Registered: Apr 93
posted 02-09-2014 01:41 AM
The House Furnishing Review
That "Sterling" Silver Muddle.
PANIC and indignation has been aroused among the department store firms by the attempts to indict them for selling silver stamped "sterling," but which assayed under the legal requirements. The House Furnishing Review, in its last issue, threw the blame on to the manufacturers, and the latest development is that two large manufacturing firms, the Whiting Company and the Gorham Company, have been brought before the Grand Jury, but the attempt to indict failed. 'A very fair and clear exposition of the situation comes from Mr. Gillam, of Hilton, Hughes & Co., who spoke as follows:
"I do not believe that the heads of any of the department stores had any knowledge that goods sold over their counters as sterling were not all they purported to be. As soon as I read the first article, announcing this crusade against us, before the indictments were found, I wrote and telegraphed to all the manufacturers from whom we buy the goods in question, and demanded their guarantee. We make our guarantees to our patrons on the strength of the manufacturers' guarantee to us. When 1 found out upon what article Mr. Newton Dexter based his charges against this firm, I sent for the head of the department from whom Mr. Dexter said he had made the purchase and questioned him. The alleged spurious articles were a pair of silver-handled scissors and a silver button hook. It was then explained to me that, in the case of the button hook, it was necessary to solder the shank to the handle, and also to solder together the two sides which are stamped out from thin sheets of silver. If that silver had been 1,000 fine even, the admixture of that solder in the melting pot would prevent its rendering .925. So with the scissors. No one who buys silver scissors expects the blades to be of that metal, and they must also be soldered to the handles, and again that solder gets into the melting pot and affects the assay."
Mr. Gillam added that the superintendent of their silver stock further informed him that they are in the habit of supplying large orders for all these goods now in question to all the principal retail jewelers' establishments. "It is like this, "said Mr. Gillam; "the manufacturers all have some specialty, and the retail jewelers obtain these articles from them not infrequently through us. We have discovered that the jewelers sell these same articles, made by the same people, assaying the same, and sold by us for, say of a cent a grain, for 1 cent a grain. Exact tests and comparisons have been made of articles bought from the Gorham Company, the Whiting Manufacturing Company, and a number of others, as well as from the various department stores, and the results are very satisfactory to us. All we object to in the proceedings against us is being held up as awful examples for selling at low prices exactly the same goods the jewelers make large profits on. We have no purpose of getting the silver law repealed. We have no grudge against it."
The House Furnishing Review
New York’s grand jury has found indictments against Tiffany & Company, the Whiting Manufacturing Company, and the Gorham Manufacturing Company, as corporations, and Robert C. Block, Aaron V. Frost, Theodore B. Starr. George B. Shiebler, and F.M. Whiting, as individuals, for a violation of the Penal Code by selling silverware marked "sterling." which is below the 925-1000ths fine. The witnesses named in these indictments are Oscar Siesel, a buyer of Bloomingdale Brothers. and an employee in the United States Assay Office in Wall street. Siesel purchased a lot of small articles from the silversmiths named in the indictments, and had them assayed. The test, it is claimed, showed that they were below the standard fineness in every instance. This action is the result of the indictment of the proprietors of several department-stores. last year, on the charge of selling what is commonly denominated "fake" silverware. None of these indictments have been moved, so far, and the department-store men determined to square up accounts for what they considered little short of persecution.
The accused silversmiths were haled before the courts on the 25th of March, and through their counsel entered a plea of “not guilty," which was afterward withdrawn and substituted by a demurrer to the indictments when the case comes up in April. Should these cases be pressed to trial, and the defendants convicted. they will he liable to a fine not exceeding $500 for each offense.
According to the statement of the counsel for the accused, the department-store proprietors had been seeking an opportunity for months to get an opportunity of playing a Roland for an Oliver, but were unable to do so until one of their number. Isaac Stern, of Stern Brothers, had been drawn to serve on the March grand jury. That Mr. Stern was in any way connected with the finding of these indictments, was positively denied by Assistant District Attorney Battle, who declared that the gentleman had absented himself when the subject of finding bills against the silversmiths was under consideration. According to this lawyer's statement. the proof against the silversmiths was so conclusive that the grand jury had no alternative than to find true bills against all concerned. This had not been the case three months ago when a similar attempt was made, the assay tests presented at that time being insufficient to warrant indictments. In fact. those tests showed that the articles of silverware which had been examined, were only slightly below the required standard.
Representatives of the accused firms treat the matter with great unconcern, and express confidence in being cleared of what they denominate "nonsensical trumped-up charges." One of these gentlemen went so far as to charge that the department-store people had not tested the goods themselves. but had subjected an alloyed solder to the assay, and even then they had been unable to show in any case where the material was as low as the articles the selling of which led to the indictment of what this individual contemptuously classed as the “dry-goods men."
One of the assayers, in the employ of the Government, is authority for the statement that he had evidence against eighteen department-stores in New York City, in which articles sold an "sterling silver" did not contain 500-1000ths of that metal.
And so the war goes on. It is quite interesting to an outsider, as it has resulted in many startling developments. Where it will end will he a most difficult matter to imagine, as one side is just as determined as the other, and is not likely to sue for peace under any consideration. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have laws on their statute books that prohibit the sale of these bogus goods, but it is only of late that any decided steps have been taken to carry out their provisions.