Silver demitasse spoons stir up different valuations

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson
Posted2/9/2013 5:51 AM
  • Spoon-collecting was once a common hobby, and the examples in today's question are interesting.

    Spoon-collecting was once a common hobby, and the examples in today's question are interesting. SHNS photo courtesy Joe Rosson and Helaine Fendelm

Q. These pictures are of demitasse spoons that have been passed down in my family. A set of five spoons is heavily engraved with a floral pattern and belonged to my great-grandmother, who was married in 1867. The spoons are marked "Sterling 925/1000 Patent." A second set -- of three spoons -- belonged to her daughter and bear her married-name initials. There are three undecipherable symbols on the back and the word "sterling." A set of eight spoons is from my late mother-in-law and are marked "Benedict Mfg. Co." The first set was supposedly made in New Orleans. Any information?

A. Let's start with the newest set -- the largest and the one marked "Benedict Mfg. Co." Of these three sets, this is the only one that was not made from sterling silver, but is, in fact, silver-plated.

Benedict Manufacturing was founded in East Syracuse, N.Y., in 1894 and continued to produce silver-plated wares for the public until 1942, when the company converted to making military wares. It went out of business in 1953.

The eight Benedict spoons belonging to M.J.G. were probably made during the second quarter of the 20th century -- or perhaps the early third quarter. Unfortunately, the spoons have only a modest insurance value on the current market, and if they are indeed demitasse size, the value is probably less than $25 for the eight; teaspoon size would be $15 to $20 more.

For the next grouping of spoons, the "undecipherable symbols" (a lion, an anchor and a fancy "G") belong to the prestigious Gorham Manufacturing Co. of Providence, R.I. Gorham was founded by Jabez Gorham, who began his apprenticeship with Nehemiah Dodge at age 14 in 1806.

The first enterprise to bear his name was Gorham and Webster, which was in business from 1831 to 1837. Gorham and Co. was founded in 1852, and after several name changes, is still in business.

M.J.G.'s three spoons appear to be in Gorham's "Luxembourg" pattern, which was first made in 1893. Monogrammed teaspoons in this pattern are worth (at retail) about $32 each, while demitasse-size examples fetch $15 each.

The third set is really the most interesting because the spoons appear to have the most beautiful decoration. The marking "Sterling 925/1000 Patent" does not tell us the manufacturer, but the fancy raised floral design is reminiscent of items manufactured by Samuel Kirk and Son (sometimes "Sons"). Kirk (now Kirk Steiff) of Baltimore has been in business since the early 1800s.

The spoons in today's question are reminiscent of Kirk's "Repoussé" pattern, but this design was popular and inspired the work of other silversmiths and silver-making companies. We believe these spoons were made in the third quarter of the 19th century after sterling silver (which is 925 parts silver per 1,000 parts of metal) became the standard for silver made in the United States after the Civil War.

It is a shame the manufacturer did not mark these three spoons with its logo because that would have raised their value considerably. Even as they are, this lovely grouping of five is worth $200 to $250 for insurance purposes.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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