Wednesday, April 20, 2011

British Decorative silver styles and dates - part 2

From Gold and Silver Hallmarks

To understand and collect Silver it is important to handle and view as much of it as you can.

By examining and comparing Silver close up you can see and notice details that can’t be conveyed in a picture.

It is also important to have an understanding of the historical styles of the silversmiths. This helps to classify silver and also to date the Silver you are looking at.

Although not all the styles are listed here, the list that follows represents the most popular British silver decorative styles.


There was more silverware made in the 19th Century than ever before or after, the middle classes had a new found wealth and the British Empire was at its height.  The Industrial revolution was transforming the old craft trades and innovations by plate manufacturers meant great competition for the traditional silversmiths who were still making by hand.

The 18th century passion for antiquarianism continued into the early Victorian era, stimulating a revival of several historic styles that all flourished simultaneously. Naturalism was added to the rococo, gothic, neoclassical etc. styles that were popular and could be seen in abundance at the Great Exhibitions.  Towards the end of the century there came about the Arts and Crafts movement as a reaction against the stylized and mass produced articles now typical  of the period.


At the beginning of the 1800s experimental work from London influenced the world. The use of nature in neoclassical decoration now lost its symmetry and formality. Natural forms were not only used as decoration but also took over the whole structure.

This is a predominant feature especially between 1825-1850 and at the Great Exhibition of 1851  naturalism ran riot through the English Section.  Botanical interest was very high at this time and developments in travel introduced exotic plants and flowers this was also the time when landscape gardens were very popular for pleasure and social functions and this enthusiasm is reflected in the ornamentation of silver.


This style can be characterized by a boldness of form and echoes of medieval architecture, such as spires, pointed arches and cast figures.  It enjoyed a limited vogue and was mostly confined to ecclesiastical silver although it was used in moderation on domestic pieces.

Part 3 Victorian and later Styles
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