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Friday, October 23, 2009

Uniformity Throughout the Years - NOT!

We've been in the sterling flatware business long enough to notice an annoying problem. Pieces made by the same manufacturer may not be uniform in size and weight over the years.

Here's a specific example. In the picture below is an oval soup spoon in one of our new favorite patterns, Old Maryland Engraved by Kirk-Steiff. We have two sets of this specific piece currently in our inventory that we obtained from different sources. The spoons are 6 5/8 inches long.

At first glance, the two sets appear identical. They both have the hallmark, "S. Kirk & Son Sterling". Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious that they are not identical. The spoons in one set weigh about 36 grams each while the spoons in the other set each weigh about 48 grams, or 33% heavier than the lighter spoons! The handle of the lighter spoons appears thinner than the handle of the heavier spoons.

So, if you owned some spoons like this already and you later added to your set, you might not have identical spoons. Are your guests going to notice this? Probably not, but it is annoying that you can't depend upon uniformity even within the same piece in the same pattern.

We're guessing that the corporate buyouts of the Kirk name over the years have led to the slimming down of the pieces - to save money, thereby making a greater profit. We love this pattern and we hate to see discrepancies like this.

So, the moral of this story is - if you are trying to match existing pieces and you are a stickler for exact matches, consult with your selling sources so you understand the details about your potential purchase. Check all dimensions and the weight.

Click on any picture to see a larger version. By clicking on "Comments/Questions" below, you can see posted comments and add your own questions and comments. Or, you can send us an email by clicking on "Email Silver Jim" in the right column.


Anonymous said...

Sadly, Gorham & Kirk-Stieff sterling are now owned by Lifetime Brands (the owners of Wallace, Tuttle, Towle, International, and Wallace English silver). And supposedly with that move the majority of all Sterling flatware is now being manufactured in San German, Puerto Rico (Syratech opened their facility there for Sterling production back in the late 1990s).
This has certianly led to a decline in quality.
With that move the only two large scale manufacturers of sterling in America are Reed & Barton and Lunt.

Silver Jim said...

To the person who left the previous comment:

We would love to have your contact information so we could ask a question from time to time. It sounds like you are industry-savvy.

If you are so inclined, send us an email with the info. We'll keep it confidential unless you want us to publish it.



Anonymous said...

I missed out on your sale items of Kirk that ended today and if they were not sold will they be up on Ebay again?
I do have both Old Md plain and Old Md engraved and the Old Md plain comes from 1968. I added engraved as I could find very little of the plain.
Since the sale of the company is now in the hands of a conglomerate we all suffer. Is it possible since you deal in silver that you could add the weight of the item on Ebay and would that help me?
Thanks for your help.

Silver Jim said...

This is a response to the previous comment. It specifically relates to our business so ignore it if you are not interested in that subject.

I think all the "on sale" Old Maryland Engraved pieces sold. Will we have another sale? Honestly, that depends upon what we have in inventory as we approach the end of the year. However, we always entertain price discussion regarding purchases of several pieces at one time. Send us an email if that interests you.

We do list the weight in every eBay listing. There is a table of specifications included that gives the weight and length. The length information is definitely useful because it helps define the spcific piece (e.g., luncheon fork vs. dinner fork). The weight information is helpful but not as much so.

We list weight in grams because it is more precise. We typically are conservative with weight estimates since we don't use commercial scales. We may be on the low side by 2 or 3 grams.

I hope this addresses your questions adequately. Feel free to send an email to us if you need to discuss specific eBay items or issues.

Cymric said...


Love yr. blog!

In regards to uniformity... Most sterling companies made flatware in more than one weight.

I have in my collection, a Kirk Catalog, and Price list from 1939.

The spoons in your post are listed as Dessert or Cereal Spoons and they could be had at $54.00 per Dozen in Medium weight, or $60.00 per Dozen in Heavy weight.

Teaspoons in this pattern could be had in three different weights- Regular @ $33.00/Doz., Heavy @ 36.00/Doz., and Extra Heavy @ 42.00/Doz.

This is true for all the patterns Kirk made at this date, with the exception of Repousse, and King, which were made in one weight only.

The assumption that the lighter weights are of lesser quality aren't true, but more a budgetary preference, in my opinion.