What Does Your Silver Pattern Say About You?

One of my favorite things to do as we enter the holiday season is to polish my silver in preparation for family dinners and parties. As I set about this annual task, I couldn’t help but think about “The Twelve Patterns of the Southern Silver Zodiac” as humorously defined by A Southern Bell Primer: Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma.  The Glam Pad featured “the Zodiac” in 2014, and it has been one of the most popular posts to date.  So I thought it would be timely to revisit the Zodiac and share a secret resource… Hands down, the best place to purchase silver is eBay!

According to the tongue-in-cheek book, A Southern Bell Primer: Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma, “some people are born with silver spoons – Southern belles are born with silver patterns.” My family’s silver pattern is Grande Baroque by Wallace, and my Grandmother began my collection when I turned 13. She would always give me place settings and serving pieces for Christmas and birthdays, and while I probably didn’t appreciate it as a young girl as much as I should have, my collection of Grande Baroque is now one of my most cherished possessions.

A Southern Belle Primer goes on to say that we “Southerners are quite committed to silver patterns. We look at the silver selection as closely as some others may study the horoscope. When a girl picks Grande Baroque at age 11, she hasn’t just decided how to set her table, she’s charted her course for life.” Now I don’t know about all of that, but I do find “The Twelve Patterns of the Southern Silver Zodiac” quite amusing…

Francis I

1. Francis I, Reed and Barton: The Belle who chooses Francis I is a girl who wants it all. There are 28 pieces of fruit just on the knife handle. It’s showy and opulent and so is she. A Francis I girl is likely to want a husband, children, a place on the board of the Junior League, and a full-time career. There is no end to what she can achieve, just as there is no end to what she can buy in the Francis I pattern. It comes with pickle forks, tomato forks, shrimp forks, lobster forks, grapefruit spoons, dessert spoons, ice cream spoons, even half olive spoons. Francis I girls are always compatible with mothers-in-law who have Grande Baroque or Burgundy. Their styles are similar.

Grande Baroque

2. Grande Baroque, Wallace International:  This is Francis I with roses instead of fruit. Grande Baroque girls also have a sense of the dramatic. But they often also have a literary bent. That’s why you can buy a sterling silver bookmark in the Grande Baroque pattern. Grande Baroque girls often date boys whose families have the Acorn pattern. But they don’t marry them. It’s just a youthful rebellion.

Burgundy

3. Burgundy, Reed and Barton:   This is Francis I without the fruit. Burgundy girls tend to be somewhat shy. They have dreams of being splashy, but they just can’t let go. Louisiana girls love Burgundy. It shows up on a lot of tables during Mardi Gras. They do well with friends who have Buttercup. They are not made to feel too competitive.

Rose Point

4. Rose Point, Wallace International:  Old-fashioned girls pick this pattern. It’s very popular with girls named Rose. Sentimental mothers who have chosen patterns like Old Master and Eloquence sometimes name their daughters Rose just so they can have a legacy all their own.

Buttercup

5. Buttercup, Gorham:   Belles who choose Buttercup are always cheerful. They even choose the pattern because it’s so uplifting. Buttercup girls have friends with every kind of pattern. They are usually followers rather than leaders, but they are so upbeat it really doesn’t matter.

Chantilly

6. Chantilly, Gorham:  Belles with Chantilly tend to be a bit prissy. They do best with men whose mothers also have Chantilly.  Never put a Chantilly girl with a man whose mother has Francis I or Grande Baroque. They will always be upstaged. Don’t let all that sweetness fool you. Chantilly girls were often fast in high school.

Strasbourg

7.  Strasbourg, Gorham:  Strasbourg girls are traditionalists and just a bit formal. As good Southern girls, they are entranced with anything that’s festive and use their good silver almost all the time. Southern men love girls who pick Strasbourg because when Strasbourg girls bring out the good silver, they also bring out the good food. They don’t mix well with boys whose mothers have Buttercup. They will both always fight for control.

Acorn

8.  Acorn, Georg Jensen:   Beware of the Acorn girl. This pattern is lovely but foreign (it comes from Denmark). Girls who pick Acorn are rebellious. They march in parades and sometimes have been known to go to colleges in the East and drink beer straight from the can.

Old Master

9. Old Master, Towle:   Old Master girls have spirit but don’t drift too far from tradition. Because of this they are fiercely attached to their family heirlooms. One Texas Belle got 30 place settings of her groom’s grandmother’s Old Master as a wedding gift. When she got a divorce, she took her husband to court over the Old Master and let him keep the Cadillac without a whimper.

Eloquence

10. Eloquence, Lunt:  Eloquence girls like nice things. They expect their husbands to provide. They are extremely loyal whether it’s a boyfriend, a best friend, or a pet. Because of this they get along well with more flighty girls who have Francis I or Grand Baroque.

Chrysanthemum

11. Chrysanthemum, Tiffany:  These girls have been known to turn up their noses at Francis I girls.  The Chrysanthemums are just as flamboyant and just as demanding. They also usually have a lot more money to spend. Their husbands have to be good providers because they also insist on Tiffany crystal and Tiffany china. This is a relatively new pattern compared to some of the others. Girls with Chrysanthemum sometimes go really wild and live in avant-garde homes. But don’t worry, they still cut the crusts off their tea sandwiches and their daughters always get good recommendations to Kappa, Theta, and Pi Phi.

Repousse

12. Repousse, Kirk:  Repousse is one of the oldest silver patterns. Repousse girls often have mothers and grandmothers who also have Repousse. One Charleston woman explains every woman in her family for three generations chose Repousse. Then her son married a woman who didn’t even have a silver pattern.The mother-in-law insisted she pick something out and had relatives fill in the place settings. When the new bride completely bypassed Repousse by calling it “too fussy,” the mother-in-law knew the marriage wouldn’t last. And it didn’t.

Do you have a silver pattern? If not, it is never too late to start your collection, and eBay is the best resource! You can fill in your existing flatware pattern, find discontinued patterns, hunt for beautiful old monograms, or begin a silver collection from scratch. If you don’t mind purchasing estate (pre-owned), prices are a fraction of a fraction of retail! (My tips are below…) I have added to my Grande Baroque collection over the years, and personally, I prefer estate over new. 🙂

You simply must read A Southern Bell Primer: Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma, written in 1990 by the late Marlyn Schwartz, former columnist for The Dallas Morning News.  It is full of wise words on the importance of charm, hair spray, the Junior League, sororities, thank you notes, finger bowls, chicken salad, iced tea, deviled egg plates, and much more.  An updated version, A Southern Belle Primer: Why Paris Hilton Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma, was released in 2006.  With the rise of “Grandmillennial Style,” perhaps we can keep some of these “old-fashioned” traditions alive for generations to come.

 

Here are a few great eBay silver finds!

Tips for buying silver flatware on eBay:

  • Check out the seller’s rating: You always want to make sure you are buying from a trustworthy source. If the seller has relatively few ratings, that can still be OK… Sometimes individual sellers will pop up while liquidating family estates, and often you get better prices from this way.  Just ask lots of questions!
  • Always ask questions:  When buying estate silver, I always want to know specific details about the condition. Before purchasing, I ask the seller if the silver has any pitting, dents/dings, black spots, or other damage.  All estate silver will have light scratching from normal use, but you want to make sure there isn’t anything more serious than that.  You also need to be careful when purchasing tarnished silver. Tarnish can actually cause damage, so sometimes you don’t know exactly what you are getting. I have purchased tarnished silver pieces that polished up beautifully, but I have also purchased some that did not. I usually won’t purchase heavily tarnished silver for this reason, but if you communicate with the seller in advance, often they will work with you by polishing in advance, or by allowing returns.
  • Look for a return policy: Sometimes people have different definitions of what constitutes “normal use.” I am pretty picky, which is why I always ask lots of questions. Only once did I receive flatware that didn’t quite live up to my standards. Fortunately, it was from a reputable seller who allowed returns.
  • Know your measurements! Many silver patterns (like Grande Baroque and Francis I) are available in “luncheon” and “dinner” sizes. If you are adding to your collection, you will want to make sure your measurements are correct.
  • Dig for treasures: Sometimes you have to do a little digging to find exactly what you are looking for at the best price, but it is worth it!

Sadly, silver flatware is currently undervalued, so now is a great time to buy. For example, this beautiful 71-piece set of Rose point is just over $1,300… new, a single 5-piece place setting is $875!  Perfect timing for upcoming holiday festivities!

This post was sponsored by eBay but all opinions are my own.

26 COMMENTS

  1. A classic and hysterically funny book for anyone with a hint of “southern” in them. I’m half southern and fourth generation Grande Baroque.

  2. Nothing dresses up the table like silver! I bought mine piece by piece over the years. If my children (especially my sons) misbehaved , they had to polish the silver. I called it productive discipline. They are now grown and both are veterans. At family dinners they always talk about how much silver polishing they did in their teen years. I keep telling them the right young woman will someday appreciate that skill! I have Rose Point for everyday use, International DuBarry for special occasions. I have a set of monogrammed Towle Craftsman for which I have made up a long lost aunt, Aunt Gertie Lou (Gertrude Louise), to explain the GL monogram on the silver. Right now I’m working on a set of Baltimore Rose. Then there’s a set of Buttercup that is supposed to go to my daughter…maybe someday.

  3. I’m so glad you posted this. I thought I was the only girl who received silver pieces for Christmas and birthdays when I was growing up. It has been rarely used in my very casual life, but I appreciate those wonderful women who thought it was important that I be properly outfitted for adult life. They chose Towle’s Old Master because it most closely resembled my grandmother’s childhood baby spoon, which I still have (of course).

  4. I have two vintage patterns by International : Shirley, which is a simple pattern monogrammed with my last initial, and Avalon, which is a very elegant pattern rather like King Edward. I also have a luncheon set of George & Martha by Westmorland, created around WWII. My absolute favorite pattern in King Edward by Whiting. This is a pattern I would love to own, but how much sterling does one really need? (My answer: one can never have enough!) I love owning vintage flatware that is decades old!

  5. I have Medici by Gorham, which is similar to the Grand Baroque. And I’ve inherited an incredibly large set of Bridal Bouquet by Alvin. I guess that makes me a confused Southern Belle!! Unfortunately, I don’t love the Bridal Bouquet, while I still love the Medici that I chose when I was 15 (now 67). Guess I should sell the BB and fill in my missing Medici pieces!

  6. My mother bought a set of Swan Lake by International for me when I was 18 years old . She was building my Hope chest. At age 30 she gave up waiting on me to get married and gave me my silver. I love the elegant simplicity and use it every day. (And I got married at 32!)

  7. I choose my silver pattern also at Age 13. It was a overwhelming decision. My grandmother had given me a baby spoon and fork when I was born, Gorham Greenbrier pattern. So I chose that as my silver pattern. After being married I used the set until someone gave me a s/s set. I don’t use my silver anymore. I even have a complete set of my mother’s Gorham Camelia. What a shame they are not being used today.

  8. I really wanted to register for Tiffany’s “Chrysanthemum” when I got married in 1966, but fiancé thought it was too ornate – his mother had a plainer pattern. We compromised with Tiffany’s “English King” and I eventually had vermeil applied to the forks, knifes, b&b, and dessert spoons when I changed china patterns and got an Imari pattern. This was during Tiffany’s table setting heyday and mixing vermeil and silver was all the rage. I should have stuck to my guns and gotten Chrysanthemum – it’s still my first love and in vermeil, it’s TDF. Marriage didn’t last but ones silver is forever!

    We wanted to use our sterling flatware daily so first husband and I gave each other a set of Gorham’s “Fairfax” for that. I was working at a dept store at that time, and Gotham used to have an annual “save by the set” sale which was heavily discounted and included free serving pieces. Add in my 30% employee discount and this was a steal! I later inherited 6 more place settings from a bachelor uncle – he even had luncheon size! I still use it everyday.

    When the last of my 2nd husband’s parent’s died, I inherited their “summer silver” – the pattern they took with them to their summer home but which lived in the attic the other 8 months of the year, until all their silver was stolen on “cooks night out”. It was Gorham’s “Strasbourg”. When my husband was still alive, I used it for everyday. It’s a pretty old pattern but not really my style – a bit too “sweet” for my taste.

    I have always purchased “dinner” size and I prefer either a “modern french blade” or a “french blade”. I don’t like the “modern hollow” knife at all – it looks like cheap stainless.

    One need be aware of the markings on the back of estate silver. For instance, Gotham made “Extra”, “Regular”, “Heavy”, and “Massive”. My Strasbourg is “Heavy” and is so marked. You can find these markings on this web site: <https://www.sterlingflatwarefashions.com/Msc/WeightMks.html> I was able to replace a few missing pieces of my Strasbourg with the proper weight mark and age on it.

    My mother’s pattern was Towle’s “Virginia Carvel”. It’s similar to Fairfax but with a pointy end. I helped a friend buy an entire set on eBay for a very attractive price as it’s not one of the “popular” patterns, but is simple enough not to look “twee” like some of the old ones do.

    One aunt had Grand Baroque and her daughter chose Francis 1. Personality traits described were accurate for them both!

    If one is not southern but a New England/Eastern girl, silver patterns chosen tend to be on the simply/plain side. They will choose either a Tiffany pattern or one from James Robinson (which is the sun and the moon, new or “used”!).

    • What a particularly interesting story!

      I have Gotham Fairfax which I love, love and now I understand my aesthetic – English parents, born in NYC, raised mostly in California. So maybe despite living on the west coast I’m a yankee at heart? Thank you for this!!

  9. This is one of my favorite books! I have given it to many friends over the years! I laugh every time I think about Princess Margaret smoking outside. My ears ring with the edict at the Chi Omega house never to smoke without a roof over your head! I think I will get out my copy and have a good laugh!1
    Thanks!

  10. You are so right: we are all Chantilly ladies & little does my daughter know but she will be too.

    eBay has some incredible deals but as you warned be careful. Some sellers are beyond amazing and others leave a lot to be desired. You can also monitor the auction houses. Silver sets come through with some amazing prices.

  11. Thanks for the chuckle. I love this book not withstanding I am a Kappa. My pattern is Old English Tipt but it is flamboyantly engraved with my monogram. With ebay and all, it is easy to always use sterling and never resort to a lesser metal.

  12. Since I dealt in antique silver I was confronted by so many choices and I could never allow one to be the only one. I have dozens that work as individual pieces, e.g., soup spoons, oyster forks, ice cream spoons, coffee spoons, etc. which all arrive with their dish which will then be removed from the table. The guests are always fascinated by the differences and they sell better than one giant service. Most people have no idea how many pieces made up an antique service. In Wm. B. Durgin’s “Du Barry” pattern he made 105 different pieces. Remember that a dozen teaspoons is only one piece in this count.
    I bought my first piece of flatware in an auction house just south of Cleveland, OH and it was a dessert fork in Gorham’s “Versailles” (reminded me of when I lived in Paris), then I acquired some tea knives in Tiffany’s “Persian” (since I couldn’t afford a real Persian rug it was a beautiful substitute) and on and on it went for 43 years of buying up everything from 17th century Dutch sweetmeat forks to all the 19th century revivals and the japonesque creations of the great companies of the era.
    To be a Southern Belle has its benefits but to be universal has endless delights awaiting you.

  13. My mother’s pattern is Baroque, my sister’s is Repousse. My mother’s best friend, my godmother, was a nurse at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda. She cared for a dying man who had created Gorham’s Fairfax pattern. So my godmother started my pattern with the Fairfax and I just love it. Every time I use it, I think of her and the creator of the pattern. Silver is so much more than just part of a pretty place setting!

  14. I’ve always loved this little jewel of a book! I have my mother’s Buttercup and plan on using it this Thanksgiving. Sadly, young ladies today don’t even register for formal china and silver.

  15. I don’t like any of the patterns above. When I was shopping for a pattern in the 1980s, I gave up on active patterns because I thought they were all hideous, so I decided to shop for an antique pattern, looking through pattern books at a local silver shop. I selected Della Robbia by Alvin (1922) for its Renaissance Revival flavor and later landed on Monticello by Lunt (1908) as an alternate for supplemental serving pieces. Della Robbia must have been very popular in its day, because I have had no problem collecting place settings and serving pieces. Monticello is harder to find, so using it to supplement my main service has worked out well. Monticello is an eye-popping pattern, in my opinion. Clearly my taste runs to the Classical rather than the Baroque. And I still love my selections and would have it no other way. I continue to add pieces to my collection and enjoy the hunt.

  16. I married in 1975 to a wonderful guy (celebrated our 45th during this COVID year!) I chose Fairfax, Lenox Castle Garden and Waterford Lismore. I had done some reading (not by Google of course!) and learn the recommendation for those three items was 2 fancy patterns and one plain or the reverse. I chose the silver first. Then the china and crystal last. I told myself it did not matter what the crystal cost, choose the one l liked. Lismore was midrange in price. Years later l also learned that pattern was the most popular pattern. We did not have a lot of money but I thought go ahead and choose the items. I was the first in my family who have sterling flatware, fine china or crystal. I thought l would be entertaining a lot when we got older. I knew a lot of little ole ladies in church love to give those gifts. Of course l got a lot of Tupperware and towels. Everything was greatly appreciated. A year later we traveled to Europe b/c my husband’s sister was living in France. She had married a Roman and they lived in the States and across the pond.
    Our return flight had a layover for one hour in the Shannon, Ireland airport. We had not received a complete set of Lismore when we got married. I knew the duty free shop would have the Lismore. I told George l wanted to purchase more of our crystal. They had grocery buggies so l grabbed one of those. They were out of the stock of any stemware but oh boy! They had lots of special pieces. I chose a ship’s decanter first and then whatever l could find including vases, a picture frame, candy dish and a few other things. Back then you could re-board with whatever you had bought. I had packages under my feet and on the seat with me! It was the first time he had ever witnessed how much l could spend in one hour. He was shocked! He still often only allows me one hour to shop when we travel but that’s OK. I am a well trained shopper! My Fairfax is my most favorite part of the wedding gifts! Enjoy your choices!

  17. You also are mistaken on place settings and size. I should also add that place settings are not just for luncheon they are and should be used for both luncheon and dinner. Whereas a dinner setting alone should never be used for a luncheon therefore the place setting is far more versatile

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