Sterling Silver – A British Favourite

If there is one thing Britain does best, its elegance.   The islands possess an endless reserve of sheer finesse.  Every character and product born from our shores oozes its own very individual charm.

Britain has become expert in materialising elegance into the everyday lives of its citizens.  From the cars we drive, to the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and in the modern world of today, there are even more luxurious versions of the air we breathe.

The reputation Britain holds began its development long ago. In the case of silver, around the 12th century. From Celtic jewellery to weaponry (yes we even went to war looking fabulous) silver became a favourite metal amongst the Anglo Saxons and other people of the Island. It was pliable, flexible and easier to mould than other metals available at the time. Silver has always been recognised as a precious metal, the Egyptians referred to silver as “white gold”.

Silver came into its own in Britain, however, when England’s first King, King Athelstan decreed silver would be the official currency. The name ‘sterling’ is difficult to place in terms of origin. The first use of the word appears to be in 1078, during the reign of William the Conqueror’s when the word ‘sterilensis’ appears. ‘Sterling,’ became the common term from around the 13th century.  It is thought the term derived from German traders buying English cattle using the term Easterlings for the silver coins they traded with.  The truth is lost in time but it seems certain that ‘sterling’  derived from the old German word “Ster” meaning strong.

Britain became heavily respected for its quality of silver.  Sterling silver is the highest grade of silver that is still useful for day to day tasks.  Higher grades tend to become too delicate, and are susceptible to nicks and dents.

Rulers considered maintaining the the grade of silver a serious matter.  Henry the First famously castrated ninety-four mint workers upon the discovery of bad coins being produced. Britain continued to use silver as its currency until the 18th century when it was replaced with gold.

Sterling Silver continued to be used for the finer things in life, jewellery and particularly in the late 18th and early 19th century, tableware.

Britain often creates an image in mind,  like a Downton Abbey episode, a formal dinner setting, with ten different pairs of cutlery, shining tea sets, fancy frocks and grand estates. In the Victorian period, this really was the case for a few elite members of British society.

As the wealthier, got wealthier, social events became grander and silver tableware became something of a ‘must have’ for the wealthy folk of the period. A silver tableware set in the Victorian era was not your standard forks, knives and spoons. These sets consisted of everything from tea sets, separate cutlery sets for up to a ten course meal and even silver napkin rings.  Dinner sets of this nature were often over one hundred pieces.  They were a statement of wealth and class. Sterling flatware sets today can often cost well into £20,000 for full sets, so the metal holds its value.

Sterling silver has been currency, jewellery, and an integral part of a luxury lifestyle.  It is used all over the world, today, by many of the most established jewellers, including Tiffany’s amongst many, many others.

So if you fancy the look of a dolled up Duchess or if your ambition is to hold the finest dinner party since Queen Victoria herself, grab some Sterling silver (just make sure it’s British).

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