Silver in the Continental Countries

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The average collectors usually do not pay high price for the silver wares. Many wars have destroyed the silver not only in England but also in other nations of the continent like France, Germans, Sweden and the Netherland. But the non-availability of reliable information made the study of silver difficult to come to and concrete conclusion.

Continental
The sale at Sothebys in London of a silver dinner service made in Paris between 1735 and 1738 focused attention on foreign silver. The 168 pieces, made by the eminent silversmith Jacques Roettier, which had been in one family since they were made, fetched ($579,600)('?207,000). Such a very large sum is unusual for a single lot of silver of any nationality, but the service was a most outstanding one. The price it realized need not alarm the average collector, for the majority of foreign silver fortunately can be bought for considerably less money.

Just as English silver suffered great losses during the Civil War, so the many wars that raged on the Continent during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries caused the destruction of large quantities almost everywhere. Further, in France, the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars wiped out a very large proportion of the remaining early French pieces. In view of the turbulent history of every country it is surprising that any silver has survived anywhere, but in fact a considerable amount can be found. As in other branches of collecting, however, there is a shortage of pieces of the highest quality.

On the whole, the study of much Continental silver is made difficult by a lack of information on the subject; few reliable books have been published, and authoritative opinions are hard to obtain. In spite of numerous regulations enforcing both assaying and marking much old foreign silverware is unmarked, and to complicate the matter there is a glut of fakes.
The earliest pieces of any nationality are extremely rare and seldom to be seen outside the strongest showcases of the largest museums. Pieces made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are sometimes to be bought, but the more important ones are expensive.

The most sought include: seventeenth-century cups of all kinds, many of German origin and often in unusual forms; Swedish tankards of large size on ball feet and each with a coin set in the cover; Dutch and German teapots in styles that were imitated closely in Continental porcelain; almost anything French of the early eighteenth century or before. However, the written word can give little idea of the masterpieces and near-masterpieces that were made in each country; the actual pieces must be seen and studied. In most instances this is achieved best in the land of their origin.

American
American silver was made first in the mid-seventeenth century and for a considerable time after showed strong foreign influences: Dutch, French and Scandinavian clearly being discernible in many instances. Further, the earliest silversmiths were two Englishmen, John Hull and Robert Sanderson, of Boston, Massachusetts. While makers' marks are found, either in the form of initials or the full name, date letters were not used. Pieces can be dated only by their style, by the known working-period of their maker or, if there is a dated one, by an inscription. Early American silver is very rare, and most of the important surviving specimens are in museums in the major cities or in the art galleries of colleges.

Among the earlier successful Boston makers were John Allen and John Edwards, Jeremiah Dummer, Edward Winslow and John Coney. The latter took as apprentice the famous patriot and silversmith, Paul Revere (1735-1818), whose ride from Charlestown to Lexington in 1775 was immortalized with due poetic license by Longfellow. Revere is not only an American hero, but his craftsmanship has earned him the appreciation of collectors.

New York boasted a group of Dutch makers together with others of French descent. Other centers of silver making were Philadelphia, Connecticut, Baltimore and Annapolis in Maryland, and Newport, Rhode Island. The variety of pieces made was much smaller than that of European countries. On the whole, large pieces were either never made or have disappeared; a Baltimore soup-tureen is believed to be unique.

In view of its rarity and the zeal with which it is sought, American silver has been faked. Ingeniously, English and foreign pieces have had marks removed, leaving only one or more that might be interpreted as those of an American maker.

Apart from the continental nations which deals with silver in the early centuries, American silver were also made first in the mid-seventeenth century. They showed strong influences of the Dutch, French and the Scandinavian.
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