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Author Topic:   Formal Silver?
jprice33

Posts: 204
Registered: Sep 2000

iconnumber posted 01-26-2006 08:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jprice33     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
after moving to NY out of college I landed in the 6th floor of Bloomingdales selling Silver for 2 years..as the American Manufacturers struggled to find a stronghold within Department Stores and saw their settings sold at deep discounts the Bloomies Brides were unable to select from Gorham, R&B, Wallace, Towle etc for their formal Silver..

their choices for formal were limited to Tiffany & Christofle (Expensive Sterling)..end result was countless couples registering for "Christofle Silver" under the impression that it was/is Sterling..granted, the quality of Christofle Plate is excellent and "gauranteed for 'x' generations" it's still Silverplated..

Lack of Salesperson training/knowledge coupled with Manf/Retailer breakdown results in mis-information, confusion, and ultimate head-scratching for the brides..

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agleopar

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iconnumber posted 01-27-2006 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the trade is at the lowest point in its history and one reason is that the few makers left put no effort into new designs.

It is not easy to produce silver compared to other materials and the double chalenge of making affordable objects when the labor and material are expensive, plus using boring old patterns, make it an almost dead trade.

Your coment of mis-information and confusion is so true and add to that a general lack of understanding of the properties of silver and the public soon will not think of buying it even if they could find it.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-27-2006 11:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I was first full time in the silver business, I encountered a harbringer of the problem. I had circulated my card to various stores in the Chicago area. And to my surprise got a call from the silver department at Marshall Fields. They were trying to come up with Laurel Mist, an IS Deep Silver pattern.

This was a very 60's pattern. It came out in 1966. Sales were fairly good.

But there was a problem. IS had quit making it without telling anybody. And bridal registries were in a panic. They had promised bride's, and their mothers, 25 years of availibility.

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Paul Lemieux

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 01:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As far as I can tell, in terms of brand-new flatware, the most popular patterns of sterling today tend to be those that brides' parents/grandparents had--like Towle's Old Master or Gorham's Chantilly, for example. By and large, people are not buying new/exciting designs.

A surprising lot of people will not buy new sterling (be it flatware or hollowware) because they think it is so hard to maintain (i.e. polish).

Furthermore, casual dining is experiencing a positive trend. Fewer people are seeing the need for a sterling service (even though there is nothing wrong with using sterling everyday, it is sometimes still perceived as a luxury item for formal occasions). And with stores like Crate & Barrel, where one can buy vast quantities of plated or stainless flatware for a pittance, many consumers don't even consider paying for sterling, which generally retails for at least $250/place setting.

[This message has been edited by Paul Lemieux (edited 01-28-2006).]

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jprice33

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 07:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jprice33     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes..no question the trend towards casual has had a dramatic effect on 'new' Sterling customers..

My disappointment was to witness numerous NY Couples who would have gladly registered for Chantilly or Old Master given the opportunity, but opted for a "nicer" Gorham or R&B Stainless or Christofle Plate simply because that was what's in front of them..

----

there was a mention earlier on the government's effects here in terms of prohibiting the manufacturers from price-protecting...curious how the Tiffany's & Christofle's managed to escape that?

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 01:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There used to be something called "Fair Trade". This was a system where the manufacturer applied a price to the item in the factory. Old silverplate ads frequently show a price, with the added 'slightly higher west of the Mississippi'. This way a company could maintain an image as a high class, luxery item. One above competing on price. Lots of firms used this system; it was particularly prevelent in cosmetics, silver and designer clothing.

In the early 60's this was done away with, under anti-trust. Companies that had maintained an exclusive image, with matching prices, for decades suddenly found that their products were being sold as a loss leader. Old Spice used to be an fairly expensive high end tolietry.

The problem Old Spice had was that it sold through thousands of stores. Some of which decided to start price cutting. And with its inability to force the set price contract there were two choices. One was to draw back and sell only in ways where the price could be controlled, which was possible but expensive. Or, it could resign itself to the new world order. Old Spice choose the latter path.

There are loads of brand names one sees at Target and KMart that used to be high end cosmetics. They were done in by the change in the laws.

But there were ways around this. The new system applied to retailers who bought the product outright and sold it in spaces they owned. This is where the 'out' popped up.

If the retailer did not own the product, but sold on some sort of consignment system, the maker could specify prices. If the maker leased space in the retail establishment they could set the price. If the retailer rented the merchandise, which is a common arrangement among jewelers, same thing.

Which is what I suspect was going on at Bloomingdales. One of these, or a blend of these, would have exempted Tiffany from the fair trade repeal. Plus, Bloomingdales is not known for low price; it trades on high quality and up to the minute style.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 02:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I think about this change and how it applies to the silver companies, here is what I come up with. Tiffanys and Christofle, and maybe Kirk, were in a position where they could control where and how their products were sold.

Jason, were you in a position to just reach into a drawer and whip out 12 place settings with servers several times a day? Or did they need to be ordered?

My guess would be the arrangement there was that Tiffanys paid a lease on the cases in which the silver was shown. Bloomingdales then received the merchandise, displayed it and staffed the area. But did not own the silver. When an item sold, there was a commission from Tiffany's which you never saw. That paid your salary.

Such arrangements are very common in the cosmetic business. People I know who work in this field are employed by the store. But the bulk of their income comes from commissions from the various brands they sell.

This is also the way magazines are sold. And loads of other things.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So how does this apply to understanding the silver business and its decline?

Tiffany, Christofle and maybe Kirk could control their sales because they sold in so few places. The other makers were in the Old Spice position. They had too many outlets to effectively police the system given the technology of the times.

And, here is the real kicker: while the price part of their contracts was invalid, the rest of the deal was in force. Suddenly retailers had freedom to move. So did wholesalers. Price competition came to the world of silver. Oneida and International had always done this, so they were postitioned to benefit. Which Oneida did. And IS made many of the most bizzare moves ever seen.

Does this begin to make any sense looking at the current state of the silver business? As I see it, this is an issue of brand name management. I would join the chorus and say that the marks on silver are not hallmarks, instead they are brand names.

When I look at the industry that's how I see its recent history.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To return to the Bridal Registry issue. This had been a fairly stable feature of the silver industry for at least a century. Brides to be would pick out their silver, china and crystal patterns. They would then direct friends to the store so gifts could be purchased.

Now, there are a host of requirements for a maker to get into this system. One is they must promise open stock on an item for a long period of time. Generally 25 years for sterling and 15 for silverplate. Stainless has a shorter life span.

The custom was that when a pattern's production was about to end, the company sent out notices to all the Bridal Registries it dealt with announcing this fact. Then the BR's would comb their records to see how many pieces they were committed to provide. Next, they would order the pieces. At this point the price had come down given that the BRs would sit with things for a long time.

The silver would be made up and sold. As the number of pieces ordered was usually less than the 'economical run', a surplus of pieces would exist. These were jobbed out to matching services at cost.

This explains why the makers don't bring out new patterns very much. A silver pattern is a long term committment. Longer than most marriages last. It is not a question of designing a great new pattern, making up a batch and seeing how it does. The silver company is tied to it for a quarter of a century. Which can be very expensive if the pattern doesn't catch on.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 03:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Then in the mid 70's IS broke the system. With no announcements or fanfare, they discontinued Laurel Mist. The result was an uproar from the BR industry. IS got thrown out of many department and jewelry stores over this issue. IS also refused to make Laurel Mist as a special order, for no real clear reason.

Fitz and Floyd did the same thing. They managed to crawl back from the debacle, IS never recovered.

It appears that the silver makers responded by becoming increasingly conservative. They stick to tried and true patterns and don't much inovate. Other than Tiffany and Oneida.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What I would also say is that we should look at the silverplate situation right after WW2. The production was very bad. The designs were good and stylish. But the execution was dreadful. These were sets that people had problems with. And they began opting for stainless.

And why is this of interest? Because silverplate is where people enter the silver world, or at least it used to be. The couple would start off with a set of plate and buy sterling on their silver anniversary.

The makers let their customers down by offering an inferior product with production defects. People began to substitute stainless for silverplate.

And once they began with stainless, they tended to stick with it. Which cut off the market base for sterling. Notice how expensive Towle's stainless is? And how high in quality and design it is?

There is one important date here: Dec 31, 1964. That is when Betty Crocker stopped offering plate. Betty is the largest seller of flatware in the US, as I understand it. Suddenly a huge market was shifted by the retailer away from silver.

This is very much what happened when the US auto makers ceded the low end of the market to foreign makers. In Brand Name management, a customer is not a one time buyer. The first purchase is the important one. Then when the buyer is a little older and richer, they will first go to the brand they had success with before.

So, these are some of my thoughts on the silver market.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-28-2006 03:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does this make any sense? I see the decline in the silver market as not being related to trends in design or art. But as part of being caught in an inflexible system with long time constraints that inhibit investment in new patterns. And that Betty Crocker has more influence that we ever realized.

Hope for some comments, please.

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jprice33

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iconnumber posted 01-29-2006 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jprice33     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting & Informative Dale..

I'd say you're correct in your Tiffany/Christofle arrangement with Bloomies..they were the only 2 Silver Maker's with exclusive display "areas" & the only 2 on the floor that were "price protected"..

Stock levels varied from pattern to pattern based on popularity..not un-commom for a customer to be able to walk out with their merch, or wait 10 weeks to receive..

I've also spent time working on the other side of the retail/wholesale arena where we bought & sold large quantities of New Sterling at the lowest of margins (at least providing some young couples with Sterling to last, while underselling mass appeal potential from Dept Stores)..

The Manuf. bottom-line is very immediate, so if the young couples are buying (and the stores are marketing) 45 piece sets of Stainless, than that's what they'll produce..25 year committments tough to come by..

Those with creative aspirations are smothered by the reality of what consumers are buying Now..

As the Targets & Crate & Barrell's gain momentum in setting tables around the country, the question of whether a retailer or Manufacturer will risk loss by changing course seems remote..

Consumer demand (starting with education/appreciation?) is perhaps the only way to change this course..

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IJP

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iconnumber posted 01-29-2006 07:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My own interest in silver arose only because I began to work in the trade. As a working-class individual, the thought of owning actually silver flatware would have been furthest from my mind otherwise.

I believe that the Age of Stainless would have spelled the end for silver flatware, except that there will always be an aura of prestige to raise sterling above less precious materials. The fact is, Paul Lemieux has a point: In comparison to stainless, silver is highly impragmatic in the minds of most consumers. Being a harder material, and more resistant to chemical compounds, its use and maintenance is nearly effortless. The only reason to choose sterling is for the Wow-factor.

There will always be an element of society that will select sterling (or other standard) silver over lesser materials. In an ideal world, the manufacturers would continue to maintain a high standard of quality and design to provide to this client-base. Supply and demand being what it is, however, as the number of such consumers decline, so will the number of such manufacturers, and their willingness to invest in the quality of their product.

On the other hand, if this only leaves room for a few companies to produce for the higher end of the market, a certain high standard of manufacture and design might be sustained afterall. This may not mean the greatest of things for the silver market overall, and fewer people may stand to benefit, but it also eliminates the proliferation of poor design (by which personally I feel the industry was particularly afflicted into the mid-20th century). Yet the same trend also engenders a competition-vacuum, which unfortunately does nothing to promote innovation, and only contributes to the problem at hand.

In the end, I find most serious consumers of sterling flatware wind up going with antique and estate items, which works for me, as that's the trade I'm in.

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outwest

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iconnumber posted 01-29-2006 07:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for outwest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Young people are not thinking of sterling when they get married. The whole dowry/china/silver choosing on marriage is outdated and has been for almost 50 years (since the womens movement of the 1960's). If people register for a wedding they frequently will register at places like Target as easily as they will a high end retailer. With women and men both working and raising a family there is little interest or time in silver for a young woman. High guality stainless is a fraction of the cost of silver and easier to take care of. Just throw it in the dishwasher and then in any old drawer.

People used to use silver every day because there was no stainless. Sterling needs to not compete with stainless. It will never win that battle. It should be presented as a special day item. I believe crystal is still selling well. It has always been for special occasions.

People in their 30's-40's would have more means to buy silver and more motivation to give beautiful family parties for their growing children and grandchildren to be.
Manufacturers should gear luxury items to this age group and that, in my opinion, is where manufacturers missed the boat. That is the time they become interested in nice family parties; not when they are young and trying to establish careers and find somewhere to live that they can afford.

Just my opinion

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-29-2006 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Sterling needs to not compete with stainless. It will never win that battle.

Actually sterling has one obscure advantage over stainless. Silver is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature. Stainless is not.

When your lips close over a cooked food serving, they do not feel cold metal if you use silver, either sterling or plate.

And silver can go into the dishwaster IF you use a liquid gel not a powder and do not heat dry the silver.

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Polly

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iconnumber posted 01-30-2006 12:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually, the heat-conductivity of silver can cut both ways. My husband refuses to use any of our delightful sterling or coin spoons for anything hot, such as soup. He says the handles burn his hand and the bowls burn his mouth.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-30-2006 01:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The silver makers need to work themselves out of the Bridal Registry trap they are in. It looks like the problem here is for all the limitations and restrictions that come with it, it is a profitable business for them.

And they are tied to a distribution network that can not easily be left behind. The opportunity get out of this situation is there, but whether or not they can sieze it remains at issue.

Anyone have thoughts on this?

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IJP

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iconnumber posted 01-30-2006 07:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've spoken often to my associates about the bridal market issue, and the consensus at which we arrived is that we can only expect those families (usually upper or upper-middle class) who have always chosen sterling to encourage their younger members to follow the same path. Nonetheless, I believe that dealers at the local level have the opportunity, if not the duty, to actively market silver as a very viable option to younger couples.

As an example, in my community there exist several places of business that cater specifically to the bridal market, whether in the field of wedding venues, bridalwear, wedding-event photography, etc. It is entirely conceivable, and not terribly cost-intensive, to cross-promote within these fields, even if it's only as simple a thing as to carry and display the business cards of such "sister"-entities and ask the same kind of promotion from them. I have found that this kind of grass-roots cross-promotion has been highly effective for other kinds of markets in my community, and I would expect comparable results.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the New Members Forum by rian, posted 01-31-2006 10:16 AM:
quote:
May I add my $0.02 to the discussion going on in the Silver Stories Forum? Perhaps by the time women marry today they have become too practical to suddenly fall in love with silver, so the pitch should be aimed at them when they are younger. I have only sons, but even boys appreciate the Old Baronial spoons, sturdy and with a fierce animal peeking over the handle. Visiting little girls love to have the princess cup and the princess spoon (anything with flowers and ruffles) and they like the animals too.

If you give silver as a baby present, it goes into a drawer and disappears forever. By age 6 to 10, a little girl might really like a fancy silver spoon as a gift to take care of and use on special occasions. Who knows, you could start a lifelong romance. I hope so since I've started giving them to neices and cousins. Anyone else doing this?

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 12:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Rian for this input. My experience as a dealer has always been that the majority of silver collectors are men. And my other impression is that for those filling in and matching, men tend to take a greater interest in the subject.

On a few occassions, after an appraisal of silver I encountered this general scenario. The owners say that none of the grandaughters are interested in it. I suggest they poll the grandsons. Usually they discover that one really likes the silver and wants it.

Which makes me wonder if all the ads aimed at women in the bridal magazines are really the way to go.

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dragonflywink

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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 01:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For many years, I've given various friends and family members small gift baskets with an interesting sterling spoon (often already engraved with their initial), a china cup & saucer or hand-thrown pottery mug, and a selection of their preferred beverage (coffee, tea or cocoa) along with some nibblies; couples get a pair. Haven't turned any of them into silver addicts yet, but am gratified that they still use them years later. Perhaps the most touching is my mother's almost daily use of the spoon given to her sister, retrieved after my aunt's passing.

Cheryl ;o)

[This message has been edited by dragonflywink (edited 01-31-2006).]

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Polly

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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 02:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I do this too. Or I'll dip apricots, crystallized ginger, or nuts in chocolate & fill an old sugar bowl with them, tie the lid on with a ribbon, and tie on a silver tongs or spoon for serving. And whenever I find a spoon with a friend's name or initials on it, I pass it on.

No silver converts yet either, but several happy friends.

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Paul Lemieux

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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 07:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not just flatware, but most areas of non-jewelry sterling are flatlining.

I think a large part of the problem is the perception of silver as old fashioned. In many ways, this is a correct assessment. Most silver companies aren't really lighting the world on fire with new designs. I think the last burst of creativity in the silver industry at large took place about 50 years ago.

Some companies--Buccellati and Christofle, for example--are at least doing something to set them apart. Buccellati's silver is of exquisite quality and it is well designed, often innovative. Christofle's is also well made and that company makes a lot of wonderful, modern designs.

But beyond quality of merchandise, companies also have to have a certain image, moreso now than ever, and not just silver companies. I think Gorham, Towle, Kirk-Stieff, etc. all lost their images years ago. Part of the reason is that many of these companies are now owned by large conglomerates like Lenox Brands or Syratech.

Christofle now projects a "sexy" image. Check out their website--the cover photo (which also graces the cover of their 06 catalog) is a black and white photograph of a pouty blonde applying lipstick while using a dinner knife's blade as a mirror. The site is enhanced by a chillout groove and Flash animation. Compare this to the bland and practically indistinguishable websites of Towle and Reed & Barton.

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IJP

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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 07:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for IJP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's interesting that you've observed that particular gender rift, Dale...

In my own experience, there are two distinct subsets of "collectors".

Insofar as patterned silver flatware, à la "Francis I" or "Chantilly", I have found that women more than dominate the market's consumer-base. There is a healthy component of male customers, but it doesn't nearly approach the other. However, it is true that the clientèle is strongly biased toward the elder. When young consumers do take part, it is generally, I feel, due largely to encouragement from their own elders. The mother has a pattern, ergo...

On the other hand, I find that men seem to be more involved in collecting such things as early American coin silver, or 1870s-1880s Aesthetic silver, or other specialized antique subcategories.

These are only my generalized observations, based on limited experience. But I'd love to hear the other members' take on this.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 01-31-2006 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My daughter plans on opening a large soup kitchen when I die -- buy a bowl, get a spoon. . .

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doc

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iconnumber posted 02-01-2006 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In this day and age, unfortunately, so few people are using their silver. I know a number of brides who did not register for silver because their parents or inlaws were going to give them the silver they got, since it wasn't being used any more.

And then there are those of us who are lucky enough to have parents who were in the antique trade. My mother started picking up pieces of Towle's Mary Chilton early on (which is fairly ubiquitous, but still a nice, simple pattern). She ended up giving my two sisters and me full sets of silver as wedding presents. They may have different initials on them, but I can have a dinner party for 16! I plan on doing the same for my stepdaughter.

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tmockait

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iconnumber posted 02-01-2006 07:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think that the decline in purchases of wedding silver and the subsequent falling off in range of choice has little or nothing to do with taste and everything to do with price. My wife and I faced this dilemma when we married 25 years ago. None of our friends could have afforded $250 a setting and few if any of our parents' friends would have been willing to pay so much. We did not register for china for the same reason.

As it turned out, we recieved my in-laws silver while they are still alive. Had we not, I cannot imagine we would ever have shelled out $2000 for silver.

Tom

PS I wonder if not going into deep debt to set up house and not needing an expensive setting to be happy had anything to do with being happily married for 25 years? Just a thought.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 02-02-2006 04:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Recently I packed up an estate where no one wanted the silver. But the family was interested in the Gorham stainless. Two sets of pre 1916 sterling and many interesting Aesthetic Movement pieces. Curious comment on things.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 02-07-2006 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been told or heard during several discussions over the years that the most recent decline of interest in silver was the impression that the effort required to clean and polish was previously provided by domestic servants. The expense from the mid to late sixties for domestic help has gone up considerably, and the "Working Mother" has no time to be polishing the family silver... or at least that’s was their logic for the decline…

Coming from a poor background, I never saw, used or ate with silver until I purchased my own, so I can neither confirm nor deny this from actual first hand observation.

"Smaug"

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hello

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iconnumber posted 03-05-2006 02:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hello     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a relatively young person, with a relatively young family (one year and half old daughter, and one yet-to-be known in 5 days (or so)), buying sterling never even crossed my mind. It is true that I simply don't have the means (at 450 canadian for some of the better place settings new), but also, they do not fall into my two rules. It better be incrediby cheap, so as not to be a waste of money, or hold it's value incredibly well, so as not to be a waste of money. People my age simply don't have the disposable income to justify it. Therefore, I would much rather collect the more exotic patterns made 100+ years ago. My generation simply does not care about sterling, and unless they had money to burn, or relatives to buy it for them, they would never buy new silver. I honestly can't think of any of my freinds that would want to spend big money on sterling, when other types do just as well.(but hey, I am canadian and so are my freinds so this may not mean much.) Another contributing factor is that people just don't have big families, or big dinner parties as consistant as might have been in the past. And the way fads and trends change nowadays, nothing seems to be too popular for much more than a week. Sterling doesn't fit along those lines, it is intended to last a lifetime.
One way I can see people appreciating silver once again is to show it as it is-an art form. I think this might be the only way you will convince people that it is worth investing in, as "art" holds value.

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sazikov2000

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iconnumber posted 03-05-2006 10:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for sazikov2000     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think all this is a result of the worldwide cultural decline in the last 50 years.

When I started to travel in the ex-Sovjet Union 1980, everybody wanted to sell silver (mostly plastic bags full of cutlery of so famous makers like Fabergé, Gratshev, Khlebnikov, Morosov, Sazikov etc.). Price: one Gramm-one Dollar! I bought what I could get, not believing my luck. After the business I was invited to the home of the seller (he wanted to celebrate his tremendous success, selling so much crap to an unknowing fool) to drink one or two (bottles) vodkas. In his home I saw that all his cutlery was heavy worn, ugly and cheap aluminum. When I asked him, why he did not change to the much better and nicer silver -he just did not understand what I asked!

To day (March 2006) we go to a restaurant, self service our food and eat it with the fingers - no cutlery!

Imagine, 50 years ago, someone had told you this story!

What a descent!

Sazikov 2000

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hello

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iconnumber posted 03-07-2006 11:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for hello     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At the same time, silver suffers from it's own negative connotations(no offence to anyone but...) titles such as "rise and fall of silver" or references to silver being great in the past and not in the present (which reinforces the idea that it is not stimulating in the present). Why not " Great Silver in America, past till present. Before I started collecting silver I thought it was plain style fiddle type or not much better. I have now learned that there is very much craftsmanship and beauty in silver. Why can't we talk about silvers beauty and potential today? That a vase that is 100+ years old can be obtained for 4000 or 5000, whereas to make that same vase today would cost 10000 or more, it shows that it is not meeting it's potential(I think even gorham's martele falls in this category). Again I must emphasize that selling patterns that have been around for 50+ years is fine, but why did american makers have success in the late 19th century? Because it was new, exciting and different. Today is no different. I suggest we must start emphasizing the positives of silver, not the negatives. When I show and tell freinds of mine my silver, I don't discuss what has caused silver to fall from favour, but why it is so interesting. (I collect mostly american silver, but believe this would apply to all silver.) Another good example of the mark missed is an add I seen in Modernism In American Silver by Jewel Stern(not by the author, just a picture of an add shows how silver was being promoted-it's an excellent book to those interested in modern silver). It is an add from the 50's 60's (or something like that) that weigh's the pro's and con'sof buying silver. In the positive side it actually suggest's that snob's are interested in silver "so what if you are a snob." Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Not even snobs like being called snobs, and secondly I have not met too many snobs that deal in silver(although I'm sure they are out there, just the same as there are snobs in ALL parts of society, high low or in between.) Basically, unless we as a community educate and inform the public in a positive manner, it will be difficult to change the perception of silver. This is why a living silversmith forum is such a good idea(especially if it can be viewed by public. I assume that is the plan?) So people can learn to appreciate the craftsmanship.

[This message has been edited by hello (edited 03-07-2006).]

[This message has been edited by hello (edited 03-07-2006).]

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salmoned

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iconnumber posted 03-08-2006 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for salmoned     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Frankly, I'm glad we can still purchase silver objects of interest for so little. I don't understand why we should want to promote this area of collecting, unless we're ready to sell off (which I am not!). I'm all for keeping it a bit of a secret... wink

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hello

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iconnumber posted 03-08-2006 07:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for hello     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
lol, true but whats the point of a collection that is hidden under a rock? Sharing is the whole point of collecting. Thinking about the 25 year sterling guarantee. "Sure I'll make it if you want, just give me your left arm and right leg." In today's times, where items are much more accessible through the internet, you would think this would be less of a concern.

[This message has been edited by hello (edited 03-08-2006).]

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Tad Hale

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iconnumber posted 03-10-2006 12:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tad Hale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think part of the problem with the silver companies is their lack of artists. Years ago craftsmen took pride in their work and their designs show it. Look at the old paper engravings, silver patterns, coins, paper money etc. These things were a work of art and to pay someone today, with these skills, would cost these companies a fortune.

Look at your old cars, they had chrome bumpers,chrome radio knobs and chrome door handles, today by cutting these costs, we now have plastic or rubber items to replace these with.

Look at the old Repousse Flatware or Holloware for example, some of these pieces are so sharp looking, you feel like the flowers will cut you. Today's repousse is pitiful. The flowers have rounded corners and are dull looking compared to these old pieces.

Silver has always been treasured for special occasions and people never wanted to use it everyday. The women always complained about cleaning it and if they used it everyday, that problem would never exist. What seems ironic to me, is that most of the women that complained, always had their maids polishing their silver for them.

Times have changed and the standards have gone more to casual than formal. The Older Generation is dying off and the New Generation is simply into Computers and Technology and do not have time to entertain.

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tmockait

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iconnumber posted 03-10-2006 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is another side of the proverbial silver coin here. Assembly line production did undermine craftsmanship, but it also made the amenities of life more available to ordinary people. Few newlyweds can afford mass produced sterling, how much would hand crafted pieces cost?!

Tom

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