Fair Market Silver Appraisal
Artist/maker: Tiffany & Co.
Origin/country: American, New York
Medium: sterling silver Dimensions: 7”h x 15”dia.
Item Description: having an undulating lip, the circular body executed in the repousse pattern, with two Indian style caparisoned elephant head handles at the lip to the shoulders, the waist and stem with a palmette leaf motif and rising on a circular foot with the same repousse floral pattern as body. Marked on underside of base: Tiffany & Co./4383 MAKERS 4629/STERLING SILVER/925-1000, total approx. silver weight 50 Troy oz.
Condition: Good condition. Very little wear. Some light scuffs and scratches.
Note: Caparisoned elephant heads handles were typical of Eugene Soligny's work for Tiffany and Co. in the early 1870's.
The overall market for personal property, such as antique furniture or a porcelain dish collection, has dropped dramatically in recent years. People are simply not collecting, decorating or using the items like they once did so they are not buying them like they once did. A large part of this is due to Millennials who are driving the market. Their aesthetic is a more minimal one and they don’t want or have a need for their grandparent’s items, additionally they don’t want their parent’s property. The parents oftentimes don’t want it either and end up selling it for a loss.
This is true of the decorative silver market. Part of this is because the price of silver has been low for quite some time, but also because no-one wants grandma’s old silver. People are not having elaborate dinner parties where the table would be dressed up and set with the fine china and the silver. People aren’t drinking out of silver beakers anymore or having elaborate tea parties with five-piece hot beverage services. This is especially true now that we are living in the Covid era. It doesn’t matter if it’s an American maker or a European one. Unless the property in question is by a known maker, such as Tiffany & Co., Hester Bateman, or Georg Jensen, silver will not retain a high value at market and is mostly sold for scrap and/or weight.
As stated, Tiffany and Co. pieces still do command a high value at both auction and in the retail setting.
There is a demand in the market for Tiffany items. There always has been.
From its earliest days employing master silver craftsman where they literally produced works of art to being a leader in high fashion fine jewelry, Tiffany is still a coveted and desired name and the property oftentimes goes for more than the weight or style of the material.
Provenance also adds to the value of silver. For example, in 2018, at Christies a Buccellati shell form centerpiece that belonged to Peggy and David Rockefeller, sold for $50,000 with an estimate of $5,000$8,000. A similar piece sold in 2018 at Hindman in West Palm Beach for $850 with an estimate of $1,200$1,800.
With that said, important and rare silver, still retains high value as there are people and institutions who will buy these items. It is interesting to note, that although the value of silver has been down in recent years, dipping as low as $16/ounce, during the last few months, the price of silver has risen to around
$20/ounce. Silver is doing better, but not as well as gold comparatively. For silver secondary market the fair market value of silver objects has remained the same as the past few years and fine and rare objects by highly sought after silversmiths are finding strong results. The fair market value of middle of the road objects and mass-produced objects is still quite soft. While it’s too early to tell if it’s a trend of spot price increasing and silver gaining more desirability in the market, it’s definitely a good time to sell.
Appraised Value Support:
1. Sunday April 14, 2019, Rago Arts and Auction Center, Lambertville, NJ Lot #1220 Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Centerpiece Bowl, Circa 1874, Sterling Silver, 9 1/2" x 17", 62.9 ozt
Condition: Very good condition with light erasure to one cartouche (small traces of engraving still visible). Traces of parcel gilding to the borders.
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000, Price realized with buyer’s premium: $32,500 Note: This piece is featured in John Lorings book” Magnificent Tiffany, page 113.
2. June 8th 2019, Oakridge Auction Gallery, Ashburn VA. Lot 400, Tiffany and Co.
Elephant sterling silver pitcher ewer, 9”h x 7”dia.
Condition: Free of chips and cracks.
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000, Price realized with buyer’s premium: $22,500
3. October 18, 2019, Rago Arts and Auction Center, Lambertville, NJ, Lot#16 Tiffany and Co. Sterling Silver water pitcher 9 1/2" x 17 Condition: Excellent condition and quality.
Very small bruise to vacant cartouche
Estimate: $6,000-$9,000, Price realizedwith buyer’s premium: $28,800
Literature: John Loring, Magnificent Tiffany Silver, 2001, illus. p. 123
Provenance: Christie's, New York, 10 December 1998, lot 276, Lauren Stanley Gallery, 2000 Note: This elephant-handled water pitcher relates to a group of Indian inspired pieces produced around 1874, including a centerpiece bowl sold at Rago, 14 April 2019, lot 1220. The design is likely that of James H. Whitehouse and Eugene Soligny. See John Loring, Magnificent Tiffany Silver 2001, p.123
All four items presented here are exceptional pieces made by Tiffany and Co. in the last quarter of the 19th century- at the height of when Tiffany and Co. was the leader in the decorative silver industry. The first piece is an extraordinary example that has been documented and has a known provenance, which adds to its collectability, allure and desirability. The form is the same as our centerpiece, round with elephant head handles, but the execution and stylistic elements sets it apart as Neoclassical with simple lines and the elephant heads adds some whimsy to a rather serious piece. The appeal for this centerpiece was strong as it’s the highest terms of price in our three comparables. Rare items like this centerpiece are appealing and seldom come up to auction and the price it fetched shows that there is desire among true collectors. The second piece, an ewer or pitcher, in the Persian style, having the elephant head at the end of the scrolled handle is another fine example. It is of a different form than the centerpiece, but still incorporates the element of the elephant in the design, which is what makes all these pieces special. The body is executed in a swirling motif- a drastic change from the first comparable example. This difference would appeal to a different kind of collector, but still a serious one as it fetched quite a bit, although not as much as the other two presented here . Lastly, the water pitcher executed in the Indian style again is one that is documented and we can tell who made it (James Whitehouse and Eugene Soligny). Eugene Soligny was considered one of the most “enigmatic” of Tiffany’s 19th century silver designer and caparisoned elephants were a known stylistic motif of his. Additionally, I think the water pitcher and the centerpiece from Rago were marketed better as Rago is a known auction house on the East Coast. By being known and marketing in the right places that can lead to more people seeing what’s coming up and therefore bidding on the piece. All three examples fetched above $20,000 and I came to my fair market value of $18,000 because even though the centerpiece is presented in good condition and is a rare piece, we don’t have a provenance, which would help it command a higher price. Plus, the floral repousse competes with both the elephant head and palmettes (which
was en voguetowards the end of the 19th century) making it not as alluring to the eye as say the first comparable, but by no means is it not collectible.