Old Silver Baskets Add Affordable Glitz

By Anne Gilbert


   You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to decorate your table. Think silver! It doesn’t have to be sterling. The Victorians weren’t that picky. From the 19th to early 20th century fancy baskets were made in gussied up silver plate as well as sterling. They were made in the prevailing fashion designs of the day. Large examples can be the centerpiece of your table. Small examples with colorful glass inserts, used for sugar can be filled with nuts, small cookies or candies. Silver plate Victorian brides basket can be had for $100 or more.    They had a variety of names and sizes and a handle on top if they were named as “brides’ baskets or tazzas.    Elegant and large examples were made with art glass inserts during the Art Nouveau era. Some as tall as 13”. Great as a floral centerpiece these days.
   Silver basket history began in the 18th century when the serving of tea was often a ceremonial event in Europe and America. Many “extra” pieces were designed to go along.
   CLUES: The shape can be a clue to the age, except for later adaptations. The earliest shape was oval and the handles were pierced and affixed to almost upright sides. The sides were sometimes engraved with figures of animals, birds and foliage. Often the inside base was engraved with a coat-of-arms, real or fake.    Changes in style often followed other decorative fashions. Baskets made around 1750 were mounted on beautifully cast feet. Scalloped shell rims, and fluting were also fashionable. The feet were in the form of dolphins or other marine creatures, Handles were equally fanciful having mermaids and sea creatures.
   The Chinoiserie look (decorated in the Chinese style) was popular during the 1750s, with Chinese figures embossed along with Chinese motifs,
   Another innovation that had begun around 1780 was the use of fused silver plate, known as Old Sheffield Plate, made in Sheffield, England. It became popular in America since it looked like sterling silver at a fraction of the cost.
   By the end of the 19th century a variety shapes were introduced along with a technique known as bright-cut engraving. Hundreds of brides baskets made in silver plate were decorated with mostly floral motifs. These are decorative and affordable.
   PHOTO (1) c.1772, Sugar basket with cranberry glass insert. CREDIT: sellingantiquesco.uk PHOTO (2) Victorian silver plate brides basket CREDIT: fireside treasures, land of Lincoln, IL. PHOTO (3) C. 1903 sterling silver bride’s basket. PHOTO CREDIT: Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago.

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