There couldn’t be a better time to research antiques. Never mind that the market for 18th and 19th century antiques is currently down. Rarities will come back up, even in your lifetime. I am going to take various categories and offer historical facts to help you to identify family heirlooms or find bargains on the internet marketplace.
When you think of early American silver the name “Paul Revere” comes to mind. You might have a piece he created. In 1783 he opened a jewelry store. He sold buckles, medals, spoons and jewelry. A single spoon could be worth thousands of dollars. Silver items by Paul Revere Jr. still come to market. A single spoon has fetched $11,000 at auction. However, get acquainted with other American silversmiths of the era. Their items can also be worth thousands of dollars. You might have a small item stuffed in a jewelry box or drawer awaiting discovery.
Historically, the first Colonial silver was made in Boston and New England from 1650 to 1775. It was crafted in New York or New Amsterdam a decade later. Early Pennsylvania silver was made from 1690. Because of their agricultural economy, the southern colonies of Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas didn’t begin silversmithing until the 18th century.
Because of its wealth and culture it was Boston that attracted the finest silversmiths. The names of many are listed on line and in many books. Some names to look for are John Coney, Jeremiah Dummer, John Hull and of course the Revere family. Less familiar is John Chalmers of Annapolis, Maryland. He is best known as the maker of the state’s first coinage, issuing shillings, sixpence and threepence silver coins in 1783.
CLUES: Early silverware was made from rolled and hammered ingots. As a result it has a softer sheen than the harder polish of later silver made in factories from thinner, mechanical, rolled sheets.
Don’t get carried away if you discover a piece of silver marked “Revere” or “PR” until you check the proper marks in a book of marks or the internet marks section, or a museum curator. Fakes abound.
Proof that even experts can be fooled was a teapot with a forged Revere signature at a Christies auction years ago. When recognized as a fake it sold for a modest $1,000.
Tiny antique silver items are often overlooked and undervalued. Small boxes are a good possibility and many were made by Colonial American silversmiths. They were made for snuff, nutmeg, sugar and tobacco. Shoe and knee-breeches buckles as well as buttons can turn up at church rummage boxes. Other possibilities are whistles, hairpins and small bells.
Do you have an antique or collectible item and need more information? For a personal reply send a photo, along with history, size and any signature, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope and $25 to Anne Gilbert, 1811 Renaissance Commons Boulevard, #2-319, Boynton Beach, FL. 33426.