The History of Sterling Silver Makers

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Sterling Silver Makers, Marks and Patterns

Family owned, Reed & Barton Corporation is one of the oldest silversmiths in the United States, its roots dating back to 1824. Over the years, Reed & Barton has evolved into a diversified tabletop company composed of several divisions.

The Reed & Barton Silversmiths division continues to produce a wide range of fine sterling silver, silverplated, and stainless steel tableware and gifts, including flatware, serveware, and holloware, as well as picture frames, Christmas ornaments, baby gifts, and musicals.


Reed and Barton Maker Marks

  • francis first, reed and barton, antique silver
  • reed barton, francis one, sterling silver
  • sterling silver flatware, reed barton
  • francis 1st, reed and barton
  • francis, reed barton, flatware, silverware

Reed and Barton Patterns

The founder of Wallace Silversmiths, Robert Wallace was born in Prospect, Connecticut on November 13, 1815. He was the son of Scottish immigrant and silversmith James Wallace and his wife Irene (Williams), who had immigrated in the late 18th century. The boy had only a limited education, such as sons of the farmers of that period received.

At the age of 16, Robert Wallace became an apprentice to Captain William Mix, a renowned spoon maker for the Meriden Britannia Co.


Wallace Maker Marks

  • wallace, sterling silver, silver maker

Wallace Patterns

Founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City in 1837 as a "stationery and fancy goods emporium," the store initially sold a wide variety of stationery items, and operated as Tiffany, Young and Ellis in Lower Manhattan. The name was shortened to Tiffany & Co. in 1853 when Charles Tiffany took control, and the firm's emphasis on jewelry was established.

Tiffany & Co. has since opened stores in major cities all over the world.


Tiffany Maker Marks

  • tiffany and co, makers mark

 

Born in 1866, Jensen was the son of a knife grinder in the town of Raadvad just to the north of Copenhagen. Jensen began his training in goldsmithing at the age of 14 in Copenhagen. His apprenticeship with the firm Guldsmed Andersen, ended in 1884, and this freed young Georg to follow his artistic interests.

From childhood, Jensen had longed to be a sculptor and he now pursued this course of study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.


Georg Jensen Maker Marks

  • georg jensen

 

A single line notice in the November 2nd 1892 issue of The Jeweler’s Circular & Horological Review shows the birth of The Stieff Company at the death of another company. The Klank Mfg. Co. made an assignment for the benefit of creditors to Charles C. Stieff Baltimore Silver and Cutlery wholesaler, Charles C. Stieff was now in the silver manufacturing business.

The Stieff Company was incorporated on December 2, 1892 with the name "The Sterling Silver Manufacturing Company".


Stieff Maker Marks

  • stieff and company

 

One of eight children, Jabez Gorham was born on February 18, 1792. A few years after his father's death, Jabez was apprenticed at age 14 to Nehemiah Dodge, one of the founders of the silverware and jewelry industry in 18th-century New England. After learning his craft for seven years, Jabez formed a partnership that failed within five years.

The determined young man then formed his own business as "Jabez Gorham, Jeweler."


Gorham Maker Marks

 

Towle Silversmiths was founded 1857 (as Towle & Jones) and then 1873 (as A.F. Towle & Son); its progenitors included several members of the Moulton family, whose silversmiths dynasty is claimed to have the longest continuous span of silversmithing of any American family. From father to son, this family produced silversmiths for two hundred years.

In 1637, William Moulton (1615-1664) came together with his two brothers John and Thomas from Ormesby, Norfolk, England.


Towle Maker Marks

  • towle sterling

 

Baltimore's prominent silver manufacturing company, Samuel Kirk & Son, dates its beginning to 1815 when Philadelphia-trained Samuel Kirk finished his apprenticeship under James Howell and moved to Baltimore. Attracted by the prosperous port, Kirk opened his shop at 212 Market Street (later known as 106 Baltimore Street) with fellow silversmith, John Smith.

After the partnership was dissolved in 1821, Samuel Kirk carried on the business alone until his eldest son, Henry Child Kirk, became a partner.


Kirk & Son Maker Marks

 


The History of Sterling Silver

Characteristics of Sterling Silver

The whitest of all of the precious metals, sterling silver has been heralded for centuries for its highly lustrous finish and versatile applications. Although harder than gold, sterling silver is still considered one of the more pliable and supple metals. Its malleability makes silver easy to hammer and mold into various forms and shapes. Silver melts at a slightly lower temperature than gold (1760 degrees F as opposed to 1960 degrees F).

Naming & History of Sterling Silver

Dating back to the time of primitive man, silver has been referred to by many different naming conventions. The story of how the word "sterling" was incorporated into the name is rooted in 12th-century lore. As payment for English cattle, an association of eastern Germans compensated the British with silver coins dubbed "Easterlings." Eventually, the Easterling was widely accepted as a standard of English currency. The name was ultimately abbreviated to "Sterling," which is now used to refer to the highest grade of silver metal.

The official designation of "sterling" to a piece of silver indicates that it contains at least 92.5% of pure silver. The remaining 7.5% can be comprised of any other metal alloy, most commonly copper. Although it may seem that an even higher silver content would be desirable, that's not actually the case. Metal alloys with a silver content of more than 92.5% are too pliable to be used without suffering from dents and dings. The second alloy is required to ensure the metal's stability and resilience.


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