Elizabethan seal top spoon from say 1580 can be bought for around £3000-4000 pounds. At the present time (2022) I have for sale a Mary Tudor master apostle spoon from 1555(£15,500 pounds) which is the only example of Mary Tudor silver for sale on the world market.

At this present time there is only one piece of Henry VIII (1528) for sale on the world market as well!



The answer to this conundrum is highlighted when someone wearing a Rolex watch which would cost more than the spoon enquires why a spoon is so much money. It would perhaps be wasted on him to say that this is over 450 years and the only piece of Mary Tudor silver for sale in the world (other than coins which are reasonably plentiful) and I could buy several thousand examples of his watch within the day(after all Rolex make over a million watches a year!)

Why Buy Antique Silver Flatware/Cutlery?

Before I answer the question in the title, I would just like to explain the terms flatware and cutlery. If one were being pedantic, spoons and forks should be referred to solely as flatware and knives as cutlery. Due to the passage of time, cutlery is now the dominant term for both knives, forks and spoons in England whilst the correct term flatware – for spoons and forks – is still used more commonly (correctly) in America.

A cutler in earlier times only ever made knives and a flatware maker spoons and forks. This is the reason why in an old set of flatware, the knives tend to be made by a different maker. When one considers buying cutlery or flatware (whatever your preference!) it makes little or no sense in buying newly made. Why is that you may ask? Quality and price are the two main reasons. When cutlery was made in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in the early part of the 20th, it was made by the hand forging process.

A spoon and fork were hammered and shaped from a block of silver by hand which was a lengthy and laborious process. Nevertheless, when a spoon or fork is made by hand the repeated hammering and annealing processes involved eventually stiffen the spoon so it will feel like sprung steel if one tries to bend it. When a spoon or fork is made today, or in the last say 80 years, they are generally stamped on a machine which gives the metal far less durability to wear and tear as it lacks the tensile strength of the hand forged product (and also makes the shapes of the bowls of the spoons and tines of the forks less attractive). If the cutlery has a pattern to it, a modern machine-made set would have far less definition than the antique equivalent. It is for these reasons that a 200-year-old cutlery set is generally found in better condition than a 50-year-old machine-made set.

Why do people buy new then? My answer would probably be ignorance (I don’t wish to sound rude). Why would one buy an inferior machine-made modern cutlery set which will cost approximately three times as much as a hand forged antique set from 100 or 200 years ago. If one were to make a modern hand forged set to rival those of yesteryear, one would be talking five times the cost of the antique equivalent. The word for example “handcrafted” or “handmade” is often used today rather disingenuously (it normally means someone at sometime during the machine manufacturing process has touched it!) When making silverware (or most other products) it always must be kept in mind that labour rates were far cheaper years ago (perhaps three to four times lower than today). On the flip side, raw materials were far more expensive – silver compared to today’s inflation adjusted was about four times the price in the 18th century.

Antique silver cutlery makes a beautiful statement on any table and is extremely undervalued. I was wandering through a large London department store (I won’t name it!) the other day and stopped to look at a display of modern machine-made cutlery (described as handcrafted). I looked at the individual price list and they were selling a new sterling silver old English pattern table fork for £375. I can sell about four 18th century, beautifully made originals for that price or a set of six forks machine-made (second hand as new). When it comes to knives the debate over old or new shifts somewhat as compared to the debate over spoons and forks.

Customers often come in and say to me “why have I not got any knives with an antique set of cutlery”. Most people don’t realise that stainless steel (as known today) was only invented in 1913. Previous to this, knives were all carbon steel and had to be sharpened and oiled (to prevent corrosion). So although I keep a large stock of early knives – both with original blades and sometimes re-bladed with stainless steel blades – I would often recommend buying more recent knives with antique cutlery sets. Unlike the making of spoons and forks which has clearly regressed over the centuries, knife technology has moved on somewhat. Most pre-First World War knives used a pitch (tar) filling to attach the handle to the blades. Nowadays an epoxy resin is used. This means that modern knives can generally be put in dishwashers. Boiling water or dishwashers would generally cause the blade to come out of the handle on old knives which can be rectified but not ideal. Knives were traditionally made in silver, bone or after about 1915 bakelite or some other composite material as well. Contrary to popular belief, silver can be put in the dishwasher although it is always best to separate the knives. Never let the knife blades touch the rest of the spoons and forks as there is a chance that the stainless-steel blades will get marked due to a form of electrolysis that takes place between the silver and the steel. The use of silver cutlery apart from aesthetic considerations is also beneficial on a hygiene and health level. Silver, along with gold and to a lesser extent copper, has a powerful antibacterial effect which stainless steel doesn’t. Any germs that touch silver are neutralised (even if you haven’t cleaned the silver).

At William Walter Antiques we have an enormous quantity of antique silver flatware and cutlery both in the form of complete sets and loose pieces. Many clients are missing a few pieces from their existing sets, and we are normally able to help.

If you have any queries concerning flatware/cutlery, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also probably have one of the largest collections of early spoons – including the earliest hallmarked spoon in the world for sale at the moment (1528) and the finest set of twelve Tudor period spoons seen this century.

The Cost of Silver in the 1930s from a Modern Perspective & Other Musings

In my last blog I made an attempt to calculate the cost of producing silverware in the late 18th century with reference to a modern perspective, and came to the conclusion that the real cost of the raw material (silver) was approximately four times higher in real terms inflation adjusted than today (2021), but the cost of labour was at least three times cheaper. But what was the real cost of producing silver by the 1930s?

To assist me with this, I have found one of my grandfather’s manufacturers catalogues from the early 1930s. The catalogue was produced by James Dixon and Sons of Sheffield – one of the largest manufacturers of general silverware during this period. The next question to be addressed, is what was the price of silver and how much to allow for 90 years of inflation. The price of silver is an easy answer, as during the early 1930s it averaged between 7-10 pence (whereas in the latter part of the 18th century it averaged 26 pence). We can now see that the price of the raw material (silver) had collapsed inflation adjusted to about 80 to 90 percent of its former value (late 1700s).

The new price of a pair candelabra in 2021 term approx. £3,000 a pair with silver at 7-10 per ounce. Second-hand price £980.00 for this single James Dixon candelabrum, with silver at £19 per ounce.


Using Humes measuring worth site and comparing different products (including pints of Guinness and Mars bars!), I have settled on a multiplier of about 100 times from the early 1930s to 2021. On this basis, we can now see that the raw material (silver) was approximately £7 to £10 an ounce adjusted to a modern context (2021). The price of silver today is around £19 per ounce – so in real terms about double the 1930s price but still only a quarter of the late 18th century price.

The next step is to examine the items for sale in the catalogue that are manufactured today. On examination of various commonly made items such as salvers, candelabra and tea sets, it is clear that adjusting for inflation and the fact that the real price of silver is now double that, manufacturing in the 1930s probably averaged 40 percent cheaper than today. It is also noticeable, that if the article is of a complex nature with a lot of labour needed, the difference is even greater. Even though labour was clearly cheaper in the 1930s, it was still more than double the price of 1787 (the year I selected for my first blog). When one compares the relative costs today, manufacturing new silver makes little sense.  For example, new ten inch silver salvers are around £2000 whereas a better made 1930s equivalent (new retail price 1930s approx. £1100 in 2021 prices) would sell for around £600 – £700 and an 18th century original (which is better made than both the previous!) would be somewhere say around £1500. The problem that a modern silversmith encounters is a combination of labour rates and the relative inexpensiveness of the antique equivalent.

A 16 ounce Teapot by James Dixon new price 1930s £1115.00 at £7 – £10 per ounce; even with the silver price double today the second hand item is still around 40% cheaper at £685.00 with silver at £19 per ounce.

When I started in the family business in the early 1980s, we used to commission and sell 18th century reproduction coffee pots for around 400 pounds (The original mid eighteenth-century pot sold for around 3000 pounds). To make and sell a brand new one today would be about 2500-3000 pounds and to buy the original would be cheaper than a new one! The upshot to this is that 40 years ago we could make seven or eight pots for the price of an original and now we sell originals for less than a new one and reproductions from the 20th century can be bought for around 700-900 pounds.  Unfortunately, this scenario can be seen in most art and architecture – if you ever wondered why modern buildings are so devoid of artistry, look no further than labour costs (superb detail which used to be a prerequisite is now redundant). When I see adverts for new build flats with slogans such as “cool contemporary living”, the cynic in me thinks soulless overpriced box!

The number of manufacturing silversmiths today would be a mere fraction of those even 30 – 40 years ago as they would find it impossible to compete with the antique market and many have either retired, moved into restoration, or changed career. This scenario is repeated in many other areas. As an example, there were 360 piano manufacturers at the time of the First World War – there are now none in England.

In my next blog, I’ll be talking about the relative values of antique silver over the past half century in relation to a modern context.

The Value of Georgian 18th Century Silver from a Modern Perspective

I am often asked what the value of Georgian silver in the 18th century was and how much did items of silverware cost to make. To determine this answer from a modern perspective, one must establish the cost of the raw material (i.e. silver) and then ally that to the cost of workmanship. The easiest way to establish this is to find a relatively standard item – which is still being made today – and comparing it with the price of the same item in the 18th century.

The next calculation, which is somewhat trickier, is to adjust all this to over two centuries of inflation. To assist me in my quest for the answer, I have used an extract from a cutlery retailers bill from 1787 and compared it with the cost of the same items today.



As to how much should be adjusted for the increase in prices since 1787, I have referred to the work of Professor Robert D Hume who calculated in 2014, that the adjusted buying power for the period in question should be in the 200 – 300 times range. Seeing that there has been about 10 percent cumulative inflation since 2014 – 2021, I have therefore decided to use a multiplier of 275 times. This is somewhat interesting as the price of gold in 1787 was £4.23 per ounce, and if one multiplies this by 275 times, one gets to a figure of £1,163 per ounce (the actual price on April 25th 2021 is £1280 per ounce). From this we can see that gold has pretty much maintained its purchasing power.

Moving on to silver, the price of an ounce of silver was approximately just over 5 shillings (about 27 pence per ounce in modern money). This computes to about £75 per ounce and from this we can establish, that unlike gold – which has broadly maintained its purchasing power – silver (£18.70 per ounce on April 25th, 2021) has lost about three quarters of its purchasing power since 1787.

Having established the relative price of silver we must now compare the cost of labour needed to hand forge the silver into the finished article. For this purpose, I am comparing the price of a thread pattern tablespoon from the retailers bill of 1787 and comparing it to an equivalent hand forged modern equivalent (not the much cheaper and inferior machine stamped and hand finished cutlery that is made in over 95 percent of instances today).



From the 1787 bill, we see that 24 double threaded tablespoons cost £29.50 for 24 (£1.23 each) approx. £338 per piece today. Knowing that the weight of each spoon is 2.37 troy ounces, we can establish that the silver was around £178 to make the spoon and the labour around £160 – showing that the silver component was worth slightly more than the cost of labour.


This is the hallmark for the illustrated Georgian silver spoon made by George Smith and William Fearn, one of the largest manufacturers  of flatware in the 18th century.


Approximately £178 in today’s money for the silver and around the same for labour. Today the silver value is a mere fraction of the finished value. The silver component is around £44 and the labour component almost ten times the raw material cost (£436). So where does this leave us? I have cross referenced my findings with other articles and have worked out that labour was approximately three times cheaper in 1787 than it is today.

Have you ever wondered why modern buildings and many other items are so dull and devoid of craftsmanship? Cost! When we come to the actual value of the 1787 spoon today, I would sell the 1787 original spoon for around £80 – £90, which, I suppose, tells us how undervalued old silver is compared to its new equivalent… And indeed its original 1787 price and how daft it would be from a financial point of view to purchase newly made spoons and forks! It would seem somewhat crazy to buy a hand-forged new spoon for £480 when one can buy its historic 1787 equivalent for £80 – £90.

In my next musings I shall try to update the new price of silver from the 1930s into a modern context using my Grandfather’s 1931 manufacturers’ price list. One thing that is rather amazing is that by 1931, the real price of silver in today’s prices (2021) had collapsed from a price of £75 in 1787 to a price of approximately £7 to £10 per ounce during the 1930s.

What Makes Us Experts

William Walter Antiques was founded in the 1930s by William Walter himself, who established his first showroom in London’s historical West-End after serving in the Army during the First World War.

Throughout the Second World War, William Walter’s antique silver was stored in the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit, which is now known as the London Silver Vaults.

The modern incarnation of William Walter’s showroom currently resides in Vaults 3 and 5 of the London Silver Vaults.

William Walter’s expertise has been passed down through the generations – John Walter’s impeccable antique silver knowledge is the foundation of William Walter Antiques today.


William Walter Antiques: A Family Business

A family business, William Walter Antiques is now led by John Walter.

Over our century-long history, we have been thoroughly immersed in London’s illustrious antique industry and are proudly located at the heart of the silverware trade.

An industry such as the silverware industry is built and maintained on the principles of passion and professional integrity.


Professional Accreditation

Today, William Walter Antiques is a proud member of three major antique associations;

  1. BADA
  3. CINOA

Our professional integrity and dedication to the field of silverware are evidenced by our membership to these 3 professional bodies.


What is BADA? (The British Antiques Dealers’ Association)

William Walter has been a member of BADA since 1953.

BADA - British Antiques Dealers’ Association Logo

BADA was founded in 1918, making it one of Britain’s oldest antique trade associations.

With 350 members, BADA, similarly to LAPADA, only enrols members with a proven record of excellence in their field. Membership to the internationally-recognised BADA involves a rigorous assessment by the Council. Longstanding professional integrity, quality of stock and knowledge are all taken into account prior to membership, and members must uphold BADA’s Bye-laws which provide professional obligations for all its members.

William Walter’s membership of BADA illustrates our technical expertise as well as our dedication to the field of antiques.



What is LAPADA? (The Association of Art and Antique Dealers)

William Walter is a member of LAPADA – The Association of Art and Antique Dealers.

LAPADA - Association of Art and Antique Dealers Logo


Founded in 1947, LAPADA is the largest association of professional art and antique dealers in the UK.

Whilst LAPADA is primarily a UK art and antique association, it now has over 50 members from 16 other countries worldwide. There are currently some 550 members in total.

The purpose of LAPADA is to ensure and uphold the knowledge, expertise and experience of its members in their respective fields.

Between its 550 members, LAPADA’s knowledge-base spans everything from fine art to silverware and many niche antique disciplines. Membership is only granted to those with proven prerequisite knowledge and experience in their fields.

The quality of stock is also taken into account when granting membership.

LAPADA has established a Codes of Practice and offers a free Conciliation Service. The Association protects both antique dealers and their customers. William Walter’s longstanding association with LAPADA denotes our experience, quality of stock and knowledge in the field of fine antique silverware.


What is CINOA? (Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art)

William Walter is a member of CINOA, one of the world’s largest antiques and art federations.

CINOA - Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d'Art logo

Formed and based in Brussels, Belgium, CINOA currently represents some 5000 dealers across 22 countries. CINOA works closely with antique and art associations like BADA and LAPADA; its purpose is to set international benchmarks for the professional integrity and operations of the industry.

CINOA is a centre of shared knowledge and expertise, unifying antique and art dealers from all over the world. The federation closely monitors the global arts and antiques market and policy, disseminating key information through its network of associations. William Walter is a member of BADA which grants automatic membership to CINOA.


What This Means For You

For you, our membership to these associations and federations is a hallmark of our expertise, knowledge, integrity and dedication to the customer.

William Walter Antiques is a long-established family business situated at the heart of London’s silver market. We pride ourselves on our exceptional level of expertise and customer service.

Our dedication to the field of antique silverware is ongoing and our work is never finished – we work with our professional partners to honour our professional obligations whilst contributing to the field of antique silverware.


Our Expertise

William Walter Antiques’ expertise covers fine silverware from the 16th-century to the present day. Spanning many monarchial periods, our stunning stock of silverware covers everything from salvers and trays to candlesticks and tableware.

We stock many of silverware’s most historic esteemed makers and have acquired some wonderfully impressive pieces throughout our nearly century-long history.

The Value of Silver Flatware

How to Assess the Value of Silver Flatware

When assessing the value of silver flatware there are numerous factors to be considered. Probably the most obvious and important is to establish that it is indeed silver and not silver plated or composite metal. One often hears advice such as look at the lion passant for English silver or see if it has a .925 mark, but often even such basic advice can be fraught with difficulties. For example the .925 mark is pretty much non-existent on English flatware before the 21st century (it tends to be used on flatware of American or Canadian origin from the mid-19th century onwards). Scottish flatware uses a thistle mark and Irish uses a harp.


Using an Expert Valuer to Determine Authenticity

To add to confusion, the silver platers often used a huge variety of marks which can look like silver marks to the unwary and one sees a huge amount of flatware on the internet described as silver when it most certainly is not.

The most important thing in establishing the value of ones flatware is to determine what it is and, the only true way is to get it expertly appraised by a specialist.

A general antique valuer is often worse than useless (a little bit of knowledge can sometimes be more dangerous than knowing nothing), rather in the same way you would not want a brain surgeon working on your knee ligaments and vice versa – despite them both being surgeons! So many factors need to be taken into consideration.


What’s the Value of a Silver Spoon?

To demonstrate the difficulties, I will share with you a personal story from about 20 years ago. I was called to do a valuation by a family who had inherited a large amount of silver flatware and wanted an idea of it is worth and how to split that value fairly between the various family members. They had many hundreds of pieces with the family crest of a famous 19th century general who was their ancestor.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that he was in the army and out in India it was in fairly worn condition (the servants at the time tended to clean very aggressively with rough compounds and several times a day!) In fact, it was so worn that the only valuation I could apply was essentially its silver content which at the time – in 2000 – was around £3 per ounce compared to today’s £16. On one hand they were disappointed, but then on the other hand the valuation was for probate (this meant they would pay less tax than they thought).

As I was almost about to leave, I asked them if they had inherited any other silver. One family member said that there was a box of silver plated teaware and a few bits for sewing. I opened the box, and they were right about that, but among the boxes content was an approx. six-inch size spoon weighing less than one ounce (silver value £2-3 at the time). It had no marks just a single relatively obscured stamp to the upper part to the front of the bowl. I immediately recognised it as a very rare diamond point spoon from the late 14th century (around 1380).

Now when it came to value, they were shocked. I told them it was worth about £10,000 which was three times as much as the rest of their silver combined was worth (now the family arguments started as you can imagine!)


Antique Silver James I Seal Top Spoon made in 1610
Antique Silver James I Seal Top Spoon made in 1610 (illustrative of flatware only).


I valued it for probate at about £7,000 (a probate valuation is essentially the lowest realisable valuation of an asset). If they wanted to keep the spoon, I would have advised them to insure it for about £15,000. In the end they sold it at Christies where it fetched an all-in price (including commissions) of £13,500, of which the family would have received just over £10,000 (commission is taken from the buyer today at 25 percent plus vat and the seller at 10 percent plus vat). The auction houses essentially take – with insurance as well – nearly 40 percent of the total. That story should demonstrate how difficult it would be for a layman to value their flatware.

Even, for example, if you had two seemingly identical forks made in 1820 one by a London maker such as William Chawner and one by the Royal Goldsmith Paul Storr – the one with the Paul Storr mark would be worth more than twice that of the William Chawner fork (even more perverse as that the Chawner workshop would make much of Paul Storr’s flatware). The art market and that includes silver prizes a famous name.

One could have two identical family paintings both bought at the same time, say for example Van Gogh but only one was ever signed. The one with the signature will be worth many times that of the unsigned one. Even within the same maker, for example different patterns would command different prices. A pattern such as Coburg which is synonymous with Paul Storr would command a much higher price than a kings pattern canteen by him. A difference of object can make a large difference.

For example, any forks from the workshop of the famous lady silversmith Hester Bateman (c. 1780) would be worth much more than her spoons as they are far rarer. There are many collectors of provincial silver in the world and values for these pieces are high if the piece comes from a rare place.

If one had three identical spoons but one was made in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Limerick – the Limerick spoon could be worth tenfold the Dublin example – and to make matters worse for the amateur there are generally no date letters and nothing necessarily even to indicate that it’s even silver. So, I hope I have not disheartened anyone who is considering collecting but keen study and observation of subtle nuances can be picked up relatively quickly by a keen eye.


Should You Clean Your Silver Before Evaluation?

One other point should be noted with regards to cleanliness of an object. Whilst silver is at its best when it is clean and sparkling (although when dealing with very early pieces, say for example pre 1700, one would hope that real care was taken) it is often easier for a collector to make an informed decision when the piece is a bit dirty and tarnished.

Repairs and solder marks and things like erasures are sometimes easier to spot when the item is rather filthy.

I sometimes go to do valuations where people say they’re sorry they haven’t cleaned it (that’s fine!) or I’ve spent the day cleaning, and when you’re gone I will put it back in storage (shouldn’t have bothered).

Here at William Walter Antiques, we are always willing to help our clients identify that mystery piece.


What is Georgian Silver?

Georgian silver is silverware produced and belonging to the Georgian era that ranged over a 120 year period between 1714 – 1837. Although William IV, with the death of George IV, ascended the throne in 1830 (and was obviously not a George) he is generally brought into the conversation. The Georgian Kings were: George I (1714-27); George II (1727-60); George III (1760 – 1820); George IV (1820-30) and William IV (1830-7). The period in question saw many developments across Britain and the rest of the world. With Britain through empire and industrialisation amassing great wealth, which was being expressed in all forms of art, with creations in silver an integral part of this.


Antique Silver George I Tea Caddy

( Tea Caddy made by Thomas Parr  of London in 1715 )


At the beginning of the George I period, silver tended to be of a restrained form without much ornament – as illustrated by this tea caddy of 1715 made by Thomas Parr of London. However, the French Huguenot refugee silversmiths – who entered London in the late 17th and early 18th century – were already creating a shift in silversmithing techniques and their style of decoration. This really started to manifest itself by the early 1730s when the most important silversmiths of the day, such as Paul de Lamerie, Peter Archambo, Paul Crespin and several others were introducing a restrained Rococo ornamentation to their productions.


silver georgian kettle

 (Kettle & Stand, Peter Archambo of London 1739-40)


By the early 1740’s to mid-1750’s full blown Rococo

(Rococo Cake Basket made by Samuel Herbert of London in 1751)

and emphasis on cast and applied work, hand chasing and bold decorative motifs.


It always must be kept in mind that plain styles, notably in items such as sauce boats, tankards and mugs, kept their place amidst the new Rococo creations. Indeed, it would be remiss not to mention that a tankard or mug of the 18th century with any form of Rococo ornament, with a few exceptions (and I mean a few), has normally been tampered with by a silversmith of the 19th century whose clients demanded mugs and tankards with floral decoration, hunting scenes and suchlike.

By the later 1750’s and early 1760’s, a sudden confluence of differing styles started to compete for attention. Chinese influence in art was making quite an impact (think Kew Gardens pagoda built 1761-2) and the other new boy on the scene as it were was the rise of neoclassicism, which leant heavily on designs from Greece and Rome which were made fashionable by the Grand Tour.

(Wine Coasters in “Chinese Chippendale Style” with the crest of the Archbishop of Canterbury made by Samuel Herbert of London in 1765)


(Set of Four neoclassical Candlesticks made for the Earl of Hillsborough in 1767)

Hillsborough Castle has been a grand family home , modelled in the neoclassical form which is now the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and a royal residence. Members of the Royal Family stay at Hillsborough when visiting Northern Ireland.

Within these new styles the older Rococo styles still carried weight right up until the 1770’s and the styles were sometimes mixed.


A George III Antique Silver Epergne

(Epergne, 1768 London made by Butty and Dumee, which exhibits elements of Chinese style within the Rococo elements)


By the later 1770s and early 1780s, the use of engraving with steel tools – often referred to as “Bright Cut” – became popular and it was a way of decorating a plain surface in a much more delicate and lighter style than in previous periods.

Antique Silver Salver

(Salver with bright cut engraving , made by John Hutson of London in 1786 with the crest of Hobson)


The engraving of silver in the 1780’s and 1790’s has never been bettered, and there is no one today that I have seen who can match the sort of quality hand engraving that was produced in the latter part of the 18th century. The 1790’s and very early 1800’s were characterized by very simple forms, often with minimal decoration and sometimes with subtle fluting.


A Pair of George III Sterling Silver three light Candelabra

(Pair of Candelabra made in 1796 by John Green of Sheffield)


Set of Four George III Antique Sterling Silver Candlesticks

(Set of Four Candlesticks made in 1802 by Nathaniel Smith of Sheffield)


By the time of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) a boldness and robustness was replacing the lighter more delicate styles, with Royal Goldsmiths, such as Paul Storr and John Bridge, setting the benchmark. A style that was introduced (although quite rare) was the taste for all things Egyptian. This was very fashionable amongst the upper echelons of society in the early 1800′ ws after Nelson’s victory at the battle of the Nile in 1798. 


George IV Sterling Silver epergne centrepiece

(Centrepiece made in the Egyptian taste  by Royal Goldsmith, John Bridge in 1824)


By the later George III period and into the George IV period in the 1820’s, the Rococo taste came roaring back with some extremely decorative and exotic pieces being made.

tea set

( A late Rococo Tea & Coffee service made in 1820 by Craddock & Reid of London)


As we move into the 1830s and later, styles are quite complex as they are often quite blended in form and not so obviously distinct in character.

In summary, whilst there are quite distinct periods stylistically, there is often a lot of overlap and fluidity within this. Clients often say to me “I want it Georgian because it’s plain” or “I don’t like Victorian because it’s ornate” – the actual reality is that the plainest silver is produced in the Georgian period, and some of the most decorative. For example, just look at the four candlesticks from 1802 compared to the tea and coffee service of 1820 – only 18 years apart but stylistically so different.

Author: John Walter

How to Test Silver for Authenticity

Silver has long been valued as a precious metal – used for jewellery, silverware, coins and other products. The standard for silver items is 92.5 % silver and no more than 7.5 % base metal, usually copper.

You have a prized silver antique collection, but do you know if it is solid silver of simply silver plated?

Silver plating was developed as an inexpensive way for people who could not afford sterling (or solid silver) to enjoy the beauty of the metal without the hefty price tag. In fact, some manufacturers got so good at creating silver plated items that it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two. Unfortunately, when it comes to the value of your antiques, whether you have solid or plated silver makes a big difference, so it is important to be able to differentiate between the two.

Look for a stamp

The first thing you can do is to look for hallmarks or stamps on the silver. Most countries require pure silver to be stamped, showing details and silver content.

If you notice a stamp on your antique silver, use a magnifying glass to inspect it closely. International sellers commonly use the numeric values, as they will indicate the percentage of fine silver that is found in the piece. For example, a piece stamped with 925 will indicate that the item is 92.5% silver.

The new full hallmark also has 925, where as prior to 1999 you only had to have the lion passant.


hallmarks from the london assay office


A hallmark means that the article has been independently tested. It also:

  • Guarantees that it conforms to all legal standards of purity (fineness).
  • Guarantees provenance by telling us where the piece was hallmarked, what the article is made from and who sent the article for hallmarking.
  • The standard hallmark formation is horizontal with minimal spacing between the marks.

Other formations of these hallmarks, often called “bespoke” or “display marks” are available. Hallmarking is a fascinating subject and will be covered in future blogs. If your antique silver does not have a stamp, it may have simply been produced in a country that does not stamp its solid silver products, but you should follow up with an additional test.

Testing and hallmarking precious metals for over 700 years

The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office is where hallmarking began and have been testing and hallmarking precious metals for over 700 years.

They have been responsible for guaranteeing the purity of items made of precious metals since 1300, when the hallmarking statute was passed. They became the official “home of hallmarking” in 1478, establishing the country’s first Assay Office at Goldsmiths’ Hall London, which still operates today.

Get Your Piece Evaluated

There is an amount of misleading information on the internet about how to test for silver so, if you still are not sure about whether your antique is solid silver or silver plated, there are a variety of great professionals out there that can give you some insight. An antique dealer, auctioneer, appraiser or estate sale company should be able to examine your item and tell you about its silver composition.

How Much is Silver Worth?

Silver is a precious metal with a very unique set of characteristics. 

Silver has both high sentimental value and manufacturing/industrial value, much more so than gold, platinum and palladium. 

The price of silver per troy ounce in 2020 varied between £21.70 and £10.28 with an average of £18.20. The average price has risen by +£5.17 (+40.63%). 

Of course, whilst the intrinsic value of pure elemental silver is important when valuing any silver item or object, if you’re looking for a valuation on antique silver, then there are many other factors involved than the price of silver alone. 

Is Silver a Safe-Haven Investment?

Silver is considered a ‘safe-haven’ investment. That means that it retains its value well when ‘paper money’ or fiat currency is in a state of considerable fluctuation or decline (e.g. recession). 

However, silver’s price and value are influenced by its industrial uses and it is, therefore, more volatile than gold. Silver is used widely in industries such as the energy industry, medical industry and electronics industry. 

The supply and demand economics of these industries influences silver’s price considerably. 

The Historical Price of Silver 

The price of silver has changed much more in recent years compared to other precious metals owing to its rapidly proliferating industrial uses. 

Silver has been considered valuable to some extent for thousands of years. The silver trade was hugely influential across ancient Europe, Asia and the Americas and according to economic historians, it was silver, not gold, that formed the foundations of our modern economy. 

Silver’s uses have always been wider-ranging than other precious metals. The modern uses of silver changed dramatically in the 1800s when silver was used in early photographic printing techniques. Through the early 1990s, silver was mined heavily for the medical industry due to its potent antibiotic and healing properties. In 1920s America, over 3 million prescriptions were written out for silver-based products. 

The value of silver is closely linked to its industrial uses and their impact on the supply and demand of silver. Due to its diverse uses, the supply and demand for silver is much more variable than gold (where only 15% of its value is created from industrial uses vs 50%+ for silver). 

The industrial uses of silver influence its price greatly as demand fluctuates with technological development. This accounts for the volatility of silver vs gold. 

The price of silver is still heavily attached to its sentimental value and use in antiques and high-value artisan silverware, though, and this partly helps silver retain its use as a safe-haven investment. 

The Economics Of Silver Supply and Demand

The supply and demand market for silver is lively and constantly changing. 

Silver’s value will remain high or rise if there is a supply-demand deficit, meaning that there is not enough silver mined/produced to satisfy demand. When new technologies are discovered that utilise silver, e.g. solar panel manufacture, silver becomes more scarce and sought-after, thus increasing its price until supply stabilises. 

One example is the 2011 silver spike which saw the value of silver reach a near-historical high. This was largely due to a massive demand surplus for silver for solar panel engineering. 

The peak value of silver in 2011 was £29.26 a troy  oz. vs £17.91 today, which is still very high vs past averages. It must noted in that in 1979, the price reached £20.00 a troy oz which allow for inflation, equates to £100.00. Historically in the 18th century the price per troy oz, in today’s money was £60.00 to £70.00.  

Silver’s price will also depend on mining techniques. Right now, silver is both mined and produced as a by-product of mining and refining other metals such as copper and lead. As mining and production methods for silver become insufficient, its price could also rise as supplying silver becomes a more expensive endeavour.  

Silver as an Investment

Silver is still considered a ‘safe-haven’ investment like gold. Its fluctuating price provides a different challenge for investors than gold – it’s certainly possible to make shorter-term trades with silver compared to gold due to more volatile industrial market conditions. 

Silver is frequently also used alongside gold as a ‘hedge’ investment. Riskier investments can be hedged against safe-haven investments like precious metals that will likely retain their value. 

What About Antique Silver?

The economics of elemental silver is not the same as the economics of antique silver and the value is also not easy to compare. 

Most antique silver is not even made from pure silver but sterling silver, an alloy with 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (and traces of other metals). Another less common high-quality silver alloy is Britannia silver (95.8% pure silver). 

Sterling silver and other alloys are used instead of pure silver as they’re much harder than pure silver itself. Pure elemental silver is soft, ductile and malleable and ultimately not ideal for creating practical items that are handled regularly.  

The Value of Antique Silver

Silver, by weight, is not a valuable metal when it comes to antiques. Whilst there is scrap value to silverware, the value of antique silver largely emanates from other factors relating to the piece itself, its maker and when it was made. An example would be, a 2 troy oz spoon made in the reign of Henry VIII could be £30,000.00, whereas a 2 troy oz spoon made in the 1790s would be £50.00.

Like any antique, silverware is valued based on what can be identified of the piece. The vast majority of European silverware can be identified from hallmarks, maker’s marks and style. Whilst there is a vast quantity of commercial, mass-made silverware in circulation, there are also some very exclusive pieces with exceptional value. 

Prolific examples include silverware crafted by Paul Storr and Mappin and Webb and Hester Bateman.

Valuing Silverware 

To value silverware, it must first be positively identified as sterling silver or another similar high-quality silver alloy. Silver-plated items are nowhere near as valuable as genuine sterling silver pieces. It is usually easy to identify silver-plated items as these are brighter and shinier compared to the deeper grey-metal lustre of genuine sterling silver. 

Genuine antique sterling silver items made across Europe from around the 1600s/1700s onwards will practically always have some sort of hallmark or maker’s mark. 

If a piece has a verified antique origin and is genuine sterling silver then it will have a value. Pieces from prolific makers or with particularly old origins will be worth the most. There is no substitute for a professional valuation – you would be surprised by the value of some unassuming looking silverware.

What is Sterling Silver?

Silver is a precious metal that has captured our imaginations for thousands of years. Silver plays an enormous role in all of culture and society and is treasured for its both its aesthetic beauty and incredibly useful elemental profile. 

Perhaps one of the most familiar and well-known uses for silver is in the design and manufacture of silverware. 

When we talk about antiques and other silverware, we are actually likely discussing sterling silver and not pure elemental silver. Sterling silver is a silver alloy, typically containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals including copper and often small quantities of nickel and traces of other elements. 

The reason sterling silver is used for creating usable objects including antique silver is because true pure elemental silver (99.9%+ purity) is very soft, malleable and ductile – too soft to serve much practical use. Whilst pure silver can be easily shaped and crafted into objects, these quickly lose their form or shape. 

A Short History of Silver

Silver is one of seven antiquity-era metals that were known and used across classical and ancient civilisations including gold, copper, lead, mercury, iron and tin. 

Silver has a long and illustrious history and was the choice metal for minting coins for thousands of years. The ancient Mesopotamians mined silver in the 4th millennium BCE, using it as an early form of currency. The ancient Egyptians once considered silver almost as valuable as gold and with mines spread across Spain, Greece, Italy and Anatolia, silver mining and trade was the origin of many ancient historical conflicts. 

Across ancient Japan, China and Korea and in South America, silver was also highly sought after for its practical and aesthetic qualities, quickly becoming a prized metal for the richest members of society. 

Silver Today

Silver is often compared to gold and platinum, but actually, it is by far the most useful metal of the trio and that’s why it is mined in much greater abundance. 

Whilst platinum is used in the medical industry, e.g. for fillings, and gold in electronics manufacture due to its excellent electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance, silver is a potent antibiotic and antibacterial agent and is also used to purify water, create batteries and dye paints amongst hundreds of other uses. Silver is also the most electrically conductive element on the planet, but gold is slightly favoured in electronics due to its better corrosion resistance. 

Silver’s wide range of uses means that silver is mined more abundantly than gold – some 1.5 million tons of silver have been mined vs some 200,000 tons of gold

Despite silver’s value not quite matching up to gold and platinum, it still has an exceptionally high value and as it is used much more frequently than other precious metals, its value is expected to soar in the coming decades. Silver demand is currently high and supply is also high, but once silver resources begin to deplete – and this is forecast to happen soon – the value of silver including sterling silver could indeed spike dramatically. 

Sterling Silver Antiques 

Throughout several millennia of use, sterling silver has been the material of choice for many craftspeople, artists, artisans, metallurgists and others who work with metals. It is more accessible, abundant and flexible than gold; easier to shape into bolder, more complex designs. 

Silversmiths such as the Bateman Family, Garrards Silversmiths and Paul Storr gained prolific status through the classical and neoclassical periods of the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, creating fine sterling silverware for royalty, the rich aristocracy and upper classes throughout the world. 

In essence, the true value of silver is brought about by its widespread use in antiques and the diversity of work for which it has facilitated. 

The prized work of these silversmiths and others have become some of the finest, most sought-after items in the world of antiques. 

How To Identify Sterling Silver

When you put highly polished sterling silver next to pure silver, they are quite hard to tell apart. 

However, over time, sterling silver will develop a darker telltale patina that creates a soft lustre that polishes up into an impressive shine. 

Sterling silver and silver can also be identified by their hallmarks or maker’s marks. Proper hallmarking was legally mandated across most of Europe in the 16th century, so most modern, classical and neoclassical pieces should be straightforward for an expert to identify. 

Marks and hallmarks aren’t just there to denote whether or not a piece is sterling silver or not, but they can also provide information on the silversmith, country and date of manufacture.

Since 1973, the European Community (EC) decided for 925 to be the standard mark to denote sterling silver – identifying modern silver pieces should be easy. 

Looking After Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is tough and durable, so it should look after itself. After all, this is why we can enjoy such a diverse array of antique silver today! 

Most of the time, gently polishing sterling silver is the only thing you’ll need to do to maintain it. Some older sterling silver may accumulate corrosion in its grooves and crevices and this can be removed with white spirit or methylated spirit, as indicated by the Victoria and Albert Museum

The key to polishing silver is to be gentle and to consider the piece. Some pieces will not benefit from harsh cleaning and it could also affect their value. Pieces from the 19th century, in particular, were deliberately oxidised, creating an overall darker silver tone. This should be preserved to preserve the historical provenance of the antique. 

Follow Us