American Silver: The History of Silver’s Popularity in Art and Design

Colonial Silver Teapot America has a long and distinguish custom of creating, sell, and owning silverware—from illusion plates in grandma ‘s cabinet to silver spoons in memento shops. Silverware refers to more than the flatware one thinks of today, though. Considered both a craft and an art, silversmiths created pieces ranging from bare spoons to enormous cosmetic platters. throughout much of american history, displaying argent in one ‘s base was a gestural of wealth and status. Silverware retained value for resale, and age-old silverware can still fetch senior high school prices. Like other cosmetic arts, silverware has changed with the artistic times—from the hammered drink tankards made by the celebrated Paul Revere to the modern pieces for sale at Tiffany & Co .
Silver plays a critical role in american design and polish. Read on to explore the history of this cute substantial ‘s aesthetic practice and function .
Silversmith Tools

Colonial Silverware

Arriving with early settlers, colonial silversmiths brought their cognition of metalworking across the Atlantic. They left the restrictive guilds of Europe behind, which had long limited who could practice the trade. In the English colonies, many silversmiths besides practiced as blacksmiths, goldsmiths, jewelers, and even dentists. These careers had overlap tools and skill sets.

Paul Revere Silver Tea Urnstandardized at 92.5 percent silver for hundreds of years. This prevented cheaper metal alloys from being passed off as real silverware. Early American silversmiths encountered some difficulty in acquiring enough silver to maintain similar standards. The English colonies did not mine silver; and without easy access to raw materials, American silversmiths often melted down coins and existing silver plate that had gone out of fashion.
Silversmith Paul Revere By John Singleton CopleyPaul Revere. Known for his midnight ride in 1775, Revere was a silversmith, engraver, and metalworker. Talented in creating custom pieces, he also used technical innovation to produce large quantities of ready-made silver products. Revere benefited from the consumer revolution that swept England and the American colonies in the mid-18th century. A rising middle class was able—and very interested—in purchasing status symbols. A parallel rise in tea drinking offered a whole realm of possibilities—from silver spoons to teapots.
Paul Revere Teapot

Republican Silverware

american english independence from England brought calibration to American silver. The U.S. Mint set silver quantities. In 1792, the standard was set to 89.2 % flatware. Pieces from this date, until 1837, are known as “coin” silverware. A pure adaptation of silver, known as sterling silver, constantly maintained the 92.5 % of british custom. such regulation was important in the growing consumer marketplace of the new Republic .
Neoclassical Silver Urn 1830Neo-classical forms and ornamental designs were popular in the early 19th century. Although independent of Europe, Americans were still susceptible to European fashions. Following the ornate fashions of Napoleon’s new French Empire, serpents, lions, and American eagles complicated the simpler designs of early American silver.
By the 1830s, the Rococo revival encouraged potent, raised floral motifs ( known as repoussé style ). In this period, the celebrated jewelry house Tiffany & Co. was founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Today known for brilliant jewels, Tiffany ‘s early craft influenced american cosmetic arts with stain glass windows, silverware, and even lamps ( competently known as Tiffany lamps ). other boastfully workshops sprung up before the American Civil War, as the tariffs of 1842 made european silver imports very expensive .

Tiffany Silver Pitcherelectroplating was developed in England. This process allowed cheaper metals such as copper to be coated in a thin layer of silver plate. Cheaper and more durable, silver plate was often called “hotel silver” for its use in hotel dining rooms and the dining cars of trains. The “look” of having a full dining set in silver became more affordable to middle-class Americans.
The silversmith tradition besides spread westbound. Navajo silversmith and political drawing card Atsidi Sani is normally acknowledged as having begun the hard silver-working custom of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo previously obtained their silver goods from skilled mexican smiths. After the Civil War, American silverware remained flowery with elaborate designs. By the end of the century, the Art Nouveau drift dispersed from european to american cosmetic arts. Art Nouveau flatware reflected the constituent forms seen in posters and illustrations of the period .
Martele Silver Table

20th-Century Silver

The modern period of American silverware presents a streamlined face than its 19th-century predecessors. mod craftsmen and designers introduced newfangled forms to authoritative teapots, spoons, and candlesticks. Art Deco creations of the 1920s and the avant-garde pieces of the 1930s populate museum collections nowadays. however, in the first half of the twentieth century these pieces were frequently besides offered directly to consumers through department stores. An interesting model, architect Paul Lobel ‘s ascetic even elegant silver plate tea fix was included in a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit of industrial art in 1934. Consumers could besides purchase the plant from Wilcox Silver Plate Company .
Lobel Service Tea ServiceOneida Limited continued to create flatware in huge quantities. Founded in Connecticut in 1898, the International Silver Company harnessed the powers of golden age Hollywood to sell its silver table furnishings. Famous actresses did radio spots and appeared in print ads for the company. The company produced silver until 1983.
Mid-century modern silverware faced rival from the increasing popularity of stainless steel steel. Influenced by scandinavian silver medal and the art of the Danish silversmith Georg Jensen, craftsmen continued to blur the lines between craft and artwork. Designers such as Robert J. King and Robert Ebendorf produced silverware aboard intricate argent jewelry .
Robert King Mid-Century Modern Silver

Today

modern artists and craftsmen continue to work in silver. One can still purchase new silverware from legendary producers such as Tiffany & Co. however the allure of antique american silver—from colonial to mid-century modern—draws many collectors. Antique markets shift with the economy, and the preferences of buyers change over generations. The history of American flatware offers a fountain of diverseness to pique diverse interests .

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