FROM THE DESK OF

Vintage Silver Shopping

This group of silver pieces came from Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers, one of my favorite vintage vendors in Litchfield, Connecticut. I’ve picked up all kinds of silver pieces there, from Victorian to pre-turn of the century to more modern styles, and I find that the real stories behind the objects I buy are often as much about the dealer or shop as they are about the pieces themselves. I think the vintage shopping experience is really about the antique shop that you discover or the specialist you find on eBay, and seeing where they can guide you and what you can learn from them. You can visit a trusted dealer and see their edited selection of vintage pieces, and then further edit into the world of things that you are interested in and like to collect. For me, it’s all about finding what is modern in all of these vintage pieces.

[Dominick & Haff Cracker Scoop, circa 1880]

The thing that’s kind of amazing about this piece is its beautifully sculpted handle, almost reminiscent of a crankshaft from a car. If you think about it, even though it is a late Victorian Era piece, a handle like this is also representative of early industrial design of the Machine Age. It kind of bridges the gap between two eras of design. I also love that it is a true shovel designed to scoop crackers; it’s a humorous idea today but makes it truly unique. I have many other little salt spoons and other pieces that are in the form of a shovel, but nothing quite like this.

[Marking on reverse side]

[Steuben Cocktail Stirrer, circa 1930's]

On the other end of the spectrum from the cracker scoop is this 1930′s era cocktail stirrer by Steuben, clearly the most modern piece in the group. I love the spherical form of the bowl, but what’s kind of incredible about it is that Steuben made very little silver. It’s marked Steuben on the underside, and that’s the special charm of it.

[Sales receipt from Lawrence Jeffrey]

[Close-up of Steuben marking]

[Sterling Serving Spoon by Hans Hansen, circa 1920]

I don’t tend to like modern things that are very rigid and stiff. The teardrop shape of this Danish piece feels modern to me but also is very refined and organic in its shape and feel. There is a simplicity and elegance here I find to be really beautiful.

[Close-up of signature stamp]

[Reverse side of the spoon]

[Kalo Hammered Meat Fork and Pie Server, circa 1920]

These serving utensils are two of the most sculptural pieces of silver that I own. The beautiful forms have these antique points on the handles that give off an almost botanical simplicity. The handmade quality really comes through in the feel of the pieces in the hand, and the patina adds to that crafted softness. I actually find them to be among the most useful pieces that I own as well, great for serving all kinds of dishes.

[Close-up of the Kalo marking]

[Shiebler Serving Spoon, circa 1880]

This last piece is a serving spoon with a gilt bowl and a remarkable sterling handle that is full of ornate detail, but flattened out almost like a decorative band. The detailed scroll work really sets it apart for me as something modern, and the pattern makes it feel less like a piece of silver and more like something you might see in fabric. Here you can see how the pattern terminates in a flourish at the end:

I had really never seen anything like this piece before, and as my trusted silver shop owner showed me, it represents the beginnings of modernism in silver design and presents a modern point of view about what pattern can be.

[store photo courtesy of Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers.]