At an event the other night I had a conversation with an acquaintance that absolutely astounded me. This person is in a related field, although she does a lot of work with jewelry that I don’t do. Anyway we were chatting, and somehow the subject of monograms on silver came up. What she said was –
“I got in a set of 12 place settings of Tiffany, but they were monogrammed, so I scrapped it”.
Wow! We then went on to have an exchange, probably equally amazed on both sides which went along the lines of – Me – “You what!” Her – “Yes, no one will buy monogrammed pieces, even other dealers. It won’t sell, so I scrapped it.” Me – “But I sell lots of monogrammed pieces.” Her – “Really. Even when it’s not their initials”. I’ve heard this opinion from many people but never in conjunction with scrapping 12 place settings of Tiffany sterling silver flatware. It’s an interesting questions, so let’s touch on a few thoughts.
First, other people’s initials.
Well, if you have your Grandma’s silver it most likely does not have your initials on it. Alright, I’ll concede that inherited items have a sentimental connection. But if you buy a monogrammed set no one will instantly know they are not initials connected to you in some way. On the other side of the Atlantic and come to think of it in the South I have heard it (jokingly) referred to as instant ancestors.
Second, monograms on silver are beautiful.
Really, have you ever examined monograms on silver in detail? Flowing scripts, heavy gothic ones, carefully etched, one initial, two or more. Some are so intricate and stylized that it is difficult to tell what they say, the letters are obscured by loops and swirls. Monogramming is an art in itself. The silversmiths did not do the work, they sent it out to artists who specialized in engraving. It is now a dying art. To actively and irreversibly destroy art is a concept I have trouble with. Do you toss out a wonderful portrait because it’s not your family member?
Third, the reality is that there is very, very little antique silver (pre-1900) out there without a monogram.
It was common practice, silver was simply too valuable not to put your mark on it. Silver said a lot about you socially and economically, it was something you were proud of. Many, many antique pieces have had their monograms removed. If the monogram was only lightly engraved in the first place or very worn, they can be removed with minimal evidence. Most of the time though, you can tell. If you look closely and catch the light there is visible evidence. Often you can tell simply by running a finger over it.
Please, please don’t instantly dismiss a monogrammed piece.
I’m absolutely certain I’ll be returning to monograms on silver in greater depth, but I wanted to put down a marker, so to speak. In my opinion, none of these marks impede the beauty or diminish functionality of the piece. Monograms on silver add to its character and make them unique. I suppose this is another variation on the patina debate.
Enough for now, but I’ll be back.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Anyone, anyone? Monograms on silver, yes or no?