Old silver will shine at the antiques fair Antiques: Baltimore is savvy about the stuff, dealers say, so lots of it will be offered at the annual event.

August 23, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

Not all glitters: The fair's broad range of offerings include much besides silver, like this majolica plate from Finders Keepers.

If there's a certain glow in the air at the 18th annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair this coming weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center, it may be the reflected gleam of silver.

Baltimore is "big silver country," according to dealers in the metal, who will be bringing in prime examples from the distant and recent past.

Dealers in silver and all sorts of objects are coming from the United States and Canada as well as from Europe and Asia for the three-day show. Besides silver, offerings will include pottery, art glass, enamels and paintings, Roman artifacts, Judaica, porcelain, furniture and textiles.

In addition to the regular show, with more than 450 dealers, there will be more than 50 purveyors offering national and international period furniture in intimate room settings, and nearly 80 in the antiquarian book fair.

But there will be, as always, a lot of silver, because, dealers say, Baltimore- and Washington-area buyers are particularly savvy about the traditions of fine silver, and because old silver offers tremendous value.

"Baltimore is a center of silver production, so there are generations of silver collectors who have a font of appreciation for silver," said Louis McGee, of McGee's Antiques of San Diego, Calif., citing the tradition of Kirk Stieff and other early designers and fabricators of silver objects. "It's one of the best places in the country to sell silver."

The taste for things silver is acquired early, McGee feels, "through lifestyles being passed down, of Sunday dinners with silver." Besides, he said, antique silver offers good value. "If it's taken care of, it will last a lifetime, or several lifetimes. That makes it a good investment."

More casual lifestyles in most parts of the country have decreased the market for new silver, the dealers noted, causing companies to merge or disappear. In addition, automation has changed the way silver is produced.

"Old silver is heavier, has more detail, and a lot more craftsmanship," said Jim Seymour, of Seymour's Silver of Denton, which he described as "probably the biggest replacement-matching service of antique Baltimore silver" around.

And even though the old stuff is getting harder to find, Seymour said, "You can still pick up stuff from the 1890s to the 1910s that is the same price but better quality" than new silver.

Bill Drucker, of Drucker Antiques of Mount Kisco, N.Y., specializes in 20th-century design, including silver items from the Danish firm of Georg Jensen (now part of Royal Scandinavia).

He cited two reasons for the abundance of silver at the Baltimore show, to which he'll be contributing: "A, there's a big demand for it, and B, there's a trend toward people appreciating finer things, turning away from stainless and silver plate.

"What's fun," he said, "is that museum-quality silver is available to the masses. We sell in all price ranges," from about $100 to "significant money."

Not all the metal at the show will be as polished as the silver. At Olde Good Things' booth, those interested in architectural salvage can find iron gates, fencing and railings, tin and zinc corbels and moldings - as well as columns, mantels, doors, windows, lighting and hardware in various materials ranging from terra cotta to wood.

Also popular these days from the New York City store are cupolas salvaged from old churches or schoolhouses, said Haroldynne Rannels, one of Old Good Things' self-described "architecturologists." "People use them as garden ornaments," she said.

Another item that's enjoying renewed popularity is majolica, a kind of glazed, figured pottery that is eye-catching for its sculptural, usually naturalistic, shapes and its brilliant glazes.

"Majolica was made between 1850 and the turn of the century," (( said Carol Kooperman, of Finders Keepers of Narberth, Pa., who deals exclusively in majolica.

Although it gradually fell out of fashion favor in the first half of the 20th century, in the '70s there was a revival of interest.

"It's a very fresh look," Kooperman said. "In the past 10 years, it's gotten very, very popular."

In recent years, designers have become fond of displaying majolica in groups, for example, in a kitchen hutch. "When you see four or five pieces together, it makes more of a statement," she said.

Because it's so highly prized, majolica isn't inexpensive. A well-done English plate can cost between $200 and $600, Kooperman said, with a popular Minton oyster plate (with depressions in the shape of their shells for serving oysters) going for as much as $1,800.

Show organizer Frank Farbenbloom, of Sha-Dor, based in Rockville, said there are a few changes in the show this year.

There will be more furniture than ever before - "in all price ranges" - and, fairly new to the show, some vintage clothing, he said.

There have also been attempts to make the experience more comfortable for visitors with wider aisles, more seating and a full-service restaurant.

But mostly, Farbenbloom said, there will be something for everyone. "It's not a flea market, but it's not a museum," he said. "Not only can you actually touch things, you can even take them home."

When you go

The Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair runs from noon to 9 p.m. Friday, from noon to

8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The $8 admission fee covers entry to the show all three days. For information before the show, call 301-924-5002; during show hours, call 410-649-7396.

Several Baltimore hotels are offering antiques fair weekend packages. For a listing, call the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors' Association at 800-282-6632.

! Pub date: 8/23/98

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