Collecting Silver Can Make You a Pretty Penny; Antiques Expert David Harper Explains Why Many People Are Choosing to Sell the Family Silver

The Journal (Newcastle, England), June 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Collecting Silver Can Make You a Pretty Penny; Antiques Expert David Harper Explains Why Many People Are Choosing to Sell the Family Silver


Byline: David Harper

I LOVE antique silver. It's a nightmare to clean, of course, but it nonetheless has given me countless hours of pleasure.

I find handling it, deciphering the markings and studying the shapes, to be almost therapeutic. It's a feel-good material that has been used to make ornaments, jewellery, treasure and household items for as long as civilisation.

Before banks were invented, owning silver was a good way to keep your money safe - as long as you kept your silver safe! It could be sold on in times of need to raise cash, and could even be melted down in times of desperation in order to make something completely different.

This happened during the English Civil War when both the Royalists and Cromwellians were running short of funds to pay their troops. Each army, while roaming about the country, ransacked silver collections from private houses, estates and even government buildings to fill their coffers.

The teapots, salvers, cutlery and candlesticks that the armies carried off were melted down in order to produce bright and sparkly new silver coins, which they then used to pay the troops.

Collecting silver today isn't rocket science, particularly if you stick to British hallmarked pieces. The hallmarks tell when a piece was made, by whom, where and in what town it was assayed. All you need to get started is a hallmark book, an eyeglass and a good reference book.

But watch you don't get mixed up between silver plate markings and solid silver markings.

If you bought your silver several years ago and you're thinking about selling, now is a good time to do that as the scrap value has increased dramatically recently, which has pushed all silver prices up. …

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