About silver and past times

Until the first half of the twentieth century it was fashionable to display silver items and collectables, usually in display cabinets or on top of sideboards and occasional tables.

Wine was decanted into silver topped claret jugs, a silver salver placed on the console table, where visitors placed a calling card from their silver visiting card case.

Fine dining was done in the dining room and the canteen of silver cutlery (usually with a family

monogram) was laid out along with the condiment set and silver candlesticks.

Afternoon tea was a must and when visitors came  the best silver was used.  Served in the sitting room where paintings and photographs adorned the mantlepiece and shelves in gleaming silver frames and sweets and dried fruits in silver bon-bon dishes gave an illustrious shine to the room.

Silver turned a meal into a banquet, teatime a decadent treat.  Can you remember pleasure of sweetening your tea using sugar tongs to delicately drop a sugar cube into your teacup and giving it a stir with the silver spoon in your saucer?

You may say, ‘well this was the life of the wealthy’ but, even those of lesser means emulated this style of living by purchasing silver plated items. These were produced by coating a thin layer of silver onto a base metal which gave the appearance of solid silver, this was called electroplating, usually marked E.P.N.S. (electroplated nickel-silver).  The earliest form of plating was Sheffield plate where the sheets of silver were fused onto copper which gave a more illustrious shine.   Unfortunately, plated ware rarely stood the test of time with constant cleaning, the silver wore off to reveal the metal beneath.

Nowadays, we all live at a faster pace,  meeting friends for a latte, often drinking from cardboard cups with a spill for a spoon and a plastic lid!   With fast food, dishwashers and so many distractions we don’t have the time to clean the silver or the staff!  Items of tech and  minimalist living  has gradually replaced the ‘make do and mend’ genre of our predecessors.

Fortunately, there are still many collectors who love and appreciate these items which is why here at Vernon Ward's we have a pool of private collectors for silver who have been passionately purchasing for their collections over many years. We have clients travelling from far and wide to use our sales service. Bringing along boxes of silver items, in some cases trunks! Full of items that  they no longer need and their family do not want. Quite often they have taken their items to a local shop or auction and been told that it is just worth scrap value.

We believe a thing of beauty should be a joy forever. To scrap these pieces of the past is sacrilege!

Some information about silver

The Hallmarking Act 1973 chapter 43

This Act was introduced to protect the assaying and description of precious metals or articles containing them (legislation.gov.uk)

Meaning of approved hallmarks

1. Approved hallmarks means in this Act, unless the context otherwise requires “approved hallmarks”

a) marks struck by an assay office in the UK whether before or after this Act

Before 1962 it was against the law in the UK to own or sell any silver from China and India with illegal markings

On very old English silver several stamped marks can be seen, there would be a stamp for the town where the item was essayed, each town has a separate stamp, mark or emblem which is listed below and can be seen in the images depicting them on a set of spoons to illustrate this. Some of these may vary especially after 1975 following the Hallmarking Act of 1973 but will give a rough guide. 

Bare in mind many marks on silver have been rubbed away by over polishing.


LONDON: The Leopards Head*

BIRMINGHAM: An anchor*

CHESTER: Three wheat sheaves + sword*

EDINBURGH: Three towered castle*

EXETER: Three turreted castle

GLASGOW: Tree, fish & bell*

NEWCASTLE: Three castles

NORWICH: Turret over a lion

SHEFFIELD: A crown*   after 1975 a new emblem

YORK: Half leopards head/fleur-de-lis or cross with five lions (later)                                                   

STERLING SILVER: The lion marked in England, 92.5 (sterling)

BRITANNIA SILVER: Lion head looking left (prior 1975)

He & his staff could not have been more helpful.

I contacted Vernon with my heirlooms he & his staff could not have been more helpful. This is so rare today where staff adhere to old fashion ethics.I was kept informed throughout, I would totally recommend Vernon without question. I was kept informed throughout the 10 day period & the business was dealt in a private & confidential manner

Rita Lloyd, April 2024 - Sussex

Valuation of silver ware and the experience of the experience

Vernon Ward is a man who wears his talents, like a bespoke Saville Row suit, perfectly fitting and with an authoritative style and swagger. This comment should be taken as a description of a man who knows his business and is happy too impart this knowledge to everyone who crosses his threshold with their wares. If you need an answer to the provenance and value of these wares, then with Vernon you are in skilled hands. I went with some silver tableware I had inherited. I knew it was not going to be worth a fortune and in fact, I felt a little troubled I may be wasting Vernon’s time. However, not only was his welcome as warm as a glass of mulled wine on a freezing late Autumn afternoon, I was instantly put at my ease with my offerings. Vernon was the antithesis of the person who likes to confuse. He was open, honest and to the point. This is all I needed and wished for. The visit restored my faith in what can be a carefree and troubling antiques world.

Tim Johnson, London - February 2022

Jewellery and silver sale

A positive experience from beginning to end. Vernon inspired confidence. He was totally honest and made no false promises. He worked tirelessly to achieve the best possible price for all my items and he kept me informed at every stage of the process. I could not be happier with the outcome. All items were sold within the time frame outlined in his terms and conditions and the monies, less his very reasonable commission, were promptly transferred to my bank account. My thanks go to Vernon and his team. I would not hesitate to recommend them and I wish them all the very best for the future.

Monique S, Sussex - March 2023

Free Silver Appraisals

Vernon and his team are happy to examine, appraise and value your silver items and collections. We have a comprehensive list of the finest private buyers and silver collectors in the UK and beyond.

Please Telephone 01273 502 097 for silver valuations/sales 

Book a Silver Valuation