I would like to join in the debate about the value of silver plate. As little as 10 years ago silver plate was dismissed out of hand as worthless. I still hear people saying that it is “only silver plate” at antiques fairs and in antiques shops. However, there is no doubt that ‘Old Sheffield Plate’ is a good investment, especially if it is by a good maker such as Matthew Boulton. Even this can still be found at a good price, as its true value is often unknown. Now that silver prices have risen dramatically, early electro-plate is being looked at and recognised as a worthwhile and genuine art form in its own right. Manufacturers such as Elkington, Walker & Hall and James Dixon, produced pieces to emphasise that this new process was not just a less expensive alternative to solid silver, but a legitimate manufacturing field to be experimented with and with which to produce outstanding pieces. In short, they were showing off what could be done with this new phenomenon.
There are some outstanding pieces from the early years of electro-plating, mainly the second half of the 19th century. Pieces such as Elkington’s epergnes and electrotypes that are well worth buying for investment. Later pieces such as those deigned by Christopher Dresser for Hukin and Heath and Martin, Hall and Company are already fetching high prices.
The collecting of early silver plate is a growing field, as people realise that it was not just a ‘cheap alternative’ and it would be a good time to look towards that field for anyone with a budget that does not stretch to solid silver tea sets or Queen Anne tankards