Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Sterling stamp not a guarantee of high value

What’s It Worth?

Today’s What’s It Worth? items are both silver. One is American and marked Sterling. One is British and marked as Sterling, without using that word.
Today’s What’s It Worth? items are both silver. One is American and marked Sterling. One is British and marked as Sterling, without using that word. Contributed photos

Silver is the primary topic of today’s What’s It Worth? Sterling silver, that is.

We answer reader’s questions about an unusual utensil and a pair of serving vessels used at the table.

Q. I’m sending photos of what we have always called a “spork,” as it certainly looks like a combination spoon and fork in one utensil. As far as we can tell, it is Sterling quality silver. There are certainly enough hallmarks on the back of the handle. Can you give us some insight into history and values? — Kim in Richland

A. Spork is as good a word as any for this utensil, which measures 5 1/2 inches long and weighs about three-quarters of a Troy ounce. The word spork wasn’t in common use until the early 20th century.

In England, where it was made, this is called a dessert spoon or ice cream spoon. The hallmarks tell us this was manufactured by the firm Lister and Sons in Newcastle-on-the-Tyne, and registered through the assay office there in 1855.

It’s a nice example of English silver, but we do not know the family whose crest is engraved on the handle. It would have been part of a much larger Sterling tableware service.

The value of the 160-year-old spoon as a collectible item is $125. The value for the silver in the spoon is less than $20.

Q. My small glass creamer and sugar look quite elegant on the table — we really only use them for the big family dinners when the holidays roll around. They were my grandmother’s and I’ve always wondered who made them. The glass is quite plain and the base of is just marked “Sterling.”

Can you provide some background? Thanks. — Jeri in Benton City

A. This is actually a tough question. These are what collectors call Depression glass, although they may have been made as late as the 1950s or 1960s.

Each piece is 2 1/2 inches high and, yes, that metal base is Sterling silver. And it is marked “Sterling.” And that is the only mark on them, which is not much of a clue for identification.

Over the decades, Depression glass was made by many American companies. Most had a name for the shape or the style of impressed or cut etching on the glass. Or a distinctive shape to rims, handles or overall body profile.

These pieces have no design on the glass; they are actually quite plain and at the same time elegant.

The shape is similar to some made by Fostoria, Heisey Glass or Tiffin Glass. Of those three, only Heisey consistently marked their glass. The famous “H in a diamond” logo of Heisey is known to collectors worldwide.

Another factor complicating identification is the Sterling silver bases. Hardly any Depression glass had a metal base of any type, much less Sterling.

So, we can only make educated guesses.

These are most likely from one of the lesser-known glass firms and may very well not have had any name to the shape or style at all.

Given their somewhat streamlined look, they might date from the 1950s rather than the 1930s, when it dominated the market.

Among the companies still producing glass of this type in the 1950s were Jeannette, Federal and Hazel Atlas. Pick one of those as the maker and you might be right. Or wrong. It is a guess.

One thing is certain, with the word “Sterling” stamped on the base, these are American and not from England or some other country.

Value is easier to define. These would be fairly priced at $20 to $25 for the pair.

Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What’s It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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