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tline3open  Gorham sterling pitcher/decanter, what is it used for?

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Author Topic:   Gorham sterling pitcher/decanter, what is it used for?
DonnaC

Posts: 6
Registered: Jan 2007

iconnumber posted 01-28-2007 12:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DonnaC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[26-1337]

I was recently given this decanter/pitcher. It is 6.5" without the stopper. Each side is a different flower design. The marks are:

    Right facing lion, anchor, fancy G
    Sterling
    160
    P

Based on the marks, I have figured out it is Gorham, and am assuming the "P" indicates the year 1883. Is the "160" a pattern number? I haven't been able to find any reference to it online (my only resource at the moment).

Also I am wondering what it is used for, with a cork stopper I am thinking a decanter of some sort, but have not seen anything similar online.

Any help is greatly appreciated!

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vathek

Posts: 962
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 01-28-2007 08:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oil and syrup cruets are usually of glass, but my guess would be one of those.

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DonnaC

Posts: 6
Registered: Jan 2007

iconnumber posted 01-28-2007 12:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DonnaC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for your reply Vathek - cruet is a great possibility, even if it is all silver.

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Dale

Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 01-28-2007 09:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess would be that this may in someway be associated with the pattern Cluny.

Perhaps this was part of a toilette or bath set, holding bath oils. Not all silver was meant for the table.

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Kimo

Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 01-29-2007 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm with Dale - my guess is it is not part of an oil & vinegar set. Sterling fittings on glass oil & vinegar sets of cruets on silver trays are quite typical of the era, but I've not seen any that are all silver. Also, whenever I've seen oil and vinegar sets where the user can not easily see the contents such as when the glass is opaque or when ceramics were used they always seem to have the word oil on one and vinegar on the other so the user can tell what is inside. The possibility that it is from a ladies' toilet set sounds like a good idea - for something like bath oils or such. Another thought is it may have been for something like rosewater which would tie in with the nice floral designs on the sides.

Your guess about the number is correct - that is just a stock number. In theory, if you could find a Gorham catalog of the era you should be able to find it using that number.

The one thing that bothers me slightly is the cork. It is hard to tell from just an internet photo, but the condition seems to be much too good for it to be of that age. Perhaps it may have been replaced at some point?

[This message has been edited by Kimo (edited 01-29-2007).]

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1768
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 01-29-2007 03:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I could not find this model in any of the Gorham catalogs from 1880 on. However, one or two of the mid-1880s catalogs contained a list of items for ladies, and these included things like perfume bottles, etc. Perhaps this was used to decant perfume into smaller vials, such as a vinaigrette or glove perfume. I doubt the floral decoration has any pertinence to its function, it is just a nice Aesthetic Movement design.

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FWG

Posts: 845
Registered: Aug 2005

iconnumber posted 01-29-2007 04:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The cork to me looks perfectly in keeping with that period. I've seen worse, but I've also seen perfectly nice ones from at least 50 years earlier.

The 1870 and 1845 Madeiras I once drank, though, had been recorked....

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DonnaC

Posts: 6
Registered: Jan 2007

iconnumber posted 01-29-2007 11:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DonnaC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow - thank you all for your time and effort in responding to my inquiry. And thanks to you Paul for spending the time to look in your catalogs. This is my first real piece of sterling silver (one with a "history") and it has been so much fun researching it. I can understand now why you all have such a love of silver.

I received this piece from my mother - who doesn't remember where it came from, although it probably came from one of my grandmothers. When I received it the stopper was so jammed in the neck of the pitcher that I had a really hard time getting it out. I think that is why the bottom half of the stopper is so untarnished and perhaps why the cork is in good condition.

How do I go about preserving this? I'm under the impression that I shouldn't polish it, but it does seem to be darkening by the day and I've only had it 2 weeks! I would like to display it, but don't want to cause any rapid decline - suggestions?

Thanks again to everyone for helping me to learn more about this piece. I think I'm hooked....
DonnaC

[This message has been edited by DonnaC (edited 01-29-2007).]

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1768
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 01:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is safe to polish antique silver. You want do so by using a gentle cream polish, such as Wright's silver cream. Or you can use something like a Cape Cod Polishing Cloth. But never use any kind of liquid dip such as TarnX on your silver!

When you polish your bottle, it is very important to pay more attention to the higher points, and be careful not to polish away too much of the black that you see immediately surrounding the flowers. You should gently polish the flowers themselves as well as areas where there is only engraved or no decoration, which are the corners, shoulders, neck, and stopper, until the silver has that warm glowing shine.

I really recommend that you leave the black tarnish/oxidation in the crevices, recesses, and low points of the design (i.e., the slightly recessed, sort of "bumpy" area surrounding the flowers). Just give those areas a quick wipe to get rid of uneven tarnish that has accumulated with age.

If you follow these suggestions, you will be truly amazed at how beautifully the acid-etched floral design will pop out agains the dark background. Your piece will look fabulous. Bear in mind that Gorham originally made a lot of their silver with an intentional oxidation so there would be more contrast and the decoration would show up well. Some people polish ALL of the black away, and this detracts from value, patina, and appearance.

By the way, that is a great piece to get as your first real sterling item! My favorite part has to be the figural animal head found at the top of the handle.

[This message has been edited by Paul Lemieux (edited 01-30-2007).]

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FWG

Posts: 845
Registered: Aug 2005

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And in terms of avoiding tarnish: regular handling helps to keep tarnish away (as long as you keep your hands clean); a piece of chalk stored with a piece of silver helps keep it from tarnishing (if kept in a closed space); smoke in the air will increase the rate of tarnish (cities and places on truck/bus lines are as bad as tobacco). Some kinds of fabric and other materials also seem to encourage tarnish, although I haven't done a very exact study of this (pure cotton seems fine). NEVER let a piece of silver stay in contact with salt (or saltwater), or rubber (e.g., rubberbands) -- two of the worst things that can be done.

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Kimo

Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You can reduce the rate of tarnish by keeping it away from sources of sulfur and chlorine which are what cause tarnish. Sulfur is emitted from common household things such as the natural gas you may use in your stove/oven/heating system, from things made of rubber, from wool, from some kinds of food such as eggs, etc. Chlorine mainly comes from salt and foods containing salt. So, if your house uses natural gas, you would not want to keep your silver near the kitchen. Or you would not want to display your silver on a rubber mat or wool cloth. If you use your silver with food, you will want to clean it immediately after using it and not let it sit for extended periods of time with food or food residues on it.

In addition to Paul's excellent advice on polishing, let me add that you should never use a mechanical buffer or polisher and you should read the label on whatever silver polish you choose to make sure it does not contain a chemical called 'thiourea' which can cause cancer. Normally thiourea is found in dips rather than paste polishes and and Paul has recommended you should not be using dips to polish silver anyway.

[This message has been edited by Kimo (edited 01-30-2007).]

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dragonflywink

Posts: 975
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 02:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another consideration in preventing excess tarnish is the material of the display area, naturally finished oak and latex painted surfaces will accelerate tarnishing. Have tried various shelf linings including archival mylar, glassine paper, cotton fabric and silver cloth, the surrounding vapors still cause problems.

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witzhall

Posts: 124
Registered: Mar 2006

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 03:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for witzhall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I display some of my spoons in a glass cabinet that I've made as airtight as possible. I did some research online and bought some archival stuff from an outfit that supplies museums: Conservation Resources International, LLC, 5532 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22151. I got their MicroChamber/Silversafe Enclosure Paper, Item #MS-006-2531 - probably enough for several lifetimes (!), and also what they call "Plastabs" - 1" square thingies that counteract tarnish - Item #TI-PL1. I have had the silver in there for nearly a year now without polishing a single spoon, and it looks wonderful!

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DonnaC

Posts: 6
Registered: Jan 2007

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 06:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DonnaC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for all the information on tarnish: causes, what to use and how to polish silver. I just bought some Wright's silver cream and will let you know how it goes. I also really enjoyed reading about the different methods you have used for display/storage, what has worked and what hasn't. Thank you all again for all your time and input.

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Dale

Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 01-30-2007 10:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing to keep in mind: if the silver starts tarnishing rapidly you may have a tiny gas leak. Any increase in the rate of tarnishing should cause you to start checking the environment.

Lovely piece, thank you for sharing.

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Polly

Posts: 1939
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 02-01-2007 08:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Donna, that's a lovely object.

Would you mind posting a closer look at the handle, perhaps from a different angle? Is the handle made of a tongue, or am I misreading the image? Thanks!

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DonnaC

Posts: 6
Registered: Jan 2007

iconnumber posted 02-01-2007 10:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DonnaC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Polly,
I will be happy to post a close up of the handle. I think it is a tongue, but there are also 3 shorter "overlays" on it right by the lips.

[This message has been edited by DonnaC (edited 02-08-2007).]

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DonnaC

Posts: 6
Registered: Jan 2007

iconnumber posted 02-08-2007 01:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DonnaC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Polly,
Sorry it has taken me sooo long to post these pictures! Here they are...

Let me know if you would like anything further enhanced.

If you have any insights as to what the animal may be or if you have seen anything similar - I would love to hear...

Cheers,
Donna

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swarter
Moderator

Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 02-08-2007 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think the head is realistic enough to be any particular animal - just a fanciful beast. If you had posted only the lower right photo, I would have said it was a pretty good hippopotamus, but from the other angles, definitely not! Interesting, though.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 02-08-2007).]

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outwest

Posts: 390
Registered: Nov 2005

iconnumber posted 03-12-2007 10:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for outwest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there any possibility that this is a claret jug?

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Ulysses Dietz
Moderator

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 03-14-2007 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Given that this piece is only 6.5"H, it must be either part of a cruet set or a toilet set. Claret jugs might be of the same form, but I can't imagine storing wine in silver...serving yes, but not storage, and the cork stopper suggests storage. Claret jugs, which are also bigger, are usually glass with silver mounts or silver deposit. Am I right?

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FWG

Posts: 845
Registered: Aug 2005

iconnumber posted 03-14-2007 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would say yes. I have seen silver claret jugs, at least so-called, and they were the size of glass ones but had no stopper, being for serving rather than storing. Personally I prefer thinking of them as water pitchers (with wine one wants to be able to see the color), but have seen at least one set that had a larger and a smaller, presumed to be one of each.

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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 03-14-2007 11:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If bubble baths were my thing... I'd consider using it for bath oil. wink

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