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Author Topic:   "Sterling 155"
Pete9077

Posts: 26
Registered: Dec 2010

iconnumber posted 12-13-2010 11:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pete9077     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[26-2086]

Can anyone tell me what "Sterling 155" means?
thanks

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Pete

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Marc

Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 12-13-2010 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi there,

A photo would help, but the word sterling usually means 92.5 % silver. The '155' is probably a pattern number, or some other descriptor.

Happy to help.

Marc

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Pete9077

Posts: 26
Registered: Dec 2010

iconnumber posted 12-13-2010 12:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pete9077     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Marc - I do not actually have the piece in hand, so cannot post a photo. If I can come up with anything else I'll let you know.

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Pete

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Kimo

Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 12-19-2010 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Commercially made silver and silverplate objects often have 2, 3, or 4 digit numbers stamped into their bases. These are simply design numbers used by that particular company to easily identify a pattern. They were also used by retailers when they ordered more stock. It is much easier and more accurate to ask the manufacturer to send 10 more number 155s than 10 more sterling cream pitcher's in the florentine pattern. For the same reason it is also easier for inventory control both at the factory and by the dealers.

Often, if you can get your hands on an old catalog from that company you can see these stock numbers next to the pictures of the objects to assist in ordering.

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wev
Moderator

Posts: 4095
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 12-19-2010 06:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The practice of stamping design numbers on wares to help manage ordering and inventory goes right back to the early days of large scale wholesale manufacturing. Here is a good example from 1835:

Dixon & Sons

And an example of the britannia metal teapot, no. 1532C referenced

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Pete9077

Posts: 26
Registered: Dec 2010

iconnumber posted 12-19-2010 06:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pete9077     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can now post photos of the Sterling 155 mark. If anyone can help in identifying the maker, I would be most appreciative!


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park1226

Posts: 92
Registered: Jun 2005

iconnumber posted 12-19-2010 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for park1226     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This looks like piece of Gerrit Dirksen filigree silver. They were located in Freeport, IL. Their hallmark was a G intertwined with a D. Unfortunately your piece does not appear to have a makers mark. There were other firms that made filigree sterling

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Pete9077

Posts: 26
Registered: Dec 2010

iconnumber posted 12-20-2010 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pete9077     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for this reference. It does, indeed look very similar to his work and the time periods fit - if one can rely on the date engrave in the bowl of the spoon as indicating the approximate date of manufacture.
quote:

The "Dirksen Silver Filigree Co.," a facsimile of the 1896-97 product catalog, was reprinted by the Stephenson County Historical Society in 1986. An excellent resource for collectors and researchers. Following is a copy of the catalog's forward, written by Philip L. Keister.

A small but interesting Freeport industry of the past was the Dirksen Silver Filigree company located on South State Avenue. This business was founded and operated by Gerrit Dirksen, a silversmith, who learned his trade in Germany and built up this business in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century. He was born about 1818 in Emden, Germany, where he learned the trade of silversmith. He died about 1903 in Freeport. His wife, Antje, who was born in 1817 came to America with him about 1844 and died in 1917, age nearly 100. They lived on a farm in Ridott Township for some years after coming to America, but later moved to Freeport where they ran a small grocery store on State Street just north of Galena Avenue. Gerrit set up a small silversmith shop in the back of the store and made many beautiful pieces of silverware and filigree during the 1800s.

About 1890, the business of making and selling filigree pieces became so great that the store was given up and the building converted into a silver filigree factory or shop. It was a two-story frame structure located on the second lot north of the business place. The numerous operations of making the filigree were carried on in this building, from receiving the bars of silver to shipping out the beautiful pieces of silverware.

The front of the building was plain with a door to the north and a window to the south. Inside, on the first floor, there was a counter at the front of the shop, back of which was a large safe and some semblance of an office. The work benches were in front of the windows to get good light for the detailed work of laying out the fine work. The patient work of "filling" the pieces took place on thick green glass with fine tweezers. This was done from a roll of wire drawn very fine, which was cut to desired lengths and rolled and curled to desired shapes and patterns and then carefully arranged in the handle or piece being "filled." The next step was to solder the layouts after being filled. The handles were then soldered onto the spoons or other utensils and heated to whiten and temper them.

The next step was to dip the articles in a "pickle" solution which made them bright and of lasting quality. After cleaning and buffing, they were taken to the second floor of the building and dipped into an enamel solution which preserved the bright shiny beauty of the products. Some items, such as forks, were partially dipped in a gold solution to gild the tines. The pieces were then wrapped, packed and shipped.

The second floor also housed a button machine which placed celluloid caps over buttons with photos between to make picture buttons so popular about 1900.

The 1893 World's Fair at Chicago and the World's Columbian Exposition, gave the silver filigree business a big boost as the Dirksens designed, made up, and exhibited some very large and fine pieces at a booth at the fair. For about five years following, John Dirksen, a son and also a jewelry traveling salesman, pushed the line with other goods and kept the little shop in Freeport busy turning out fine pieces. Richard D. Dirksen, the older son, assisted Gerrit in the shop and gradually did most of the actual work and supervision of the five or six other employees. These employees were usually girls hired at wages which now seem very low. Some of the employees of the shop were Florence Hershy Yarger (1891 - 1897); Jennie Hamm and Helen Watson (1901 - 05).

In 1896, the business had W.H. Wagner & Sons print it a fine catalog which is reproduced here. It appears to be largely the work of John Dirksen the salesman. The various pieces were costly, considering 1896 money values but it must be remembered that labor was plentiful and cheap in order to make such intricate work even at such prices.

Much of the success of the business was because of the skill of Gerrit Dirksen with his old school craft trade of sliversmithing learned in Germany and the promotion and salesmanship of his son who was progressive and who could merchandise the wares. The various expositions of the '90s helped sell the goods and the demand for the products during the 1890s probably stemmed from the ornate style and fancy detail. When the plain and austere period of the twentieth century came, the delicate and ornate handmade filigree silverware and other pieces became outmoded and old style. One of John Dirksen's biggest complaints was that fact that not enough different or new style pieces were designed to enable him to push the goods harder. The pieces made for the Chicago World's Fair were very ornate - a huge fan, for example, a bouquet holder and other large pieces. These were kept for many years by Mrs. R.D. Dirksen and were later sold to various people to have other things made from them.

Gerrit was over 80 years of age and did less and less work or designing. John also lost interest as the fad and popularity of the wares began to wane. The business of the filigree factory started to slip. After the death of the father in 1903, the business went down hill rapidly, so that Richard closed it out by 1905. He used the building for a carpenters shop and later razed it to make room for the double house he built on the side. This house is still there today.

The museum of the Stephenson County Historical Society has several card cases made by Dirksen, one being the earlier and fine work done by the elder Dirksen himself. The courser work came later when demand was at its peak and the very plain and course work came later, just before the end.

Dirksen pieces can usually be identified by the letters GD intercrossed in a simple design or by the words, "G. Dirksen, Freeport, Ill."

Although it was never a sizable Freeport industry, the Dirksen Silver Filigree Company will be remembered for its beautiful silver spoons, napkin rings, card cases, and many other pieces. Gerrit Dirksen was a fine craftsman and his earlier work showed this quality and character. It was one of those American businesses that bridged the gap between the single workman who produced with hand tools in his own shop to the modern factory system of today.


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nautilusjv

Posts: 249
Registered: Nov 2008

iconnumber posted 12-20-2010 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for nautilusjv     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for posting your spoon Pete. I did not know about filigree silver; gorgeous! The link you posted about Dirksen was very informative. I love learning about new catagories of silver!

Happy Holidays!

Kelly

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Pete9077

Posts: 26
Registered: Dec 2010

iconnumber posted 12-20-2010 02:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pete9077     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Kelly - Learning about filigree makes me want to look for more pieces! This piece seems very delicate.....I have not seen another souvenir spoon in filigree.

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Pete

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