60-Second Silver: Who was America’s first silversmith?

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Q. I have a Mexican candelabra stamped “sterling” on the bottom. Are the arms sterling?

Though there are no quality marks on the arms, I am confident that they are sterling. Unlike Great Britain, Germany, and other countries that must hallmark all removable pieces on an object, Mexico has no such standard.

Q. Why is there a metallic taste when I drink coffee or tea?

When I get this question, it usually leads to a plated pot that has the plating worn off inside the object revealing the base metal underneath. You should discontinue using these pieces until you can get their interiors replated.

Q. Who was America’s first silversmith?

That’s a tricky question that can only be answered as follows:

America’s first foreign-born silversmith was John Mansfield who arrived from London in 1635, and settled in Charlestown, Mass.

America’s first foreign-born and American-trained silversmith was John Hull of London who immigrated to Boston, completing his apprenticeship in 1645.

America’s first American-born and American-trained silversmith was Jeremiah Dummer from Quincy, Mass., who completed his apprenticeship in 1666. ?

Jeffrey Herman encourages anyone with silver-related questions that can’t be answered on his Web site hermansilver.com to contact him. He may be reached at 800-339-0417or jeff@hermansilver.com or at PO Box 786, West Warwick, RI 02893.

Jeffrey Herman started Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation in 1984, and has repaired and reconstructed everything from historically important tankards, tea services, and tureens to disposal-damaged flatware. Herman has worked at Gorham as a designer, sample maker, and technical illustrator and at Pilz Ltd., where he learned the fine art of restoration. Herman has a BFA degree in silversmithing and is the founder of the Society of American Silversmiths.


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