Silver Terminology | Construction, Structural, and Decorative Terms

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The world of silver is full of specialist silver terminology.  The more you know the better equipped you are to appreciate silver to it’s fullest, whether you are wandering around a museum (and wishing the little curator cards were more helpful) or purchasing a piece to add to your collection.

Types of Silver Terminology

silver terminology - Gorham bowl

This Gorham bowl offers a wealth of starting points for a silver terminology lesson.

As I’m an orderly sort, when I sat down to write this piece, the question of how to divide the bewildering mass of silver terminology terms into some manageable chunks was foremost in my mind.

The best/easiest way to think of it is in three main categories:

  1. Construction techniques – e.g. cast, applied, spun, stamped
  2. Structural terms – e.g. melon, pedestal, footed, terminal, heel
  3. Decorative terms – e.g. scroll, thread, shell, chased, engraved
It’s my hope that by classifying a term within these categories and then explaining it in more detail and providing photos you can build up a good grasp of silver terminology.

Silver Terminology Series

As it’s such a open-ended topic, obviously we are going to have to explore it one term at a time.  So consider this the official start of a new series of posts on silver terminology.  We’ll explore a single term in each terminology post and all the posts in this series will be tagged ‘terminology’ if you want to search for them at a later date.  I don’t have any set schedule or timetable, instead I’ll write them as I run across a particularly interesting example.


Is there a term you have always been puzzled by?  Let me know what you’d like to hear about first. My interest is in making these posts as relevant and valuable to you as possible.  So don’t be shy.  Leave me a comment below and I’ll get to it as soon as possible. 🙂


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5 thoughts on “Silver Terminology | Construction, Structural, and Decorative Terms

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hi Debbie –

      Nickel silver does not contain any silver at all. It is an alloy often made of of nickel, zinc and copper. It has lots of names German silver, Argentan, Alaska silver, silver substitute, patkong, etc.

      As for the B.75 marking I would suspect that is a production or pattern number.


  1. ElizabethNo Gravatar

    Oh goodie! I think this is the best post yet. Alright, so here are the terms off the top of my head, and both have to do with questions from the same source. My great grandfather began collecting Kirk Repousse for my grandmother. Repousse I am familiar with, in that it means the pattern is hammered or pressed into the the silver via a mold. For a hollow handle dinner knife or holloware or the bowl of the serving piece, you can seen the how the repousse was done in that from the back or inside you see the reverse relief; but, are the standard dinner forks and teaspoons really created via repousse or are they cast and just look like repousse details? The term chased I find some what obscure and is often paired with the Repousse line or its many similar styles (Ie. Stieff Rose etc). From what I understand chased describes decoration after the silver has been pressed into the mold to create the pattern, then it is somehow hand tooled to heighten the details. But how and to what extent and with what tools? Can you tell it is hand done from the finished piece like you can tell fine porcelain was hand painted?

    1. Silver MagpiesNo Gravatar


      Those are excellent questions which I shall endeavor to answer as clearly as possible :). Thanks for adding them to my list….I always love finding answers to what’s important to readers!


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