Sterling silver has been part of most people's lives in the way of wedding gifts, baby gifts, anniversary gifts, Christmas gifts, and gifts for major milestones in their lives. Memories of holiday dinners with the table set with family silver. Memories as a child having tea from your grandmother's silver teapot. Memories of our children in pictures captured in silver frames collected over the years bring a smile. Memories and tradition add layers to our lives.
One area that is really ‘hot’ today is sterling cocktail items. The resurgence of the ‘cocktail hour’ has motivated this interest. Cocktail shakers, trays, servers, stirrers, picks, and ice buckets are receiving a fair share of the attention. Claret jugs, though from another period of time, also enjoy popularity. Wine funnels, labels, and goblets also command attention.
The allure of silver has endured since civilisation began. It is second only to gold as a precious metal. Silver has a long history. It has been mined for over 5,000 years. The Greeks minted the drachma; the Romans the denarius; and we minted sterling. Alexander the Great had an elite guard on which he bestowed silver shields. Imagine the opposing army facing those shields on a sunny day. The Lavrion silver mine in ancient Greece provided funds for the Athenians. The funds helped them defeat the Persians and build the Acropolis and other monuments. In the Medieval period through the seventeenth century, spoons were a personal item and presented at baptism. Horn, pewter, brass, and silver were used to craft spoons. Normally, only wealthy families presented silver spoons at birth. People took their spoons to banquets (none were provided) so your station in life was revealed by your spoon. There really is meaning behind that old saying, "Born with a silver spoon in your mouth".
Silver's great strengths include reflectivity, malleability and ductility. Silver reflects a high percentage of light that falls on it. Malleability and ductility refer to the ability to shape and mould. These two characteristics have made it a favourite for craftsman through the centuries. Their creativity is almost unlimited when working with silver. Silver is also an excellent heat conductor. One additional interesting note: bacteria cannot survive on silver. Some early surgical instruments were crafted of silver. Today, antique silver surgical items from the 1800s are highly collectable.
A silver collection can be built over time and can take as little space as a table top. It may help you to first choose a style, period or era. Some people prefer to collect only by maker, such as the renowned Paul Storr, or by country of origin. Decide what you want to invest in your collection. Above all, it is also important to collect what you like and what appeals to you.