Sterling Silver

For centuries, we’ve been attracted to silver and gold. These metals connote affluence; wealth and prestige.  We continually see metallic influences in ready-to-wear, interior design, even our cars and phones!  Sterling silver with its soft, buttery patina epitomizes this draw.

Sterling Silver flatware is highly collectable.  The pattern variety is endless, over 1,000 patterns have been designed and manufactured in the US alone!

It’s fun to collect a series of pieces or place settings of different patterns to create table interest.   I like to mix a variety of styles to add uniqueness to my table.  Serving pieces are where sterling silver REALLY gets interesting! Most of the most unusual pieces were developed in the Victorian era, with their affinity towards excess. (More on this later) A cracker spoon, almond scoop, lettuce fork!?  My favorite?  The food pusher! This is one interesting piece of silverware. In Victorian society it was rude for anyone, even children, to touch food with their hands. Children were given food pushers to help them push their dinner onto their forks!

Sterling Silver flatware
Sterling Silver Food Pusher

I buy most of my sterling in antique shops, loving the thrill of the hunt. I actually prefer monogrammed pieces imagining the story behind each, who owned it.  How did this piece come to be sold? What happened to the rest of the set?  Honestly, the odder and more fascinating the piece, the more I want it on my table!

Sterling Silver Serving Pieces
Sterling Silver

You can also purchase pieces on several reputable sites. These sites are also a great way to educate yourself, researching the patterns you’ve found.

There are also multiple great books on Sterling Silver patterns –

Sterling Silver reference books
Sterling Silver reference books



Patterns often reflect the economic and social situations when they were made –

Edwardian – Styles were soft and elegant.

Mid 18th Century Rococo Silver – flamboyant, inspired by England’s court of George II and France’s Louis XV.

Federal Style – Popular during the founding years of the United States, classical and symmetrical.  Think Paul Revere, one of the most famous silversmiths, and how utilitarian his designs were.

Victorian Era – (1840 – 1900) THIS IS WHERE STERLING SILVER REALLY GETS INTERESTING!   Patterns indulged in grand excess showing a mixing of historic styles, with strong Asian and Middle East influence.  Victorian homes had a clear separation between public and private rooms.  The Dining Room was the second most important room in the home, after the Parlor.  Both rooms allowed homeowners to “showcase” their home.  By the 1830’s the factories of the Industrial Revolution were mass producing sterling silver patterns and the individual silversmith artisan slowly faded. Sterling silver could be “stamped” from sheets of sterling with stunning perfection on both front and back. Due to this mass production, Victorian patterns are the majority found today. This time of affluence and excess found sterling flatware with very specific functions.  Most of us are familiar with ladles however, silversmiths made ladles for specific purposes; bullion, cream, gravy, oysters, punch, etc.  There were different spoons for nuts, berries, bon bons, claret, mustard, and chocolate, pointed spoons to eat grapefruit, small demi-tasse spoons.  Imagine just how complicated setting the dining room table was?

Art Nouveau – Most popular between 1890 and 1910, rebelling against the Industrial Revolution with natural motifs and flowing asymmetrical curves inspired by the curved lines of plants and flowers.

Arts and Crafts continued this trend with toned down ornamentation.  Pulling from Medieval, Romantic, and Folk influenced, the Arts and Crafts movement is essentially anti-industrial.  Beginning in Britain, it was strongest from 1880 to the 1920’s.

Art Deco –  Rose to prominence in the first half of the 20th century influenced by Cubism and more modern styling. Think NYC’s Chrysler Building, THE monument to Art Deco.


American silverware has been made since our beginning, first starting out as “Coin” Silver. Sterling silver was rare in colonial America.  From around 1830 to 1850, silver was often marked CD, Coin or Pure Coin.  It doesn’t necessarily mean coins were melted down, (although they often were) but that the silver was the same purity as coins then circulated.  These silver items were hand made.

However, the Victorian era with its affinity towards excess, layered with the Industrial revolution, launched Sterling Silver onto the map.  “Sterling” silver was born around 1860, and more widely after the Civil War. A piece marked “sterling” means it is 925 parts pure silver out of 1000 parts metal.  This is a U.S. Government mandate.  The “sterling” mark was required on sterling silver produced after 1907.

Silver of other countries is controlled as well, although English and American silver has to have a higher % of pure silver. English Sterling, like American is 92.5% Silver, 925 out of 1000 parts. In Europe, this formula varies by country.  German silver is 80% pure, Russian, 84%, etc.   The attached link is a great resource for researching your American or foreign silver……….


The discovery of a very rich silver deposit, The Comstock Lode in 1859, made Sterling Silver affordable for the middle class.  Sterling Silver flatware was one way the middle class could show they had “arrived”.

Sterling vs Silver Plate

In 1847, Rogers Bros. Silversmiths developed silver-plate, an electroplating process of binding sterling silver to a base metal.  This brought silver to most of the classes.  However, as Sterling Silver flatware will last a lifetime, silver-plate will usually last only 20 years, until the finish has worn off.  I have a few silver-plate pieces and you can definitely tell the difference.


Unfortunately for sterling flatware collectors, Silver hit $50.00/ounce in 1980 and many antique pieces were lost to smelting.  (As comparison, today finds silver at $18.04/oz.)  Many unique and handmade pieces were lost.  This fact has increased the antique value of sterling which has remained.


The Complex Psychology of Buying a Home

Homes come with far more emotional weight than any other investment we make.

Our home is a refuge from the world, a place to raise your family, layered with memories and cherished belongings.  We fall in love with a home the way we never would with a stock portfolio.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the physical features of the houses you’re considering.  However, please stop to contemplate how the places you’re interested in would shape your families social relationships, both within and outside the family. One of the biggest tradeoffs is commuting.  People focus on a home that’s a certain size style, or town ignoring the fact they want to spend as much time as possible with family.  That “Perfect” house may require a longer commute, keeping them away from home for an extra hour or two each working day!

Additionally, when looking at affordability, please include the costs of any renovations or new furniture you may need / want.  When you’re thinking about a house, think about  furnishings and remodeling costs at the same time. More importantly, please keep in mind whether you’re buying in a higher or lower housing market.

I always advise my buyers not to extend themselves. “Never be house poor!”  You never know how some “event” will affect the economy or your family.  Also, if you have children sometimes they get quite expensive.  They could be the next Olympic gymnast requiring extensive training or possibly they may have special needs with costly medical expenses or necessary supports.

Home Sweet Home
Buyer’s Psychology: Home Sweet Home


Dr. Robert Shiller, a professor of economics at Yale wrote an analysis of housing prices and associated spending –

To quote his abstract:

“We re-examine the links between changes in housing wealth, financial wealth, and consumer spending…observing the thirty-seven year period, 1975 through 2012Q2. Using techniques reported previously, we impute the aggregate value of owner-occupied housing, the value of financial assets, and measures of aggregate consumption for each of the geographic units over time. We estimate regression models in levels, first differences and in error-correction form, relating per capita consumption to per capita income and wealth. We find a statistically significant and rather large effect of housing wealth upon household consumption. This effect is consistently larger than the effect of stock market wealth upon consumption.

The results presented here with the extended data now show that declines in house prices stimulate large and significant decreases in household spending.

The elasticities implied by this work are large. An increase in real housing wealth comparable to the rise between 2001 and 2005 would, over the four years, push up household spending by a total of about 4.3%. A decrease in real housing wealth comparable to the crash which took place between 2005 and 2009 would lead to a drop of about 3.5%.” Shiller – Wealth Effects Abstract – p. 2013

He wrote about recent home buyers around the country and their expectations on future values of their homes.  He also found most home buyers have very high long-term price expectations.  This could lead to someone buying a home not because it’s a good fit, but because a buyer deems it as a good investment. Some even plan on using the equity in their homes to fund their retirement.  Remember, you still need a place to live in retirement!

Stay conservative my friends!!


Mixing – Classic meets Contemporary

Your home is a collection….a layered timeline of your experiences, interests, and points of view. Your life isn’t one dimensional, why should your home be? Fill your home with objects that reflect your passions.

Mixing textures, colors, styles, weights.

This Paris apartment was recently featured in one of my favorite design blogs –  Habitually Chic Blogspot.  It’s a fantastic example of mixing – the more traditional gold leaf and ornate moldings with the pop of color and clean lines injected by the contemporay art piece.  This color “pop” literally pulls your eye from the painting on the left,,,across the contemporary surfboard table with colorful ceramic vases,,,over to the turquoise clear glass on the right.  This room has fabulous movement,  color movement, textural interest, light play provided by the mirror and window.

Suzanne Kasler tablescape
A Suzanne Kasler tablescape

Here’s mixing on a smaller scale. A tablescape by Suzanne Kasler, an Atlanta based interior designer. A tablescape is a vignette, a lifestyle shot. A brief, but powerful scene that leaves you wanting more. Here she combines the modern textural metal pieces with a more traditional painting, and honestly, what’s more classic than Leonardo da Vinci?  The colors and textures play beautifully here.

Whether mixing an entire room, or just a vignette the result is well balanced, shows depth, and it a piece of art in it’s own right.

Classic meets Contemporary
Classic meets Contemporary from Veranda J/F ’16

Here’s a simple, but very impactful example. Antique chairs with the contemporary art piece above.  The linear chair backs “frame” the art above.

Included below are other wonderful examples.

Modern and Antique
Modern art with antique silver pieces
Classic meets Contemporary
My favorite Suzanne Kasler vignette

This theme can also be carried outdoors.

Fontana di Trevi in Rome is a stunning combination of the original Baroque architecture by Nicola Salvi and scupltor Peitro Bracci.  Built in 1762, the fountain was recently upgraded and restored (thanks to Fendi!), adding state-of-the-art LED lighting giving a bit of dramatic sparkle.

Rome's Fontana di Trevi
Classic meets Contemporary
A 1762 fountain gets LED lighting
Lis Bustamiante
Classic meets Contemporary outdoors!

Here, Luis Bustamante, a Madrid  interior designer added colorful contemporary art on top of a stairway framed with antique stone urns