Dear Helaine and Joe:
My daughter’s senior class recently collected donations to sell to raise money for a senior trip. Among the donations are two pieces of silver I think may be worth something. I think the candelabra pictured is the more valuable but would love your input.
Our input will be rather limited since you didn’t show us the other piece of silver. But we can discuss the one pictured, and we feel it is a very attractive piece.
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When we get letters discussing silver, we are never sure if the correspondent means sterling silver, coin silver, .800 silver, silver-plated or something else. In this case, the mark tells the story and allows us to identify both the type of silver and the maker.
The mark is shaped like a protractor every high school geometry student used to have tucked away somewhere. The mark is semicircular in nature, and in the arc is written “Meriden B. Co.” A depiction of scales is in the center, and across the straight bottom bar is written “International S. Co.”
The “B” stands for “Britannia,” a type of metal alloy mainly composed of tin hardened with small percentages of copper and antimony. Zinc and bismuth might also be used in the composition, and the resulting metal is similar to pewter (minus the lead).
Britannia metal is a silvery-white substance that was used by a number of makers of silver-plated items during the 19th and 20th centuries (and may still be in use today). The piece was manufactured by the Meriden Britannia Company after it had become a division of International Silver in 1898.
The company was organized in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1852. Initially, the company made Britannia hollowware, but by 1855, they were manufacturing silver-plated wares as well. In 1862, Meriden added the very familiar “Rogers Brothers” trademark to their list of brands (the mark tended to read “1847 Rogers Bros.”).
Meriden also produced silver-plated nickel silver items, as well as silver-soldered hollowware. In 1895, Meriden bought out Wilcox & Evertsen, which was located in New York City, and moved the company to Connecticut. The division produced sterling silver hollowware and in 1897, flatware was added to the line.
The silver-plated centerpiece in today’s question is elegant and was done in a style that suggests turn of the 20th century, circa 1910. It is neoclassical in its design and the pieced cover on the center portion is there to allow for flower arranging. Or if the cover is arranged, the center bowl could be used to contain fruit.
Silver plate is not very popular with collectors, but the centerpiece appears to be in great condition and is very attractive. It should be valued for insurance purposes in the $250 to $350 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville TN 37917, or email them at email@example.com. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.