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Silver Salon Forum members' suggestions for
Starting a Library on Silver

This list is intended to suggest a range of good references for beginners' libraries on silver. Each person will have her/his own interests and will develop a library to match, but these books have been chosen by members of the Silver Salon Forums to provide a wide-ranging foundation for the average person. The focus here on books dealing with the silver of Britain and the United States reflects both the majority audience of the SSF and the emphases of the English-language publications. For more extensive and specialized listings see the main Silver Library pages.


International Hallmarks
  • Tardy. International Hallmarks on Silver. South Croydon, UK: Collectors Publications, 2005. 552 pp., ill. A reprint of the 2002 edition, this book is certainly the most informative for identifying international hallmarks. Marks are organized by country, although the English translation preserves the organization of the original French, and the order will not be immediately intuitive to the English-language reader. Until the reader becomes familiar with the book, the index will be necessary for locating passages on particular countries. The book provides thousands of known official and standard markings, representing numerous locales. All major manufacturing countries are included, as well as many more obscure nations. Significant dates are provided for changes in marking policies, thereby often allowing the reader to identify a timeframe for pieces in question. An analytical index of marks at the end of the book displays each of the marks organized by type, so that the reader may easily locate the marks found on a piece (human profile, figure, animal figure, architectural structure, etc.). Also available, in French only, is a volume on gold and platinum marks Poinçons d'or et de platine.
          -- OR --
    Jan Diviš, Jan. Guide to Silver Marks of the World. London: Deacon House, 1992, 1994; translation from the 1976 Prague edition. 246pp., ill. This book is somewhat stronger than Tardy for marks from eastern Europe, and because the organization is by appearance of the marks (like the analytical index in Tardy) it lacks the alphabetical peculiarities of Tardy's entries. But Tardy shows many more variants of marks, has better coverage of non-European nations, and has better descriptive histories of marking in different countries.


British Silver
  • Clayton, Michael. The Collector's Dictionary of the Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America. New York: World Publishing and London: Hamlyn Group, both 1971. 351 pp., 48 colour plates, over 700 B&W photos, over 100 line drawings. This book is a comprehensive encyclopedic dictionary of silver and gold in Great Britain and North America from 1180 to 1880 and is an essential reference book for both collector and scholar. Entries in the dictionary generally fall within the following categories: types of object, names of the craftsman, styles of design and decoration, and techniques of manufacture. Helpful cross references are provided in many entries that make the search for related information effortless. A.G. Grimwade notes in his foreword to this book that it is the 'matter-of-factness' that sets this book apart from others and that it is the perfect book to begin one's search. Further research is also facilitated by useful bibliographies at most entries. An expanded edition of this book was published in 1985 by the Antique Collectors Club, having 481pp., 78 colour plates, 730 B&W photos, 100 line drawings.

  • Pickford, Ian (editor). Pocket Edition, Jackson's Hallmarks: English, Scottish, Irish Silver and Gold Marks from 1300 to Present Day. Woodbridge, Suffolk UK: Antique Collectors' Club, 1989. 172 pp., ill. This concise reference provides complete cycles of hallmarks organized by assay office (London, Sheffield, Chester, Birmingham, etc.), making hallmark identification relatively simple. Although it is considerably smaller than the full-size Jackson's reference, many readers find that the information contained is complete enough to aid in the research of most English silver. The makers appear to have been well selected, including all important makers, as well as common makers of lesser historical significance. Collectors may find with time that they must also acquire Arthur Grimwade's London Goldsmiths 1697-1837: Their Marks and Lives and/or John Culme's The Directory of Gold and Silversmiths: Jewellers and Allied Traders 1838-1914 for further research, but in any event this volume is more than sufficient as a starting point.
          -- OR --
    Jackson, Sir Charles J. English Goldsmiths and Their Marks: A History of the Goldsmiths and Plate Workers of England, Scotland, and Ireland. NY: Dover Publication, 1964; reprint of 1921 second edition. 747pp., ill. This (or later editions) is the larger work form which Pickford is drawn, and may be preferred by those focusing more strongly on the silver of the British Isles. As noted above, Grimwade and/or Culme may be needed if interest develops further in this direction.


American Silver
  • Fales, Martha Gandy. Early American Silver. n.p.: Excalibur Books, 1970. 336 pp, 231 B&W photos. A comprehensive and wide-ranging reference book on American silver from the seventeenth century to the early part of the nineteenth century. Ms. Fales examines the stylistic development of silver designs in America, the development of different forms of silver objects and regional characteristics. All are documented with excellent photographs, line drawings and clearly written text. She also discusses the use and importance of silver in four distinct areas: domestic silver, church silver, official silver and presentation silver. Her chapters on the training of the American silversmith and their role as a businessman in their community, characteristics of the silver metal itself, engraving as an art form, and useful tips in reading marks on silver provide excellent advice to all who have an interest in American silver. Finally, she provides practical guidance on how to evaluate and care for silver objects with interesting observations on how to detect fakes and alterations. This is a revised and expanded version of the author's Early American Silver for the Cautious Collector.

  • Venable, Charles. Silver in America: 1840-1940, A Century of Splendor. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1995. 365 pp., ill. Published in conjunction with the Dallas Museum of Art exhibition of the same name, this book explores the development of silver manufacture in 19th and 20th century America as it was becoming the largest silver producer in the world. It treats aspects as diverse as production, marketing, consumption, stylistic trends, and use, and provides splendid photographs as well as biographies and backgrounds of silversmiths and firms. This is a great survey of American silver, and a terrific foundation for any aspiring collector or enthusiast. Because it has become hard to find and expensive, we offer two other options.
          -- OR --
    Hood, Graham. American Silver: A History of Style, 1650-1900. NY: Preager Publishers, 1971. 256pp., ill. Like Venable, there is some emphasis here on grand, impressive pieces, but the text is clear and accurate and the book provides a good introduction to the styles of American silver through the 19th century. A paperback reprint can also be found.
          -- OR --
    McClinton, Katharine Morrison. Collecting American 19th Century Silver. NY: Bonanza Books, 1968. 280pp. ill. Although covering only the 19th century, this book is notable for offering extensive discussions of the styles, including simple flatware as well as larger pieces. Separate chapters are also offered on presentations pieces, trophies, swords, naval and church silver, and Masonic jewels.

  • Kovel, Ralph & Terry. Kovels' American Silver Marks: 1650 to Present. New York, Crown Publishers, 1989. 432 pp., ill. The Kovels offer an extensive alphabetical list of American silver manufacturers, also citing working locations and dates. Entries for individual silversmiths often include a useful list of partnerships in which they participated. Where available, makers' marks are illustrated with the manufacturer entries, although in this edition they are even less accurately represented than in earlier versions of the work. Although the book offers little more than basic identifying information for listed makers, and is known to have many mistakes (experienced users carry heavily annotated copies correcting the mistakes found), it is still a useful starting point for those wishing to research American silversmiths. Eventually serious readers will want to supplement this volume with information from other, often more specific and complete references. It is however a useful foundation for any American silver collector's library, collecting basic information from many hard-to-obtain sources in one place.
          -- OR --
    Ensko, Stephen Guernsey Cook, American Silversmiths and Their Marks IV. Boston: David R. Godine, 1989. 478 pp., ill. The Kovels compilation has more entries, but Ensko is generally more accurate, and includes short biographical notes for most of the included silversmiths. And Ensko was a true scholar of American silver, whose work was among those copied by the Kovels. The drawings of marks here are for the most part accurate.

  • Rainwater, Dorothy, and Judy Redfield. Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers (4th Ed.) Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2002. 418pp., ill. Undeniably the most recommendable reference for collectors and students of American silver, this book offers fairly comprehensive information on an impressive array of American silversmithing firms. The content for each manufacturer is proportional to the firm's size and notability, so that Gorham, International, Reed & Barton, and Tiffany & Co., etc. receive significantly more attention than more obscure makers. Most entries include illustrations of makers' marks for easy identification, and an analytical index of unlettered marks makes the identification of less obvious pictorial marks considerably easier. Because some makers' marks, though lettered, do not intuitively indicate the primary company name, there is mild difficulty with locating a relative few makers. However, related makers are very regularly cross-referenced to facilitate information retrieval. The Rainwater/Redfield 4th edition of this book is preferable to further editions, as it includes much information that is not in either earlier or later editions.

  • Hagan, Tere. Sterling Flatware: An Identification and Value Guide (Rev. 2nd Ed.). Gas City, IN: L-W Book Sales, 1999. 312 pp., ill. Composed primarily of tables featuring handle images for pattern identification, this is a must-have book for any silver pattern matcher or anyone interested in American sterling flatware. Also included is an excerpt of Towle Mfg. Co.'s catalog for its Old Colonial pattern, illustrating typical place and serving pieces to be found in most full-line patterns. The patterns are organized first by manufacturer, and by year of introduction. Indices allow searches by manufacturers, marks, and patterns. Although the book tends to fall apart after minor use, this can be remedied by putting the pages into plastic sleeves and then into a 3-ring binder. Another disadvantage is that line drawings are used instead of photographs. This often makes it a little more difficult to identify a pattern. The author gives no sources or references, but still this is the book of choice for any collector or professional in this field; the second edition is a significant improvement over the first.

  • Hagan, Tere. Silverplated Flatware: An Identification and Value Guide (Rev. 4th Ed.). Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1998. 376pp., ill. Like her Sterling Flatware, this book presents a large selection of silverplated flatware patterns for identification (over 1,600 patterns are shown). These illustrations are also line drawings, which some readers find difficult to match. Some readers also complain that the index can be a little cumbersome, and that patterns attributed to multiple companies are inconsistently listed (sometimes displayed for all or most of the attributable companies, sometimes not), thereby making identification less obvious. And as with the sterling volume, no sources of references are given. Nonetheless, it is among the most comprehensive references for silverplated flatware identification, and with use and familiarity it becomes an indispensable source of information.


Jewelry
  • Fales, Martha Gandy. Jewelry in America: 1600-1900. Woodbridge, Suffolk UK: Antique Collectors' Club, 1995. 447 pp., over 500 ills. The title of this reference may belie a focus on American jewelry, but in fact significant attention is given to both the wearing of European jewelry items in America and the influence of European styles on American design, as well as American influence in Europe. Both men's and women's accessories are discussed. Organized chronologically, the book explores styles, forms, materials, and makers. Various types of jewelry are presented, and detailed descriptions include even provenance. This has been recommended not only for the collector, but also for museums and scholars of the subject.

NOTE OF SPECIAL INTEREST

Concerning Howard Pitcher Okie, Old Silver and Old Sheffield Plate, and Seymour B. Wyler, The Book of Old Silver, English, American, Foreign. Although one or the other of these two books has probably been the starting point for more silver collectors than any other books, and they are probably the most widely used by beginners and are widely available at reasonable prices, both are known to have many mistakes and idiosyncrasies. We recommend the above books instead.



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date: 09/24/06
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