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Metals (S) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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SAD WARE: Flat articles in pewter, such as plates, dishes, chargers and trenchers, were known as sad ware.

SALTS (SALT CELLARS): Among the rarest pieces of old silver and pewter is the ceremonial "salt," the principal article of domestic plate in early English houses of whatever degree, and the salt cellar was an honored guest at every feast. Many of the customs surrounding its usage emanate from the medieval manners of the European continent. The salt cellars known as standing salts were large, monumental in design, marking, by their presence, the upper and lower table. By the middle of the 17th century the position of the standing salt lost its significance. Supplementary to these salts were the trencher salts, used at the lower end of the table and by the side of the trencher, probably the style first used here in the Colonial period. These were small in size and made in various forms of pewter and of silver. The circular salts with three feet and the salts with the glass lining belong to the Georgian period.

SALVER: A tray on which anything is presented. Salvers were seldom used in. churches, where the paten or tazza served the purpose of passing the ceremonial bread.

SCONES: In early use here for a support and reflector far candles, and hung on the wall; usually, at first, made of tin, sometimes of brass, and in various shapes. It is quite difficult to find two alike and it is quite impossible to allocate the period or locality of manufacture. They superseded the "Betty" lamp of earlier days. Silver sconces were popular in England last half of the 17th century, and during the 18th century they were made here for the homes of the wealthy. These last may be identified by makers' marks.

SCOTTISH PEWTER: See Old Pewter, Its Makers and Marks in England, Scotland and Ireland, COTTERELL.


SCREWS: The earliest use of screws here was about 1725. In England, their use dates from late in the 17th century. They were hand-made with coarse threads and the slots in the top were of uneven depth and frequently off -center. They were cut off squarely at the lower end so that it was necessary to drill a hole for them before using. It was not until the middle of the 19th century, long after machine-made screws were made, that the gimlet-pointed screw appeared.

SHEFFIELD PLATE: Sheffield plate is artistically the most satisfactory substitute for silver yet discovered, according to Frederick Bradbury, considered to be the best authority on old Sheffield. It differs from all other plated ware in that the plating is done on the sheet metal, usually copper, before the article to be made is formed. The process was discovered by accident by Thomas Boulsover, a Sheffield cutter, in 1742, and soon after Joseph Hancock set up a factory at Sheffield for the manufacture of domestic ware, and smaller articles. The ware became popular, others began to make it, and the manufacture of Sheffield plate grew to large dimensions, until electroplating, developing about 1840, displaced it. Factories opened in Birmingham and London and in France, and the term Sheffield was applied to the production of these factories as well.

For about sixty years the plating was on one side of the copper only until a process was discovered that plated the metal on both sides at the same time. The most artistic as well as the most prolific period was from 1774 to 1784. In 1785 a method of finishing cut edges by a silver wire was invented. Gadroon and bead edges, stamped in rolled plate, were a favorite form of decoration on early pieces. The interiors of bowls, pitchers and cups were sometimes gilded. Before 1784, Sheffield plate is unmarked, after which marking was made legally permissible. There was no system like the hall-mark on English silver to distinguish the makers. Between 1784 and 1836, fifty-one manufacturers at Sheffield and seventy-four at Birmingham registered their marks, and occasional specimens are found bearing the stamped marks of the manufacturer. The majority of fine Sheffield pieces are unmarked. The Sheffield Assay Office published in 1908 a list of the marks recorded with them.

SILVER: Working in silver is one of the oldest arts and crafts of man, and the manners and customs of its users are reflected in the purposes for which it was made. The work of the craftsman in silver of medieval times has never since been excelled, perhaps not equaled. There were two principal reasons for this condition: first, the rivalry between royalty and nobility in splendor of display called for many elaborate decorative pieces. Also, the Church of the Middle Ages required much silver and gold work. The second reason is that all of these wonderful pieces could only be made by hand and the cost of labor in those days was inconsequential. Today, it would be prohibitive. Nearly all of this silver has been lost or destroyed by wars, invasion, and the fierce contests in the name of religion.

Articles of silverware may be broadly classified as domestic and ecclesiastical. The first includes silver for drinking purposes, table accessories, containing or pouring, and silver for miscellaneous household and personal uses. Ecclesiastical silver includes chalices, patens, beakers, flagons, cups, bowls, basins and plates. The collector of antique silver should rely upon a responsible dealer in making his selections unless he is exceptionally well informed. English silver of the 18th and early 19th centuries is copied by modern makers and the hallmarks of the period are forged. Genuine old silver is altered in shape, "transformed" into pieces much more desirable.

American Silver. More silverware was produced in New England in the 17th century than in any other colony, and it not only was of a very high quality, but it followed the changes in English design quite closely. Boston silversmiths took the lead, and the energy and skill which they displayed as craftsmen brought them not only commercial success, but official posts. John Hull, with his partner Robert Sanderson, heads the list and these men, together with Jeremiah Dummer, John Coney and Edward Winslow, kept Boston in the lead not only in the production of silver through the first half of the 18th century, but they also excelled in quality. At the same time, the work of the silversmiths in Newport, New York and Philadelphia gained prestige in their respective communities. Samuel Vernon of Newport, Peter Van Dyck and Jacob Boelen of New York, and Philip Syng, father and son, of Philadelphia, were among the most prominent of these. The New England silversmith patterned after English silver, the New York silver of the 17th and 18th centuries never loses the mark of its Dutch ancestry, and Philadelphia silver of the 18th century developed certain distinctive features of its own.

Most of the early silver was made from coin, which was melted and refined to the desired standard. An addition of copper was used to toughen it. Drinking vessels, tankards, mugs, beakers, caudle-cups and flagons, formed the chief group of silver utensils of the early New England and New York silversmiths.

Candlesticks of the 17th and early 18th century are extremely rare. In making hollow ware, the metal was rolled or hammered into thin sheets and beaten with a mallet into desired shapes on an anvil. After this, surface decoration, engraving, chasing, piercing or repousse work was added. The beauty of these early American pieces depends partly upon the form, partly upon the decoration, and partly upon the beautiful color and surface modeling. Early silver possesses a soft lustrous color or texture, unapproachable in modern ware. It may be likened to patina on old furniture. Incidentally, buffing, the process by which old silver is sometimes polished nowadays, is harmful to the surface and should never be employed.

Early American silver is thoroughly characteristic of the taste and life of the period in America. There was no attempt to imitate the magnificent baronial silver formerly made in England. It is dependent for its undoubted charm on the simplicity of its lines and graceful forms, without the prodigality of ornament which mars the beauty of much contemporary European work. During the period from 1650 (the earliest known dated piece is by Hull and Sanderson, 1659) to the end of the 18th century, the names of several hundred American silversmiths have been recorded and the list is probably by no means yet complete. Until recent years it was taken for granted that most of the old silver to be seen in this country was English, but careful study of the subject reveals the fact that comparatively little is English. Of about 2000 pieces of church silver, 1640 are found to be by American makers, and to a great extent donated to the churches by their original owners, by means of which they have been preserved to the present time. In an article printed in Harper's Monthly Magazine in 1896, written by DR. TmoDoxE W. WooLSEY, the field of old American silver was first called to the attention of collectors. Splendid specimens are to be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Garvan collections at Yale and Andover.

Continental Silver. The use of silver, as of gold, for luxurious purposes, was common in all of the Continental countries during the Middle Ages and later, and many magnificent things were produced. Of these, some were enameled and enriched with pearls and precious stones. All of those countries have suffered losses of immeasurable value, particularly in those things made for secular use. One of the pieces that escaped destruction, known as the "Cup of the Kings of France and England," is one of the great treasures of the British Museum in London. It was probably made in Paris about 1380, by a goldsmith and enameler unsurpassed in technical skill by any modern craftsman.

The early royal plate of France, as well as all other plate, was converted into coin by Louis XIV in 1687 for the prosecution of his wars, and he prohibited the further making of it. In Holland serious losses of old plate are recorded and in Italy nothing now remains of the splendid plate made for the Medici by the great goldsmiths of Florence. No other country suffered more severe losses in secular plate; precious objects in gold and silver were consigned to the crucible without a pang. In Poland, precious objects in gold and silver were lost in the division of the country in 1794. All of the great treasures of Spain of the time of its great wealth in the 16th century have been converted into coin, and the Royal collection of today contains no Spanish plate of that century, nor is a representative collection to- be seen in any Spanish museum. An interesting account, together with many illustrations of surviving Continental silver, giving also the names of a large number of silversmiths of European countries, including England, is to be found in Old Silver of Europe and America by E. ALFRED JONES, M.A. See French Silver.

English Silver. One reason for the high regard in which English silver is held is because of the precautions which have been taken to keep its standard high and to prevent counterfeiting. The "Sterling" (q.v.) standard, consisting of 925 parts of silver alloyed with 75 parts copper, has been maintained with a few brief exceptions, since 1300, in the reign of Edward I. In the three or four centuries preceding the Reformation, the wealth of gold and silver in the shrines and treasuries of the cathedrals and abbeys was immense, so immense as to be almost incredible. Comparatively few examples of this work now remain, those of any importance very few indeed. Little or no communion plate of any kind is now to be found in the cathedrals older than the Restoration Period, and the Wars of the Roses were to secular plate what the iconoclastic zeal of the Reformation was to the treasuries of the church. Finally the Civil War of the first half of the 17th century, and the Royal need for money in the last half, nearly completed the destruction of all old plate, gold or silver. The capture of Spanish silver-laden vessels from the New World by English sea captains in the 16th and 17th centuries, which served to replenish the silver stock in England, was the source from which much of the destroyed plate of that period was made. The earliest silver consisted mainly of flagons, cups, spoons and chalices. Mazer bowls (q.v.) of the 15th and 16th centuries are among the comparatively few things that escaped destruction. The first example of tankards recorded is about 1650, and from that time onward silver has been used for an ever increasing number of purposes.

The bulk of English plate from the 14th century on was hall-marked, that is, stamped with certain Guild Hall marks, which was a guarantee of its quality and lawful manufacture. Besides these hall-marks (q.v.), there was the date (year) and the mark of the maker, registered with the Goldsmiths' Company of London. It has been estimated that over ninety per cent of old English silver bears the London hall-mark. This method of marking English silver has been the means of identifying and dating old examples with far greater accuracy than is the case with any other work of the early craftsmen that has come down to our time. The standard work on the subject is English Goldsmiths and Their Marks by SIR CHARLES J. JACKSON. Another excellent authority is Old Silver and Old Sheffield Plate, HOWARD P. OXIE. Old English Plate Marks by W. J. CRZPPs contains a reliable history of the beginning and the gradual development of this important branch of art craftsmanship. Since the Restoration the work of the English silversmith compared favorably with the best of those on the Continent, and influenced to some extent the work of our own Colonial silversmiths. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France in 1685, many of the best French workmen fled to England, and some of the best of English silver from the time of William and Mary and Queen Anne bears the names of those workmen. During the period from 1720 to 1765 the silver produced in England has never since been surpassed for beauty of outline and ornamentation, doubtless influenced to some extent by French designs.

French Silver. Old French silver is imperfectly known, and much history of French silver remains to be written. The comparatively few pieces that have survived bear witness to the technical and artistic excellence of the work of the French silversmith. Many of the finest pieces of their work are to be found in collections in foreign countries.

Domestic silver of the 18th century and before is exceedingly rare. The marks on French silver are of three kinds: the silversmith's mark, the date mark, and the duty mark. A brief but quite comprehensive account of the work of the French silversmith is contained in Old Silver of Europe and America by E. ALFRED JONES. For marks consult Old Silver and Old Sheffield Plate, OKIE, and A Guide to Old French Plate by Louis CARRE.

Irish Silver. Old records show that goldsmiths were working in Dublin in the 13th century, but the earliest Irish marks are those of a maker in Dublin in 1605. Dublin was the center of the silversmiths and in 1637 the Goldsmiths of Dublin were chartered by Charles I. The standard mark is the harp, used with the crown added to it. Other marks were used, varying with the date, showing that the duty had been paid, the maker's device, and the date letter. Marks of all known Irish silversmiths are listed in Old Silver and Old Sheffield Plate Dy OKIE.

Scottish Silver. The manufacture of silver in Scotland extends back to the 15th century, and, in comparison with England, seems to have covered a wider area. Edinburgh was the chief center for assaying silver, although many towns and burghs also did so. The art of the silversmith in Scotland has always been on a high level, and the statutes governing the marks are many in number. The identification of Scottish silver requires close study of an intricate field. There were no marks struck on Scotch silver before 1457. For a complete list of marks consult Old Silver and Old Sheffield Plate by OKIE.

SILVERSMITHS: An extensive list of names of American silversmiths may be found in American Silversmiths and Their Marks by ENSxo. For English silver, English Goldsmiths and Their Marks by SIR CHARLES J. JACKSON is regarded as the best authority.

SKILLET: An iron utensil of the early fireplace. It was the equivalent of the modern saucepan but the term is, however, applied without much distinction apparently to various pots as well as pans.


SNUFF-BOXES: Made in many materials, common and precious, in many countries, especially during the 18th century.

SOLDER: A metal or metallic alloy of low melting-point, used when melted to join metallic surfaces.

SPANDERLS: Term for the irregular triangular spaces formed by the outlines of the circular face of the clock and square corners. At first the decorations were of cast brass, carefully chased and finished with hand tools; later, the tool work was omitted. When the painted clock-dial came into use these decorations were painted also. The form and design of the ornaments in these spaces are, to a certain extent, an indication of the age of the clock.

SPIDER: The term applied to cast-iron frying pans with handles, originally made with short legs. When the kitchen range became common, the legs were omitted.

SPINNING: A lathe process by which a thin plate of metal, rotating rapidly, is forced to take the shape of a wooden core.

SPLICE: The splice was a fireplace tool in Colonial days, with a broad, flattened end and a rather long handle, used to remove bread or pies from the brick oven.

SPOONS: The spoon is an utensil of very great antiquity. During the Roman period spoons were often elaborately carved and turned. Throughout the Middle Ages spoons were quite plain, those for use by common folk being made of wood or horn. In England, during the 14th and 15th centuries, they became more elaborate, and handle terminals were ornamented with busts and figures. Sets of thirteen spoons were made of silver or of pewter from the end of the 15th century through the 16th century, with the handle terminal ornamented with figures of the Apostles, with appropriate symbol for the purpose of identifying each. At the present time but five complete sets are known to be in existence, although many partial sets and single spoons are to be seen in the Museums. Spoons were made of bronze, pewter and latten (q.v.) during this period for ordinary use, because of their low cost compared with silver. Early spoons of silver are among the rarest pieces of English hall-marked plate in existence. In the evolution of the spoon to its modern form, it passed through many interesting stages, in the shape of both the handle and the bowl, so that these are usually a reliable index of the period of origin. Most metal spoons before 1650 had slender hexagonal handles and broad, fig-shaped bowls. Some of the handles had a seal-top in which the stems terminate by means of a disc on the end; others, the maiden-head, so called, from the bust of the Virgin used at the end of the stem. There were other variations also. The stem became gradually thinner and flatter and broadened at its tip, until in the 18th century it became down-curving. Some had a round, slender and tapering support on the under side of the bowl, called a "rat-tail," first seen about 1660 and lasting for 70 to 80 years. At length, its place was taken by a simple scroll, the bowl became pointed as in the modern spoon, and the handle took on the well-known "coffin" shape, which was popular through the last half of the 18th century. A curious custom prevailed in connection with these spoons, thought to be an English Puritan tradition. Two of these spoons were given to the friends helping at the time of a burial, which is given as the reason that they are usually found in pairs. In England they were called funeral spoons. What are known as tea spoons and dessert spoons were not made until the last half of the 17th century. Marrow spoons had unusually long and very narrow bowls, used to scoop marrow from bones.

SEALTOP TRIFID COFFIN: The study of spoons of American make is more difficult than that of old English spoons because there is no date-letter to establish the exact age. Those of the Colonial period were usually made of metal coin, they were crude in design with flat stems, oval bowl, most of them rat-tailed. Gradually, the form changed until, at the end of the 18th century, spoons were dainty in shape. The word "Sterling" appears on all American spoons after about 1865.

SPOUT CUP: A silver cup with cover usually, and handle, and with spout at right angle for infants' and invalids' drinking purposes, more popular in New England than in England, where the form originated about the middle of the 17th century, but was seldom made there. It was rarely, if ever, made in New York or Philadelphia. It was sometimes called feeding cup.

STANDING CUP: In use from early English times for wine. In wealthy families they were of silver or of gold and very costly. With the lower classes, cups of "treen" (wood) were common. Standing cups, when well proportioned, are among the most delightful shapes wrought by the silversmith. When made with covers, they were called hanaps (q.v.).

STERLING: The term "sterling" is probably derived from the name of the German tribe of Easterling, famous for the purity of its silver coin in the Middle Ages. Sterling is 925 parts fine; that is, it contains 11 ounces, 2 pwts. of pure silver and 18 pwts. alloy in every 12 ounces, or troy pound. This was essentially the standard of all early English silver. During the Colonial period in America, no general laws were passed to establish a standard for silversmiths, but their silver conforms generally to the English standard. As a group these early silversmiths were recognized as men of honor and integrity, and they justified their reputation. It was not until about 1865 that the law compelling silversmiths to adhere to the sterling standard and to stamp the product with the word sterling was adopted in this country. See HALL-MARKS.

STIPPLED: Marked all over the surface with little dots.

STOVE: One of the earliest improvements over the fireplace for heating purposes was the so-called Franklin stove, designed by Benjamin Franklin in 1742. It was a cast-iron structure with an open front and either a grate for burning coal or with andirons for burning wood, that could either be fitted into the fireplace and the surrounding space bricked up, or projected into the room and connected with a flue by means of a stove-pipe. This last was the usual arrangement. As time passed, several improvements were made in the original design and legs were added. The cast-iron box stove was invented a few years after and came into common use. Early in the 19th century cylindrical sheet-iron stoves were first made.

STOVE PLATES: These were used in a section of the chimney adjoining the fireplace to give heat to a room on the opposite side. This form of heating was called a "jamb" stove and it was the forerunner of the box stove. The stove plate is a slab of cast-iron, often confused with the fire back, about two feet square and, if decorated by relief design, was one of the plates exposed in the room. There were five plates as a rule, sometimes six, and this method of heating came into use in some parts of this country about the middle of the 18th century. The majority of them must be ascribed to Pennsylvania.

SUGAR BOWLS: These came into use as a distinctive piece of silver in the last half of the 18th century, when they were made to conform in design with that of the tea-pot. Previous to that time sugar or comfiture boxes, some of them very elaborate, were made by several of the Colonial silversmiths.

SUN DIAL: An ancient instrument for telling time, but limited to those days that the sun shone. They were made both in stationary and in portable form, some of the latter in size for the pocket.