I’m about to make a prediction. If you (or your parents) were married between 1945 and 1967, the silver you set for Thanksgiving dinner is probably Chantilly. Even if you don’t know its name, you know its form: Gorham’s pattern for sterling flatware and corresponding hollowware pieces is a classic, widely collected and even more widely copied. Although it was first introduced in 1895, the pattern’s Louis XV-inspired scrollwork was a perfect fit for the increasingly affluent America of the mid-twentieth century. Not only is it Gorham’s most popular pattern, it is believed to be the best selling silver pattern in America.
And if Chantilly is your pattern, you’re lucky: its popularity means that replacement pieces are always readily available (some of us, who registered for more obscure patterns, envy you every time a teaspoon goes missing or a fork gets scratched).
So what’s it worth? With prices for precious metals continuing to climb into the stratosphere, it’s worth quite a bit more today than a few years ago. On July 14, 2012, for example, a search of Chantilly sterling flatware found 1,271 listings on Ebay, ranging from$17,500 for a set of 16 sterling chargers to just $19.99 for a single 9” french hollow knife. Replacements, Ltd. lists the asking price of a 92-piece set of 1950’s Chantilly sterling (no monograms) at $5,999.
At auction, Chantilly sells predictably well, though not in the range asked by retailers. However, auction prices, which record actual sales, should be taken seriously as an indicator of what buyers are known to have paid on the open market. For example, Sloans and Kenyon in Chevy Chase, Maryland, recently sold a 78 piece partial flatware set of Gorham Chantilly sterling for $2,400, close to the top of its presale estimate of $2,000-$2,500. That’s about half the price asked by Replacements, but unlike the retail consignor who may wait months to find a buyer, the Sloans consignor has long-since collected his check.
Here’s a quick rule of thumb: insurance appraisal value is commonly calculated at double the auction low estimate. If you have a set similar to the one sold at Sloan’s, you might expect a replacement value of about $4,000. If your silver is monogrammed you’ll probably have to adjust downward by as much as 30%.
To learn more about the history of Gorham silver and its much loved Chantilly pattern, check in next time for my follow-up post, “Gorham Silver: A Quick History of an American Classic.”