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Antiques Considered - December 16, 2009

This week we have some interesting sterling silver pieces from a family in the lower Northern Neck.  The owner apologizes that they need polishing, and asks about the markings.  The tumblers read "Sterling 950", and the water pitcher simply states "Sterling."  The tumblers are six inches high, and the pitcher 7 & ½ inches.
    All of these pieces are mid-twentieth century.  The water pitcher is American and the tumblers are Japanese.  Whenever one sees the "950" in the hallmark, the piece is Japanese.  In this case the tumblers probably come from the early post-war period, and were made for the American market.  The inscription being in English makes that point very clearly.

    Japanese sterling is slightly higher in pure silver content, with American sterling being at 925.  German silver is marked "800", and Hungarian usually reads "600."  These numbers indicate the silver content, thus Japanese is     95 % silver, whereas Hungarian is only 60% silver content.
     Despite the higher content, the Japanese silver does not do as well on the market.  These tumblers are worth $100. each, with the value going up as silver increases on the spot market.  The pitcher is typical American silver, and could come from a variety of manufacturers in the United States.  Some refer to this style as a helmet pitcher, in that it resembles a Roman military helmet upside down.
    Given its classic water pitcher form, this piece would do well on the market and is worth $350.  All of these pieces are worth more because they do not bear any monograms or inscriptions.  Granted in antique silver from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, monograms and engravings can add to the value, but for more modern pieces such as these, being plain is better.
    I suggest keeping them polished as a means of retarding pitting.  We polish silver by immersing it in warm water with plain granular Tide laundry detergent, in a sink lined with aluminum foil with the dull side exposed.  The process removes the initial tarnish, after which we polish with a good past polish.  We never use the prepared liquid dip solutions as they leave the silver with a yellowish tint.
    Happy Antiquing!
 

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