Antique Silver Trays - Information, Tips and Advice for collectors.

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Antique Silver Trays such as this High-Quality Silver Tray (above) with elaborate shell and gadrooned border remain one of the most popular patterns, c 1835

The bright cutting on this late 18th century oval silver tray is highly desirable and will increase the value considerably.

This is NOT an antique silver tray!! Since it does not have handles, it is called a Salver. The Louis XV salver above is a rare example, for very few  antique salvers are found in the rectangular shape.

Did you know that antique silver trays were not made prior to the late 18th 

Some collectors may not be aware that there is a difference between antique silver trays with handles and those without. The latter are actually called salvers instead of trays, and salvers that are less than six inches in diameter are sometimes called waiters. Antique silver trays were not made prior to the late eighteenth century, and it is rare to find any made prior to the Chippendale period. 

The majority of antique silver salvers perished in the English Civil war, 
and very few examples exist from the time before Queen Anne reigned.
There are very few rectangular salvers. Most antique square salvers, and a very few rare octagonal salvers are most likely dated from 1720 to 1740 A.D. Silver oval salvers were introduced in the late eighteenth century and are highly sought after and highly collectible.

Antique silver trays, on the other hand, are most often larger than salvers 
and usually rectangular or oval. Antique silver tray collectors will rarely find examples of early trays from the 1750's. These trays are very expensive and housed mostly in museums or private collections. In general, extremely large silver trays, although expected to bring the highest prices due to the amount of silver used to make them, are actually less valuable and less sought after due to the awkwardness of the size and difficulty of use. Of course, the more elaborate the antique silver tray, generally the more valuable it will be. The more expensive silver trays of the late eighteenth century have shell decorated borders, or tied reed or beaded borders. 

Many English silver salvers were imported by Americans and silversmiths in America most often copied the designs and patterns of the English. A common and popular design is found in antique silver trays from the pre-Revolutionary eara which have a leafy shell design with gadrooned border and elaborate handles. Often many of these trays have inscriptions or engravings with a coat of arms which is invaluable to the collector in tracing the hstory and origin of a particular tray.

Pure silver is too soft for practical purposes, so other metals, such as copper, are usually alloyed with the silver to make the metal sufficiently hard. Antique silver trays forged or hammered from a single piece of metal are, of course, more valuable than silver trays which have been made from several pieces of silver soldered together. Often silver handles, grills, filigree, and other decorative techniques are soldered to the silver tray. 

Silversmiths also use techniques of chasing and burnishing to create an artistically decorative silver tray. Chasing involves punching the surface 
being worked with patterns, scrolls and lines into the metal. The technique of engraving on silver trays is similar to chasing, but instead of a punch, a sharp tool is used by the silversmith to scrive into the metal surface. The engraved lines are often filled with a composition of sulphur, silver and copper, referred to as niello, that enhances the engraved lines. With the introduction of machine engraving in the late eighteenth century, greater accuracy and precision was possible, but high quality, hand engraved antique silver trays will still demand a higher value.

Antique silver trays have long been used to denote status and wealth of the owner, and exemplify high society and royalty, and continue to be today!

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ..........

- Collectors should be aware of fake or "updated" trays being sold as antique silver trays. Sometimes the old border is removed and a new border is applied that is a more currently accepted or contemporary design. By researching the hallmark on the tray, the collector can deteremine the styles and designs prevalent during that time. Border styles should conform to the date of the hallmark produced during that period.

- Scratches in antique silver trays are actually preferable to those that 
have been polished out.

- Look for signs of soldering or splitting around the borders. If there are 
dips or thinning in the surface, this could be evidence that original engraving of crests or arms were removed and replaced with later versions.

- All collectible quality antique silver trays should have full hallmarks present. Handles and feet are usually not marked, but borders that were clamped on should bear the maker's mark, and all English silver trays should have the lion passant.






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