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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.