Antique Silver Styles & Periods in History

Old World Silver 3000 BC – 1500 AD

It was the discovery of the New World in 1492 which led to the rapid growth in annual production of silver. The mines of Mexico, Bolivia and Peru linked with the improved liquation techniques of heating silver ore to high temperatures to drain away lead expanded silver on a global scale.

Between 1500 and 1800 the sites mentioned above accounted for eighty five percent of world production and trade. However, this wasn't the start. The area Anatolia (Asian Turkey) is considered the first source of mined silver, it was here in 3000 B.C. that a "cupellation" method to extract silver was used, followed closely by the Laurium mines of Greece. It was between the periods of 3000 B.C. and 1500 AD that a steady rise and fall in production was experienced in the silver market, at one point the Laurium mines were producing one million troy ounces per year.

Further along the time line silver production became heavily dependent on the Romans needs, and hence mining transitioned around the globe, broadening as the empire magnified; up to 1000 A.D silver peaked at 1.5 million troy ounces per year. It wasn't until the period of 1000-1500 A.D that silver production ascended on a magnificent scale mainly due to the number of locations and improvements in mining and technology.

Georgian Silver Period 1745 – 1830

The Georgian Period was a triumphant period of Silver manufacturing with many of the big collectable names starting out, it was truly the golden age of Silver design and production. The period refers to four successive kings named George.

George I from 1714 – 1725
During his reign the powers of the monarch diminished and Britain began its move to a cabinet government
George II from 1727 – 1769 (George I Son)
George was the last monarch born outside of the county and was brought up in northern Germany
George III from 1760 – 1820 (George II Grandson)
The third British monarch of the house of Hanover, he wasn't born there and spoke English as his first language
George IV from 1820 – 1830 (George III Son)
Commissioned John Nash to remodel Buckingham Palace and Jeffry Wyattville to rebuild Windsor Castle
William IV from 1830 – 1837

There are three main names that I've picked from the Georgian period: Paul De Lamerie - (1688-1751), Lady Hester Bateman – (1708-1794) and Paul de Storr – (1771-1844) who all experienced a deal of prosperity and success and are now among the most collected silversmiths today

Firstly, the famous Lamerie is noted for introduced a rococo style standard that has never been duplicated. He was born in the Netherlands and at the age of fifteen became an apprentice for a well-known craftsman, Pierre Platel, who also created some exceptional pieces. In 1712 Lamerie became a freeman of the Goldsmiths Company and it was from here he started to be known. From 1715 to 1749 he employed thirteen apprentices to help create some of the most amazing silver works England had ever seen. This individuality that had never been seen before was changing the silver production in England and as he did so he started to move up the Goldsmith's company, he was elected Second warden in 1747, such a rapid succession within the ranks was an honour. Unfortunately Lamerie was never able to become Prime warden as he passed away on August 1st 1751

Hester Bateman was born the youngest of five children in London in 1708, as a silversmith she had an incredible attention to detail and taste. When her husband John Bateman, a watch maker, gold smith and silversmith passed away she came into the possession of his tools and business. This was when the Bateman household name took a turn against the period's normality of males dominating the silversmith skill. At first her work was commissioned by other silversmiths who recognised her talent and which in some cases out did their own. As of this from 1761-1774 few examples of Bateman silver exist. However, soon enough her and her team were soon producing effectively, over a thirty year period under Hester Bateman's supervision an estimated 11,000 pieces were created under the Bateman name. The team were her sons John, Peter, William and Jonathan along with an apprentice John Linney and his wife. The Bateman idea was lowering cost without deleting quality; as of this silver was spreading past the Church and nobility. In addition Hester was specifically talented in flatware, and later began to create pieces such as salts and cream jugs as of the emergence of the national demand of tea. Some of the Bateman pieces can be found in St. Paul's Cathedral – the vergers' wands. In 1791 Hester retired as the Queen of Georgian Silversmiths.

From an early age Storr pursued the silversmithing trade, when he was 14 he became an apprentice to the Swedish silversmith Andrew Fogleberg. At the age of 21 Storr entered his first hallmark, and from there went on to work for powerful figures such as King George III as well as creating the "Battle of the Nile Cup" for Lord Nelson. When Storr entered the firm of Silversmithing he realised it was taking away some of his artistic freedom and opened his own shop turning his attention to natural designing. Storr has a level of skill, superiority and sophistication that has seldom been seen since his time.

At the end of the Georgian period William IV became king of the UK, however, he only reigned for seven years (1830-1837) and consequently there wasn't a dramatic change in silver as of the lack of change in society. During his younger years he served in the Royal Navy and was nick named "Sailor King". Whilst in power William saw the poor law updated and child labour being restricted, slavery abolished in nearly all of the British Empire.

Victorian Silver Period c. 1837 – 1901

With the additional title of Empress of India, Victoria was the Queen of the United Kingdom for sixty three years and seven months and reigned longer than that of any other British monarch and any other female monarch in history. Marked by the British Empire it was a time of industrial, military and scientific change.

In the Victorian Era, silver had a far greater value, at one time it had the same value of high quality gold and diamonds. This was due to the fact that the Victorian common society were lacking in knowledge of the silver world and it was only used by the rich to store their wealth. In addition silver plating was being used far more with pure silver than pewter, which made household silver goods more sought after and expensive at that period of time. Silver in Victorian times was dependent on how much silver was used to coat items, there was such a thing as triple and quadruple silver plating which meant four times the amount of pure silver than normal; it's incredibly rare to be able to buy any of this due to the amount of value these items have. Yet, as techniques improved the value of silver diminished and therefore it became more affordable to the average household, the rich then began to fall out of love with the material as lower classes had more access to it.

One of the most famous silversmiths of the period was Christopher Dresser (1834-1904)- he was born in Glasgow. Dresser was an exceptionally talented child who saw everything as having a simplicity and clear function which he applied to his design. In the late 1870's he was contracted to design silver for two big companies in Birmingham and Sheffield, his designed combined lots of periods and cultures; Japanese and Islamic silverware being some of them. Dresser has a studio created with financial backing from liberties and ran his studio until his death in 1904. His achievements were so great that he is known as starting the industrial process of silver production which of course made way for a lot of drastic changes in the silver world.

Arts & Crafts Movement c. 1860 – 1910

Initially this style was created in Britain & spread into Europe & onwards to North America. Arts and crafts was a movement created by traditional craftsmanship using simple forms inspired by folk, romantic & medieval styles of decoration. William Morris (1834-1896) was the name that stands out and along with John Ruskin & was recognised as the inspiration of this association. Its structure grew out of the anxieties for industrialisation, the effects that this would have on traditional skills, designs and lifestyle, this reform would affect every tier. Although the period started earlier, it wasn't until the 1860s/1870s architecture, fashion & designers encapsulated the movement & change came. The movement took its name from the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society in 1887.

This was about pride in craftsmanship, quality items & quality of life for the craftsperson. Fair working conditions were in need as factory life brought misery for some, this had to change and recognition was required for the skilled people to produce these beautiful objects that today can only be admired. Their objective was to create beautiful designs for the people and by the people which would lead to quality of life with good pay & employment.

Victorian consumerism grew, with the movement under pressure from low value items, their pieces could only be afforded by the wealthy, and subsequently fewer jobs were available. This was to change the Arts & Crafts style to be known as "Aesthetic Style", the movement diffused with the style of Art Nouveau edging into the late Victorian period.

Today these ideas are copied & embedded in design structure that we probably take for granted. As a silver collector & seller, art & crafts silver is prised & high prices are achieved. We as a silversmith company try to embrace their designs & evolve their concept into today's silver items.

Art Nouveau Silver c. 1890 – 1910

Art Nouveau is French for "new art" and is a movement in art and design which started in Europe. The Art Nouveau name was taken from a gallery in Paris which opened in 1895 where famous influential names showcased designs influenced by Pre-Raphaelites & Gothic Revival. Although it was embraced in America, it was primarily European.

The inspiration in design comes from natural forms and structures, although fauna & flora where part of the design, curved lines enhanced the styling. Artist wanted to break away from the styles of the time, the woman's form was inspirational which artists and designers encapsulated. Straight lines were removed in part to create flowing form to include nature and linear movement, Art Nouveau sought to restore the decorative arts, a colourful movement that inspired artist to graduate from 19th century into the new 20th century.

This was to be a life style to include everything: houses, furniture, silverware and jewellery. Your life in Europe could be Art Nouveau, to embrace all rather than ignore change. Art Nouveau was reacting to urban growth and the industrial revolution with development of technology.

Its philosophy and principles where to embrace the ideas of the Arts & Crafts, craftsman handmade items & were not reliant on machines which was said to be a continuation of the previous movement. During the early 1880s change had already taken place in pockets around Europe, some early examples were found in England, a chair by Arthur Mackmurdo (British Architect).

Art Nouveau increased in pace and peaked around 1900 and was known by various guises throughout Europe. France in the early days new it as Modern Style, once established many countries accepted Art Nouveau as the new style movement. Art Nouveau declined during the early 20th century modernists replaced it with newer styles. Art Nouveau today is now considered an important movement between historicism of neoclassicism and modernism.

Silver designs for the period Art Nouveau are specific in form, ornate detailed quality silverware with firm characteristics are of good investment.

Art Deco Silver Period c. 1920 – 1930

During the early part of the twentieth century the Art Nouveau style began to waver as new inspired designs became more sort after. Art Nouveau designs incorporating nature and flowers were replaced with shapes and angles, a parting in design but wholly influential. After the First World War people wanted change, with an increase in positivity regarding their outlook also came a change in taste and styles to accompany this new movement. This was found in Art Deco, a style named after a Paris Exhibition in 1925, strong angular shapes which were exhibited along with enamelled pieces in bright colours. Thousands of exhibitors from all over Europe showed and this was said to be the first stage that marked the Art Deco Period. Art Deco was also known as "Art Modern" or "Modernistic", said to focus on French taste and luxury. French designers where at the forefront of this great event and put Paris at the top as one of the most fashionable cities.

Art Deco was introduced and taken on board and encapsulated in everything from fashion, architecture, art and transportation. Art Deco was so different to what had visually been seen for a lifetime, it influenced change in designers and opened Pandora's Box for a new style that would be embraced all over the world. Modernism was to be created with new materials and production that would create these new forms and colour pallets. Antique Art Deco silver today commands premium prices, these pieces although not that old fetch greater prices than pieces around the early Victorian period of the 1840s. We recently sold a teapot abroad, the Art Deco Teapot is shown. This piece was absolutely stunning with fabulous lines and simplistic structure that I personally found all inspiring.

Art Deco has influenced silver greatly, a premium material that could form such clean and inspiring designs, functional with elegance and simplicity that it stands out in a crowd. You could place a piece of silver amongst ten others and someone without silver knowledge would identify its style with ease. Today's silversmiths are inspired by this period and characteristics are carried into this century's creations.

"Genius without education is like silver in the mine." - Benjamin Franklin

As early as 3000 B.C. man has known how to separate silver from lead, and it is this point in time that the precious metals journey begins. The lustrous white metal has long been valued but not only as a treasure but practically in industry and investment, and consequently an integral part of the world's economic system. In 2012 silver fabrication was 846.8 Moz with Mexico, China and Peru dominating the production line each producing over a 100 million ounces a year. But why exactly the huge demand? Firstly silver is praised for its incredible shine and workability making it ideal for a lot of items for you and your home. Silver bought for your home will with no doubt last many generations to come, not only as of its beauty but its signature sophistication. Despite household silver being a delight to look at, it is also valued for its bullion value, it so that Pepy's diary records that when the Fire of London in 1966 swept towards his house he spent his time burying his silver in his garden. In industry silver has a huge role due to its technological proficiency; being one of the best electrical and thermal conductors its use in elective devices is endless, in addition, it's often used as a catalyst and medication as of its natural antibacterial qualities.

During the last century, technology has contributed to a huge rise in silver production. Steam assisted drilling, mine dewatering and haulage improvements have all had an impact. In addition, advances in the ability to separate silver from many different ores not just lead has made larger volumes of silver more accessible. Such methods were critical to the increased volume of production, as many of the high-grade ores throughout the world had been largely depleted by the end of the 19th century. During World War II the shortage of copper led to silver being used in many industrial applications, many electrical connectors and switches were silver plated. Today, more than 5000 years after ancient cultures first began to mine this precious metal, yearly global mine production averages 671 million troy ounces. However, due to the dangers in mining, expense in extraction and relative rarity a subsequent high price is also added. From the operating table in a hospital to Air Force transportation, silver is a substance that is always improving the power of man.