Cast silver pieces are made in a hollow mold, often intricately shaped, which is filled with liquid metal and then cooled. Think of the process as akin to creating a solid chocolate bunny for Easter. You find and prepare a mold, then pour in the liquid chocolate. Make sure there are no bubbles in the mixture that might damage the structural stability or mar the aesthetics of your finished product. Allow it to cool and solidify. Then, once it is set, you carefully remove it from the mold and voilà, you have an exact 3 dimensional replica of the mold.
Unlike your chocolate bunny after it has been removed from the mold, the silver piece will almost certainly need to be carefully finished, perhaps filed to smooth out some rough edges. Very frequently you see cast silver attached or applied to another piece of silver, uniting the two pieces to make a more complex whole.
The silverplate gravy boat in the above photo is a very typical example of how cast silver is used. In this case, a wonderful lion’s paw and shell shaped leg was separately cast and then applied to the smooth body of the gravy boat. Casting is a wonderful way to create rich, three-dimensional solid objects. One frequently finds that legs on hollowware and handles on special pieces of flatware are cast and then applied.
I love to look closely at the ‘feet’ on legs of hollowware pieces like this. The lion’s paw is a recurring motif, but I have seen hooves, claws and all sorts of other interesting design choices. Some of them are rendered in amazing detail, down to knuckles and lines in the skin over the knuckles.