Hi. I'm trying to learn more about these small cups I recently acquired. There are no trade markings or numbers, so I'm completely stumped as to period, origin, composition, and method, but I'm intrigued by these cups and would like to learn more.
There are what look like seams on opposite sides of each cup, on the outsides only. Are these just marks from where the two halves of a mold closed/joined perhaps? Is this a sign of poor quality, or a common byproduct of this process?
Are there any tests for a layperson to determine whether a piece is plated or sterling? There is a gold wash (electroplate? is there a difference?) that has partially worn away from the interior of three of the cups, and the metal beneath that is silver as well.
The cups are weighty, and if they are clinked together or struck with a fingernail, they produce a beautiful bell-like ringing tone, not the "thunk" the rest of my silverplate items make. Does sterling produce such a sound, or are they perhaps plated brass or bronze?
Any info, ideas, or suggestions you could provide are greatly appreciated. I've already scoured the Internet and books searching for answers, but found none.
There is no base metal showing. Any pinkish, bluish, or smoky tints in these photos are the result of faulty lighting/reflections only. The cups are a uniform whitish-silver color. There was a clear/yellowish varnish(?) coating on the stems that crackled off when I cleaned them with silver polish.
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Your cups appear to be silver plated base metal cups with gilded interiors to the bowl. I do not believe they are sterling.
Thank you, Fred. I'm particularly curious about the process used to create the design. What I'm referring to as a "seam" really looks more to be an excess of silver that was squeezed outward by some sort of pressing/stamping device or mold.
I have a Wm. Rogers & Son compote with a very ornate stem that also has such a seam. Would you be able to tell me how these "seamed" designs are made, and if the seam means that the piece is of lower grade/quality? Thanks.
Clare it is a pleasure to answer your questions because I think you ask with a true desire to learn.
The seam you ask about was probably created by the mold to create the item. The manufacturer should have cleaned up the seam with filing and chasing. You are right in assuming that most of the items with visible seams in castings are poorer quality than those items where the seam is nearly invisible.
The items you have described were both made by the process of casting. The are probably cast in a low temperature metal similar to pewter. They are usually reproductions of items that were originally handmade from sheets and bars of silver and then decorated by a process known as repousse and chasing. Some items are decorated with finely cast fruit or scrolls. It takes a keen eye and visits to museums and high end antique stores to learn to distinguish the good from the bad. There is nothing quite like being able to handle well made items and to be able to use them for the purpose they were made.
Hope this helps,
Very much. My investigations into the world of silversmithing, thanks to these cups, has left me with a great respect for the intricacies of your art.
Thanks so much for taking the time and interest to respond. --Clare