Common Inquiries & Answers From the Member Silver Forum


800 Mark (William Erik Voss)

The bain of collectors, many spoons have no hallmarks. The 800 mark is a general European standard - very common in the Germanic countries - for the lowest (with a few rare exceptions) acceptable silver purity. This is by no means a slur upon the spoon; many fine and valuable examples are .800 silver, the norm of the day. It does indicate a middle to late 19th century vintage at best, however. That said, you would be best served by judging the quality of the design and its condition. Any spoon 'quite worn' has lost much of its value; I have a pair of Dutch spoons of the late 17th century that I didn't hesitate to spend several hundred on; I also have a nearly identical example of the same vintage, but worn nearly smooth, that I spent - appropriately - McDonald's lunch money for.

Assaying (William Erik Voss)

It is impractical for a refiner to refine each individual shipment of scrap separately. To keep the operation efficient, a sample is taken of each refining shipment to determine its precious metal content. Drilling samples are taken from each end of the bullion. The assay laboratory does a miniature refining process on the two samples to determine the precious content. The bullion karat is actually determined by the percentage of fine gold left following the assaying process. For example, 2-100 milligram samples are taken. The samples are wrapped in lead, placed onto cupels and put into a special assay furnace. As the samples become molten, the base metals, including the lead, vaporize or absorb into the cupels, leaving only the precious metal on top. The precious metal buttons are dissolved in the acid so that the gold content can be determined. The remaining samples are reweighed. If the 100 milligram samples now weigh only 50 milligrams, this means that there is 50% fine gold in the bullion.

R. Blackinton & Co. (William Erik Voss)

The company was founded by Walter Ballou and Roswell Blackinton at North Attleboro MA in 1862 and continued as R. Blackinton & Co. until 1967. The original B pierced by a sword trademark was used until 1900. I do not know of any catalogs or inventories that have been reproduced, so there is small chance of dating your pieces except by style. This in itself will be tricky, as the company kept designs in service for many years, even when they had gone out of fashion generally. Their work was of a very high standard, in both sterling and 14 c gold, and included flat & holloware, novelties and jewelry.

Coin Silver (William Erik Voss)

Sterling is 925/1000 parts pure silver and is a legally enforceable standard. Coin is more variable; the purity of metal matching, in theory, that of contemporary currency. Occasionally, during periods of shortage, coins were literally used as metal stock, especially in the colonial era. Because of the multiplicity of coinage in use, it has varied from 835/1000 to 925/1000. It was never an enforceable standard like sterling, but was a means for silversmiths, lacking a national standard of assay, to assure clients of the quality of their silver. By the 1820s, with flat-rolled silver stock readily available, it became an arbitrary benchmark set at 900/1000 and remained so until the British sterling standard was adopted by Gorham, Tiffany, and others in the 1850s.

EPNS (William Erik Voss)

EPNS is a plating of silver deposited on a core of nickel silver. Nickel silver is an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc; it contains no silver at all. A variety of metals were used as the core for plated goods - copper, britannia, pewter, etc; whatever the base, the process is the same.

Lacquer Removal (Fred Zweig)

Whenever I have had to remove lacquer from a metal object I use lacquer thinner. It is a powerful solvent available in most hardware stores. It contains several nasty chemicals so I would recomend using a mask if possible.... finger nail polish remover may work just as well..... do not soak the items as they may contain pitch as a filler. the pitch will soften and leach out if you are not careful. Solvents as I have mentioned to not attack silver or it's alloys. I hope I haven't scared you by the caveat on use of solvents.... I just feel it necessary to let people know what they are getting into. I would not use a paint stripper. lacquer is not really a paint. Hope this is of help.

Added to Fred's technique for removing lacquer (Jeffrey Herman)...

I have used Sears' extra thick lacquer remover that is water soluable. Just brush it on, wait about a half hour, and rinse it off, preferably on a plastic tarp to let evaporate in the sun. This way you don't have to buy a vat of thinner. Again, as Fred mentioned, use with caution and read the precautionary statements on any solvent you use.

Forbes Silver Co. (William Erik Voss)

Forbes was a division of the Meriden Britannia Company, a vast conglomerate in its later years. They specialized in silverplating of holloware produced by other divisions or bought in the metal from third party suppliers. It became part of International because its parent company Meriden did. There is no link between it and the justly famous family of silversmiths of that name besides advantageous marketing. The mark as you describe it was a later verison used on standard grade goods. A search of Ebay auctions or the like will give a fair indication of Forbes values.

Poole Silver Co. (William Erik Voss)

Poole made a huge range of goods in every sort of grade up to and including sterling. For items made by that company alone, item to item, it is generally possible to compare goods by the indicted grade of work. I say generally because the standards used, even within a single company, varied over time depending on the design, public taste, and scarcity of metal. A quad plate spoon of 1880 may or may not have the same amount of silver as an identically marked one made 50 years later and vice versa. This is all further complicated by the fact that Poole, like all the other major makers, bought many goods in the metal or ready made from outside makers which may or may not have met the exact standard later indicated on the piece. On the whole, the terminology used on silverplate generally has very little value in judging quality. The basic grades indicated the amount of silver used to plate a gross of standard teaspoons -- 'Standard' = 2 troy ounces per gross, 'Quadruple' = 8 troy ounces per gross, etc. But the grades were never formally codified and there was no enforcement of these amounts except by gentleman's agreement and then only by a hand-full of companies out of the hundreds making plate. The only true measure of a piece is the quality of its design; it's entirely possible to find inferior pieces with the highest grade of plating available. As to the second question, 'Quadruple' was (with the qualifications above) the highest standard public grade. It was not, however, the highest grade made. 'Federal Standard' was 15% higher and several companies produced seperate lines at 'Hotel Grade' that were up to 50% higher. Additionally, some companies like Poole produced made-to-order goods of very high quality that may carry no grade marking at all. Its a tangled web.

F.B. Rogers (William Erik Voss)

F.B. Rogers was founded in Shelburne Falls MA in 1883 and moved to Taunton MA in 1886. It became a division of National Silver Co in 1955 and I understand it is still in business as such. The 1883 on your service is part of the trademark and not an indication of its date of manufacture. The company used many marks, but I don't know of any proven chronology. The various numbers you mention designate the pattern or piece.

William Rogers & Company (William Erik Voss)

The history of William Rogers & Company is rather convoluted and involves half a dozen members of the family. A good basic history can be found in Rainwater's "Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers." Briefly the chronology is:

*William Hazen Rogers (1801-1873)
[working alone, 1836-1841]

*William Rogers & Co.
[W. H. & Simeon Rogers, 1841-1854]

*William Hazen Rogers
[working alone again, 1855]

*William Rogers & Son
[with William Henry Rogers, 1856-1861]

*William Rogers Jr (actually William Henry Rogers)
[took over firm after WHR left, 1862]

*E. R. Fifield & Co.
[with William Rogers Jr as partner, 1863-1865]

*William Rogers Manufacturing Co.
[WHR & William Rogers Jr, 1865-1869]

*William Rogers & Son
[2nd incarnation of the company, 1869-1873]

After the elder Rogers' death, the company was continued in contractual partnership with Simpson, Hall, Miller & Company until 1893.

This is the main Rogers line only -- there were brothers, uncles, and in-laws involved in various other silver works, sometimes friendly, sometimes not.

The first design patent for flatware was issued to Rogers in 1873; prior to that the various firms made traditional forms or simply copied popular designs offer by the competition.

Peer Smed (Fred Zweig)

Mr. Smed's work is mentioned in the book on Art Deco silver. It includes his mark. He was an accomplished silversmith and sculptor as well. I believe he once worked for Tiffany's and also taught his daughter the trade as well.

Roger Smith & Co. (William Erik Voss)

The company was formed in 1857 by William Rogers and George Smith to manuufacture silverplate and britannia ware. The company was originally located in Hartford, but moved to New Haven when it was bought by Meriden Britannia Company in 1863. It was again moved to Meriden in 1876. The company mark was changed to reflect the new locations, so a rough dating is possible. The company was eventually absorbed by International Silver and by 1898, was simply a trademark used within the larger conglomerate. From the beginning, the company put out a huge range of goods, from elaborate tea sets to individual salt spoons and everything in between. One specialty, for which they held numerous design patents were ice water pitchers. While most goods were either britannia metal or silverplate, a limited amount of sterling was made. All sterling goods carried a special mark stating it was 925/1000 silver; if it does not, then it is either plate or britannia.

Whiting & Davis (William Erik Voss)

Whiting & Davis were - and are - the world's largest manufacturer of chainmail and mesh products. They began as chain makers in 1876 and went on to develop the first machine to make woven metal mesh. They made a full line of goods ranging from protective gloves to purses like yours. All their sterling work (mostly reproductions of historic jewelry) were marked as such.

Wilcox Silver Plate Co. (William Erik Voss)

Founded in 1865, with Jedediah and Horace Wilcox, Charles Parker, Aaron Collins, Hezekiah Miller as the primary partners, as the Wilcox Britannia Company in Meriden CT. The name was changed in 1867. It was later one of the founding companies of International Silver in 1898. The company plant was closed in 1941 due to the war metal shortage. After the war, its house designs were made by other International factories, but the company as a seperate entity was not revived. In 1961, various divisions were consolidated and its name was changed to Webster-Wilcox.

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