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Antique Silver Tankards

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Silver tankards were made in this country from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. The earliest type had a broad flat base, straight tapering sides, and a flat lid with a thumbpiece to raise it. The handle was S-shaped and ended in a shield-shaped end or tip. Lip and base were usually molded. Sometimes this molding had a line of leaves or other embellishment. Often there were molded ornaments on the back of the handle.

Later styles show one or more bands on the body of the tankard. The cover was rounded out with a finial. The end of the handle was made in the form of a cherub, eagle, or other decorative device.

Tankards vary in size, but the earliest types are usually large. As in all silver, a tendency toward height and slenderness appeared in the late eighteenth century. The tankards also grew higher and more graceful, and the body was beautifully curved.

Study carefully the various thmbpieces on tankards. Although they were for use,the sliversmith combined use with beauty when he made them. It is interesting to note where tankards were made and to discover the details used repeatedly by one maker or by makers in one section of the country.

Tankards made in New England are usually simpler than those from New York, where designs were essentially sturdy. Tankards made by craftsmen with Dutch background were often ornamented with a decoration known as cut-card work-small strips of applied silver suggesting lace. With a little study it is easy to recognize these regional characteristics.