Is your silver too valuable to scrap?

There was an article in last Sunday’s Irish Independent about  the scrapping of valuable silver items. It was great to see this highlighted in a national paper. I have heard stories of valuable Irish silver works of art being sold for scrap as their true value was never investigated.

While an old scratched  silver spoon might seem only to be worth the weight of silver you might discover you have a collectors item. As all silver has a hallmark it is easy to find out if it is worth considerably more.

Unless ‘Antiques Roadshow’ is in town, checking the value of your silver sounds like a long and complicated process! So here’s a few simple tricks to examine your silverware.

Firstly, Is it silver? Many people over or under estimate the value of their silver. Most commonly they will see a hallmark and assume it’s solid silver. Unfortunatley this isn’t always the case and hallmarks are always better examined with a magnifying glass to read exactly what has been stamped. Some tea sets for example will be stamped with what looks to be a hallmark but on closer inspection will have the letters EPNS. This means that it is not solid silver but Electro Plated Nickel Silver ie. silver plated.

Once you have established that it is silver then look at the hallmark to decipher the country of origin. Here in Ireland it is more likely to have come from either Britain or Ireland. There are a number of assay offices in Britain all with different stamps so if you can make out an emblem like a rose or a lion it is most likely British. I would say before you start buying silver hallmark books the best way to find out what your hallmark means is to Google it! It’s surprising how much information comes up if you put in something as vague as ‘Lion Hallmark’

Then find out who made it. This is the mark that will most likely determine the value of your silver. The more collectible and well known the maker the more money for you! In the hallmark the first mark is the makers mark. The makers mark is made up of the initials of the company or individual. So in my case my makers mark is ‘EM’ for Eileen Moylan.

Again the best way to find out about the maker of your silver is to Google it. Here’s what I found when I put in ‘EM hallmark silver’ I’m just showing a section of the first result. Make sure to look at the shape of the punch so you can match it exactly. You can see from this image that there are a few EM’s differentiated by the shape.

From this you can find the full name of the maker and then search and see what is being written about them, like how much their work is going for.

And once you’ve done all that you can make an informed decision as to whether to scrap your silver or not!

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Bowl

Today I’m going to show you how I make a silver bowl using just a few simple tools.

It’s basically one hammer, one piece of wood and some silver.

I might use another hammer and maybe a small dome stake towards the end but they really aren’t necessary, it’s only to indulge my love for hammers!

Marking out my disc
Marking out my disc

Using my dividers I mark out my circle on a sheet of silver. In this case I’m using .7mm silver and a 2.5inch disc.

Cutting out the disc
Cutting out the disc

I then cut out the disc with my piercing frame.

Filing the edges
Filing the edges
Smooth edges with emery paper
Smooth edges with emery paper

It is important before hammering that you file the sharp edges after cutting. I use a file and some emery paper. This is so you don’t risk catching your fingers on the sharp edges when moving the piece around the stake.

Marking out circles for hammering
Marking out circles for hammering

I then mark out circles around the disc so I can keep my hammer blows in an even row. These marks are just pencil lines that help me to keep my hammering along the same row and allow the bowl to be shaped uniformly.

Sinking Block
Sinking Block

This block is made out of a piece of 2″ x4″ wood that I’ve cut into 6″ lengths. Then using a dome head hammer you hammer a slight depression into the wood. This depression which is roughly the size of my hammer face will be what I use to form the curve of the bowl. I put the block of wood in the vice so I can begin sinking my bowl.

Sinking the bowl
Sinking the bowl

 

Sinking the bowl
Sinking the bowl

I begin by tilting the disc into the depression and then using firm even hammer blows sink the silver into the dip.  I move the disc clockwise as the hammer remains in the same position. It is important to keep within the lines you have marked and also to keep your hammer blows even. When I have one round of hammering done I anneal and scratch brush the silver. This softens the silver and allows me to work the metal again. I repeat this until I get my desired curve. The bowl below is after three rounds of hammering on the wooden block.

Now I just need to finish and polish the bowl. I’ll put up the next set of pictures next week…

Made in Ireland

This week I was featured in the Radio 1 series ‘Made in Ireland’. Each week Ella McSweeney looks at a different craft or skill in Ireland. So this week was the turn of the silversmiths!

As well as calling to Dublin based silversmith Seamus Gill, Ella came down to my workshop in Cork. We discussed the different tools used by silversmiths, the properties of silver and women in the history of silversmithing.

If you want to have a listen to it click on the link below.

Made in Ireland, Silversmiths