A Marriage Made…In Silver
This is a different sort of blog post for Man The Capstan, but still one that I think applies well enough, I mean a good captain during the Napoleonic era would have had plenty of silver on board ship, and silver was widely used in most upper class households. By the Victorian period, with the advent of silver-plating, it had become very popular and affordable and was used extensively by the middle class as well.
I love antique silver and silver plate. Today I’m excited because I just received, (in the mail), the goblet which completes a set that I have been trying to complete for a number of years. A marriage, in the world of collectors, is a set of items, be they silver, linens, china or glass and etc, that are similar but not the exact pattern or form as others in the grouping. I have several completed and ongoing collections such as this one. I know that what is called a marriage is not nearly worth as much as an original intact set; but still, they are a fine option for those of us who appreciate the beauty of these things but can’t always afford the other. It’s also fun to do the search and when these things are purchased for your own enjoyment the monetary value of them is not really all that important.
This is my Tipping or Tilting insulated Water Pitcher set. I love these, they are so beautiful. This one dates to about 1860 or 70 and would have been used before the time of in house running water. In Victorian times these fancy sets were brought out to supply drinking water to guests on special occasions. The quadruple silver plated double walled and insulated pitcher helped to keep the water cold but was also quite heavy to handle, (which might explain why so many are dented) thus, they were often designed with and placed on a tilting stand for ease of pouring. Many stands had a place for and a matching goblet or two, as well.
It started out about three or four years ago with a Meriden stand that I had acquired. I did have another pitcher from the Southington Silver Company for it at the time, but it was quite badly damaged. The finial was broken off, the lid had a large dent and most of the silver plate had worn; this left the much darker Britannia metal exposed and basically it was pretty ugly. I wanted to find another pitcher in good condition, it didn’t have to be perfect (antiques seldom are) but at least somewhat aesthetically pleasing. It also needed the drip tray and a goblet. I began the process for trying to find the other pieces and I have to admit that after an initial disappointing search I felt it was pretty hopeless.
First of all, I was looking for silver-plated pieces in good condition that were about 150 years old. Pretty rare I’d say and a daunting task. I did pass on several pieces that did not muster up and often wondered in the ensuing years if I should have purchased these, when others were not transpiring. It was not important to me that they all come from the same maker since I knew how difficult that would be, and I didn’t want to make it even harder for myself then it already was; plus, I knew that most of these tilting pitchers were a pretty standard size. Granted there were small differences in the makes, but basically they were all pretty much the same.
About a year after I started I came across a small round drip tray made by Community, that after careful measuring seemed to be the exact size I was looking for. Unfortunately, although it was a vintage piece from about the 1950s, it was not nearly of the same time period as the stand was. After thinking it over I decided to purchase this. If I ever happen across a drip tray that is more to the period I will of course snap it up, but until now the only others I have seen are already part of a complete set. In the meantime this one does quite nicely as it is well silvered and gleaming.
Trying to find a pitcher that was appropriate for the stand was another thing. I combed Ebay, Etsy, as well as antique dealers both locally and on the internet. You can certainly find water pitchers of that time period, however, the ones that have the proper extensions to sit on a tilting stand are much more difficult to find; and the almost impossible is to find one that is in good condition. Finally, about a year ago I happened upon one on Ebay from the Webster Silver Company. I purchased this and it fit perfectly on the Meriden stand.
Most difficult of all was locating a proper goblet. The ones that were made to go with these sets are quite small so not just any goblet can be used, most stand only about four inches tall, while the average goblet is between 5 and 7 inches in height. The base of these goblets also often run smaller and therefore a regular goblet does not fit on the stand. The third issue is that they often have a lot of wear and are in pretty rough shape, something that is to be expected since of course the goblet would’ve been handled far more than the rest of the pieces. About two weeks ago, I finally found one in New York, also made by the Webster Silver Company. This is was in fairly good condition, and was available for a price that I found affordable. It arrived today, very tarnished, but it polished up pretty nicely and looks great with the rest of the set.
I have displayed this on the Victorian sideboard in my dining room and it looks quite splendid, just there!
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