Like with Most aspects of living in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina has affected the city’s silver market. The need has emerged post-K to restore silver pieces damaged during the cataclysmic storm and its ruinous aftermath.
Silver has maintained its popularity through the years and there’s something for everyone: a plain, austere look.
And right now, repair requests have grown considerably at area shops. “People are coming to us to have things buffed or re-silvered and to have broken objects rejoined,” said Caroline Jones, manager of Mélange Sterling Silver Shop.
Jones says collectors are also working to make their collections whole again by pounding the pavement in search of items lost during the hurricane. Mélange, which specializes in matching estate and antique silver, is often their first stop on this antique finding mission.
“Most of our customers are longtime silver collectors. They were given silver as a child or inherited their grandmother’s silver. They are interested in passing on that tradition to the younger generations,” Jones says of why it is imperative for her clientele to replace objects missing due to Katrina.
More ornate pieces.
Aside from a spike in restoration services, Duncan Cox of As You Like It Silver Shop says sterling-silver teapots seem to have gained quite a following recently. The second- generation antiques dealer said he has fielded inquiries from about a dozen or so collectors looking to add the objects to their catalogs. While that figure may not seem noteworthy to some, in terms of a specialty business it’s rather striking, he says.
“Collecting antique sterling-silver teapots are a good thing to collect because you can pay a moderate price and still get bargains. It’s not like you are shelling out a lot of money for an entire tea service,” says Cox, who has noticed budding attraction for modern-styled items as well.
He says there has been increased interest in candlestick holders in addition to ornate fruit bowls and centerpieces. Silver pieces that don monograms are especially in vogue too; he says pointing to the fact that hand engraving is a fading art form of historical significance.
Trying to find matching flatware patterns is a common pursuit among collectors.
Silver in this article photographed at Mélange Sterling Silver Shop.
Mix and Match
Adding matching patterns in silver plate flatware or hollowware is always a common pursuit among collectors and is usually the reason shoppers end up at the Magazine Antique Mall, says manager C.J. Galliano.
But lately, fleurs-de-lis, Galliano says, are all the rage. Antiques collectors are coveting any object, particularly jewelry, with the inscription—the mark of heraldic French royalty who founded the city in 1718 now associated with New Orleans pride.
“People are looking for sterling-silver fleurs-de-lis basically because of everything that happened with Katrina,” she says. “They are just wanting to make a statement that they are home.”
The Name Game
At M.S. Rau Antiques it’s not about candelabras or teapots or fleurs-de-lis. Customers flock to this French Quarter shop on a quest for silver pieces from important makers from the era they are collecting, says Jamie Doerr, marketing associate. Tiffany and Martelé by Gorham are two standouts, Doerr says.
“People are looking for some of the biggest names like Paul Storr, Paul de Lamerie and Hester Bateman. They are looking for important makers who made big contributions to silver,” Doerr says. “Paul de Lamerie is considered the biggest name in silver.”
Doerr says M.S. Rau clients from across the United States call upon the business’ expertise when it is time to track down pieces from prominent silversmiths. For example, the legendary Paul Revere, whose name is sure to come up during any lesson about the American Revolution. Creations by Revere are so rare and desired, Doerr explains, that a tablespoon by the historical figure is the only article M.S. Rau has in house.
“There are collectors for so many different items. There are people who collect anything from tea services to lemon forks,” says Cox of As You Like It Silver Shop. “Not a lot of people can afford sterling silver or have the appreciation for that. Sterling silver or collecting sterling silver is not like collecting Beanie Babies. Beanie Babies cost a few dollars, but you have to be pretty well-heeled to collect sterling silver.”
From Lackluster to Luminous
A list of New Orleans-area businesses that restore silver:
As You Like It Silver Shop
3033 Magazine St., (504) 897-6915
M.S. Rau Antiques
630 Royal St., (504) 523-5660
Mélange Sterling Silver Shop
5421 Magazine St., (504) 899-4796
New Orleans Silver Smith
600 Chartres St., (504) 522-8333
The Quarter Smith
535 St. Louis St., (504) 524-9731; (866) 524-8080