The tradition of Gorham fine silver began in New England in 1831 when Jabez Gorham began making coin silver spoons. Today, the company continues to produce a variety of tableware, including its famous silver. You may have pieces of Gorham silverware that have been collected or inherited. With some research, it's possible to find the date and pattern of your silver, and learn more about its history and value.
Look for the date mark. Much of Gorham silver has a stamped date mark on the back side of the piece. The exceptions are pieces manufactured from 1933 to 1941 when date marks were not used. Pieces from the mid-19th century to 1933 have a single letter or symbol that indicates the year. When the company resumed dating its pieces in 1941, it used a different method. Mid- and high-priced holloware received a date stamp that showed a geometric cartouche. The shape of the cartouche indicated the decade the piece was manufactured. A number inside the cartouche represented the year of manufacture. Use an Internet guide to Gorham date marks to match the symbol on your piece to the date of manufacturer. You can find a Gorham guide at the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Makers’ Marks.
Consult silverware identification guides. Use flatware collectors books to help identify and date specific patterns. Match your pieces to the guide’s illustrations and descriptions. A book such as the “Sterling Flatware Identification and Value Guide” by Tere Hagan has a section devoted to the Gorham company.
Get free help. The china, crystal and silver replacement company Replacements, Ltd. offers a free identification service. If you e-mail, regular mail, or fax them pictures of your Gorham silver, they will help you identify the pattern name. Search their website for Gorham silver if you want to try to identify the silver yourself before contacting the company. Match the decoration on your silver to the illustrations the company provides for the different Gorham patterns. This will give you the pattern name and the years the pattern was manufactured.
Check with other collectors. Often, if you show a collector your silverware or a picture of the silver, he or she will recognize it or offer clues to the identify and date of manufacturer that you can research. Find fellow collectors online at the Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver. Locally, inquire at antiques stores to find dealers and collectors in vintage silver. Attend antiques shows, and visit the booths of sellers who specialize in silver. Don’t be afraid to ask these sellers questions.
Shelia Odak has over 10 years writing and editing experience for consumer and trade publications including "Radio/TV Interview Report." She has worked for over nine years in education and holds a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Odak writes on a range of topics including education, literature and frugal living.