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Novelty, Novelty, Novelty!

Above: Three rare and desirable pieces of nineteenth century novelty silver. Each with an exact purpose.

A regular discussion I have with some people who are intrigued by silver revolves around value.

"What's it worth?" and "How much!?" are two of the most common questions asked.

Of course there is the 'bullion' or 'scrapper' method by which some ascribe to, which sadly leaves me feeling very cold and disheartened. Touted by those who believe in their 'fool-proof' solution to weigh a piece of silver and multiple the weight by the 'latest' silver scrap (or spot) price.

Silver is a precious metal and of course will always have an intrinsic value - the same goes for gold, platinum etc. They are commodities which are traded and price fluctuates due to market conditions. A reliable source of truth for live metal prices is The Perth Mint (

A lump of silver is worth whatever a lump of silver is worth, however one must take in to consideration a number of factors other than bullion price when determining value. These can include:

(i) Age

(ii) Condition

(iii) Maker

(iv) Rarity

(v) Desirability

I would like to focus on the last two points above - rarity and desirability. Very popular amongst collectors and connoisseurs are 'novelty' pieces of silver and a few examples are illustrated above. Functional objects crafted out of precious metal and fashioned in a unique way in order to elevate a utilitarian piece of kit into a statement item for the discerning lady or gent - or as I like to think of it - 'antique bling'.

Two very collectable areas include vesta cases (match holders) and vinaigrettes (small boxes which would contain a sponge soaked in a scented substance used to 'revive' you when walking through filthy streets in the nineteenth century), whose desirability is ever increased when the novelty factor is added!

Pictured above is a very rare Victorian vesta case, modeled in the form of a bust of William Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain on four separate occasions and a further Victorian vesta case, modeled in the form of a suitcase. These period antique items are so sought after that modern replicas are being produced today to meet demand, however they invariably are only marked '925' and lack the quality of the originals.

Close up of the delicate intricately pierced silver-gilt internal grille of the novelty satchel form vinaigrette.

A George IV silver vinaigrette in the form of a satchel or wallet is also an unusual and desirable collectable for today's market. Small and perfectly formed. Very high quality, in wonderful condition and easy to store and display.

The monetary value of these pieces has precious little to do with the material worth of the silver contained within them, as in actuality this would amount to shillings and pence rather than pounds. Value lies with rarity and desirability as opposed to a cumbersome modern silver tray which may be badly broken and dented - when perhaps even I would reach for my calculator and scales.

For more information, please contact Matthew Lafite on 0458 029 962 or email

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