Antique Flatware is a term used to describe silver kitchenware produced more than 100 years ago.
Flatware is the general term used to refer to tools and implements used in the kitchen and tabletops. Usually made from metal and metal alloys, these implements are used to prepare, serve and consume food. Silver-plated flatware, called silverware, became particularly popular during the 1800’s when silver electroplating technology became available.
Flatware manufactured before 1830 are extremely desirable among collectors since during these times, patterns were handcrafted and precious metals such as silver were known to be scarce.
In the second half of the 1800s, several flatware manufacturers namely, Gorham, Wallace, Rogers, Towle, and Oneida, dominated the United States market. These companies placed creative patterns on spoons, forks, knives, and other flatware. After over a century, the value of these flatware and silverware, bearing intricate and unique designs, have increased exponentially.
Although flatware has become popular in the West only in the 1800s, European countries have been producing flatware as early as the 1700s. English travelers carried their own spoon, fork, and knives since country inns usually don’t offer tableware to guests. In England, Old English patterns, as well as King and Queen patterns, became popular in 1770 until the early 1800s. These patterns have been copied by American flatware/silverware manufacturers such as Tiffany.
As a general rule, flatware must be at least 100 years old to be considered antique. The rarest and most valuable flatware have patterns which are centuries old. Flatware manufactured during the early economic crisis in the US is also considered valuable due to limited production during those years.
Guide for Collectors
In collecting antique flatware, the maker and the design of the pattern may be more valuable than the age and silver content of the piece. It is therefore necessary to identify the hallmark, a mark or engraving of the maker, before engaging in any deal. Antique English flatware often has engravings of the maker, the city and year it was made, and the reigning monarch.
Accurate identification of patterns and the maker is necessary to estimate the value of a piece. Online guidebooks are available for use in pattern identification. Furthermore, manufacturers can most likely identify the patterns of their old and discontinued products.
Complete sets fetch better prices than loose sets. However, since flatware is traditionally handed down from one generation to another, sets are typically divided among family members. Thus, it is extremely difficult to acquire complete sets of flatware made during the 1700s. Antique collectors are advised to consult professional antique appraisers before any acquisition, especially on high-value antiques. These experts, although they come with high professional fees, will be of help in verifying an item’s authenticity and value.
Online auction record books are also key in determining the price other collectors are willing to pay for an item.
Notable Auction Sales
- 1.) A William K. Vanderbilt Flatware Service produced by Tiffany in the late 1800’s sold for $42,000 in May 19, 2005 at an auction by Sotheby’s New York.
- 2.) A Tiffany Colonial flatware service made in 1895 sold for $27,500 in March 25, 2008 at an auction by John Moran Auctioneers,Inc.
- 3.) A Simon Chaudron 5-piece tea and coffee set made in the late 1700s sold for $17,500 in October 4, 2007 at an auction offered by Sotheby’s New York.