Dear Helaine and Joe:
My daughter’s senior class recently collected donations to sell to raise money for a senior trip. Among the donations are two pieces of silver I think may be worth something. I think the candelabra pictured is the more valuable but would love your input.
Our input will be rather limited since you didn’t show us the other piece of silver. But we can discuss the one pictured, and we feel it is a very attractive piece.
When we get letters discussing silver, we are never sure if the correspondent means sterling silver, coin silver, .800 silver, silver-plated or something else. In this case, the mark tells the story and allows us to identify both the type of silver and the maker.
The mark is shaped like a protractor every high school geometry student used to have tucked away somewhere. The mark is semicircular in nature, and in the arc is written “Meriden B. Co.” A depiction of scales is in the center, and across the straight bottom bar is written “International S. Co.”
The “B” stands for “Britannia,” a type of metal alloy mainly composed of tin hardened with small percentages of copper and antimony. Zinc and bismuth might also be used in the composition, and the resulting metal is similar to pewter (minus the lead).
Britannia metal is a silvery-white substance that was used by a number of makers of silver-plated items during the 19th and 20th centuries (and may still be in use today). The piece was manufactured by the Meriden Britannia Company after it had become a division of International Silver in 1898.