Lately it is come to my attention that many young Americans have no idea how to gauge the value of silver. They’ve heard “born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” may know what it represents, without understanding how that silver spoon ties to a long history of silver makers and goldsmiths.
One of my least favorite childhood tasks was polishing the family silver.
Then my school trip took us to see some monarch’s lustrous displays of goblets and silver dinner service and I discovered the history of London’s Guildhall standards of assaying precious metals.
Guildhall was where, in medieval days, goldsmiths and silversmiths gathered to establish standards, and certify the value of of their art, and to teach the next generation of apprentices their skills. Some of the earliest examples are assembled throughout England’s museums and heritage sites, but you can’t pick them up and examine them.
When I was writing my cozy mystery “The Domino Deaths,” part of my research had to do with silver teaspoons that had been handed down for generations. If you turn any table silver over you will find a series of embossed miniature seals along the stem of the spoon which can be matched with the quality of silver, the city in which it was manufactured, the year, and the individual registered silversmith, by going to the following sites:
For British marks: http://www.925-1000.com/british_marks.html
For a American marks: http://www.925-1000.com/americansilver__Menu.html
For International marks: http://www.925-1000.com/foreign_marks.html
Wikipedia has an excellent site as an overview. It’s a fascinating story, and broadens your outlook when your relative’s baby wants to be born with a silver spoon in its mouth. Silver cups work too.