Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Item must be marked "Sterling" or "925"
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hpidaves
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Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby hpidaves » Sat Jul 11, 2020 10:13 am

I came across this 4-1/4" souvenir spoon from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. It is marked "SOLID SILVER" on the reverse near the bowl. Would this be sterling? There is definitely silver in it.

Thanks,
Dave

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AG2012
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby AG2012 » Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:50 am

Hi,
It is marked ``solid silver`` meaning it's not silver plated. So,it can be anything between .800 and .950.
There is a misconception that only sterling is solid silver; sterling became a synonym for silver which is wrong because sterling is only one standard (.925 or 92.5% silver alloy).
That being said,I think it is lower than sterling (otherwise they would have marked it sterling) but still solid silver, unlike plated base metal.
Or less likely pure silver (.999); that would be too soft.
There are electronic testers now (to avoid acid test).
Regards

hpidaves
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby hpidaves » Sat Jul 11, 2020 1:55 pm

Hello,
I have some solid silver items ranging from 800 (80% silver -- German) to 950 (95% silver -- French). I also possess Scandinavian silver -- 830 or 835. I am curious as to the silver content of this item, as it isn't marked. I have seen the testers you mentioned, but they are quite expensive and I don't believe my wife would approve the purchase :) I wonder if a local jeweler might have one and test it for me.

Regards,
Dave

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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby dognose » Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:24 pm

It will be interesting to see if this is indeed silver. The spoon is a unofficial one, and whoever made it, they declined to to identify themselves,which begs the question, why? Is it because it's unofficial? Or, is it because it's not what it claims to be?

Trev.

AG2012
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby AG2012 » Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:48 pm

This one is marked U.S.Sterling.Yellow is most likely base metal.
Regards

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hpidaves
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby hpidaves » Sat Jul 11, 2020 5:33 pm

U.S. Sterling is the name of the manufacturer:

https://www.replacements.com/silver-us- ... 3-17104340

No doubt the company name was designed to deceive.

Dave

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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby Traintime » Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:48 pm

From Rainwater & Felger American Spoons (1968): Notice Howard Sterling Company custom work on Philopena, the only known manufacturer example in the whole book of this particular bowl etching style. Then look at the Waltham Watch Company one for which they had patent information naming two gentlemen, but nothing on who actually produced it...maybe they got Howard to do the work while still named The Sterling Company (in 1891). Not much to go on, but Howard was well equiped for making this kind of thing.

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dognose
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby dognose » Sun Jul 12, 2020 1:02 am


Traintime
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby Traintime » Sun Jul 12, 2020 11:51 pm

American Spoons has an entire section called "Meet Me At The Fair" and there are lots of 1893 Chicago/Fair/Columbian Expo. related spoons from several makers including Alvin (some images from book). Worthpoint has a Tiffany & Co. sample. I take the first link to be specific to silverplate and using "pure" but not "solid", whatever that might mean here. Link 2 does note their spoons are "official", but does not eliminate unofficial sold outside, or other approved for sale or presentation, and makes no mention of "supplier"...?? (I have doubts about their ability to control trade that well at that time.) It's interesting that back in 2017, another very tarnished sample of this spoon went to bidding and final price (no advocation of value) as though there was a suspicion or knowledge of metals content. (??) Even if it were unusual for known plate pieces, it seems to be a bit high for interest in plain pieces. I guess a real test is all that can answer this.

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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby dragonflywink » Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:08 pm

Just for clarity, acid etched bowls like this one were very common, and were also often done by retailers - it was not in any way exclusive to Howard (two acid-etched Easter spoons can be seen two posts up on the first link Trev posted)...

~Cheryl

hpidaves
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby hpidaves » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:37 pm

I purchased an Ohaus triple beam scale and did a specific gravity test. The density came out to 8.67. Any guesses as to composition?

MGArgent
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby MGArgent » Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:18 pm

A specific gravity of 10.05 to 10.49 would indicate a silver content of about 75% to 100% respectively.

A specific gravity of 8.67 would indicate with near certainty that the spoon has little to no silver content (i.e. silver plated). It likely is composed of a base metal/alloy such as copper, bronze, brass, nickle silver, etc.

It should be noted that the production method (cast, sintered, etc.) can lead to variations in specific density as discussed previously here: https://www.925-1000.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37882, but I don't think that is the case with your spoon.

Finally, calculating a specific gravity result is extremely sensitive to measurement error. You may want to repeat the experiment several times to ensure you are arriving at a consistent result. You may also want to check that the spoon's bowl is facing in a direction that will not allow for air bubbles to be trapped underneath the bowl.

hpidaves
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby hpidaves » Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:23 pm

I did repeat the test a few times with some variance, but nothing major. The spoon was suspended upright, so no worries about air.

MGArgent
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby MGArgent » Tue Aug 18, 2020 1:48 pm

Assuming the result is exact, 8.67 would be a little too low for silver-plated copper (~8.89). Without further information, my best guess is that it is likely composed of an alloy such as Nickel silver (German silver) or silver-plated brass.

One more comment about air, is that you may want to agitate the spoon after it is submersed to shake off any tiny air bubbles that may have adhered to the twisted stem or lettering. Depending on your setup, you will likely need to accomplish this without touching/removing any water, so you could try holding the harness from somewhere above the waterline and shaking.

Another note on measuring specific gravity is that an unsuitable harness can skew results. If you are already suspending the spoon with something very fine such as sewing thread, then this is probably not an issue. If you think it's possible that your measurement setup may be effecting the calculation, you could always post a couple photos of your measurement process.

hpidaves
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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby hpidaves » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:07 pm

Agitating the spoon is a good idea -- I will try that. I used a minimal amount of thread to suspend the spoon.

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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby amena » Wed Aug 19, 2020 10:07 am

I believe that focusing attention on air bubbles is not the right way.
Suppose a teaspoon of sterling silver weighs 20 grams.
It will have a volume of 20: 10.373 = 1.92808 cm3 i.e. 1928.08 mm3.
If we consider an air bubble, adhering to the spoon, of 2 mm in diameter, which cannot escape observation, it has a volume of 4,18 mm3. The apparent volume of the spoon will then be 1928.08 + 4,18 = 1932.26 mm3 which would give us a density of 10.350 g / cm3 equivalent to a percentage of silver of about 91.
A big enough bubble doesn't make a big difference.
In the article I mentioned in the post
viewtopic.php?f=34&t=37882&p=141206&hilit=gravity+test#p141206
https://books.google.it/books?id=go4Yo3 ... &q&f=false
among the various measurements reported, is the following
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silver to the purity of the Paris Mint
after fusion 10.0476
after coinage 10,4077
this is really a noticeable difference, due only to the pressing.
I have spent several hours measuring densities of silver objects of various types, but I have always found densities lower than that determined theoretically.
Not only taking the purity indicated by the hallmark for good, but also verifying it by X-rays.
If something is not clear, please let me know.
Amena

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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby MGArgent » Wed Aug 19, 2020 1:37 pm

Yes, I agree with your argument that even a moderately large air bubble(s) trapped in the stem/lettering will only produce a small error and that this should not be the focus for this analysis (as a side note, one might consider another scenario where higher accuracy is desired, and if there were say 5-10 factors each contributing about 1% error, it may be worthwhile to systematically eliminate each source of error).

amena wrote:Not only taking the purity indicated by the hallmark for good, but also verifying it by X-rays.

X-ray is a great method for determining silver content, but it is inaccessible for many people, and/or the cost may not be justifiable for certain items. As for the mark, it does not indicate purity, and there has been doubt expressed on whether the mark is legitimate. Unfortunately the mark is not being taken for good in this case.

Assuming that the x-ray test is unavailable and the mark cannot be trusted, we need to move down the list of options at our disposal. We are left with: a) specific gravity test, b) acid test, and c) assay.

The specific gravity test is an accessible, non-destructive test that people can use at home, and at the very least, it is accurate enough to differentiate between an item containing a moderate amount of silver and one composed primarily of non-precious metal.

amena wrote:A big enough bubble doesn't make a big difference.

In a similar sense, variations in density due to most production methods are not large enough to explain away the difference between a measured specific gravity of 8.67 and an expected specific gravity of ~10.0+. Balancing probabilities, this result provides enough evidence to convince me that the spoon has little to no silver content.

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Re: Chicago World's Fair 1893 Souvenir Spoon - Sterling?

Postby MGArgent » Wed Aug 19, 2020 1:54 pm

I should mention a good "sanity check" to verify the accuracy of the test setup is to measure the specific gravity of a known silver object and confirm the result is near the expected value (i.e. measure a sterling silver spoon purchased from a trusted source that you are confident is silver).


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