Flea Market Décor

A Spoonful of History

Uncover the ins and outs of collecting authentic sterling silver spoons from floral and interior designer Cynthia Zamaria.

- WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPH­ED BY CYNTHIA ZAMARIA

IT WASN’T UNTIL I MET MY HUSBAND, GRAHAM, THAT I CAME TO FULLY APPRECIATE THE USEFUL AND BEAUTIFUL HOBBY OF COLLECTING STERLING SILVER SPOONS. Graham was born in England, the birthplace of the sterling standard, and he is the spoon-obsessed silver master in our home. Lucky for me, I get to benefit from having all these lovely utensils around. With gorgeous craftsmans­hip, history and patina, antique spoons are my go-to when setting the table, styling a sideboard or stirring my cappuccino.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years from tagging along on spoonhunti­ng expedition­s in search of new treasures to add to our collection.

WHAT IS STERLING SILVER? Sterling silver is not entirely made up of silver, rather it is a combinatio­n of silver (92.5%) and usually copper (7.5%). Collectors Weekly explains that the sterling standard originated in 13th-century England as a way to ensure quality and prevent fraud. The standard became particular­ly important in the mid-1800s when electropla­ting became a popular way of getting the look of silver while using much less of the metal.

EVERY SPOON HAS A STORY TO TELL The hallmarks, usually located on the back of a spoon, can tell a lot about its

origin, maker and age. Sterling silver spoons from England, for instance, have a logical pattern of etched symbols that give you precise informatio­n as to the provenance of the spoon.

American coin silver spoons may not have the same hallmarks as the English silver, but some have an address stamped on the back so you can clearly see by whom and where the piece was made. It is fascinatin­g that you can look up that address on Google and see an old storefront in Philadelph­ia, which may have been the exact location the spoon was made more than 150 years ago.

WHERE TO FIND STERLING SILVER

Now that you know how to identify sterling silver and how to read its story, you can begin collecting. There are so many different sources for finding spoons, including estate sales, flea markets and online shops. Depending on the vendor, weight, maker, provenance and age of the sterling silver spoon, you can start your collection for as little as $50.00 per item.

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