21 Sep2007

Hidden Treasures…

by Marketman


I have featured several “beauties” from my sister’s extensive collection of silver and have learned a bit from the pieces and makers that she collects. Since we entertain extensively at home, we do use our silver (mostly plated that is) fairly often. For serving pieces at a buffet, we often use sterling silver or plated silver that we purchased at flea markets around the world. These are typically unmatched heavy pieces, often from closeouts at hotels, restaurants, garage sales, etc. They are only worth a few dollars a piece but they add that special glitter to a buffet. So I do occasionally have my antennae out for second hand silver… While shopping on Calle Crisologo in Vigan, I came across an antiques shop that stocked extensive pottery (probably 60% fake or replica types), old coins and bills and crystal. The Kid has taken to collecting coins/bills so I was looking at their money counter…


Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a huge pile of nearly black silverware, piles upon piles of spoons, forks and knives. A quick perusal led to an initial conclusion that these were lightly plated, and of wickedly atrocious design. But I revisited the pile a couple of minutes later and started to move things around. I asked how much the silver was and was told each piece was about PHP250 or USD5. That was incredibly overpriced for most of the stuff there. That is, until I spied a near pitch black utensil that appeared to be an asparagus server or similar doodad. I pulled the item out of the stack, took it out onto the street and gave it a closer look. It was weighty, nicely shaped, smelled real, and wouldn’t you know it, buried under the gunk was a hallmark that it was from the silversmiths Mappin & Webb! This was a plated serving piece, but a wonderful find. And the asking price? PHP250, same as everything else!


So I went back to the pile and realized there was 97% junk but yet there were a few interesting pieces… we ended up pulling out about ten nice heavy serving pieces that turned out to be original Christofle plated silverware, in a design from about 80-100 years ago! Could this be? A real plated silver find on a main tourist thoroughfare in Vigan? I thought it was. And we bought all of them for roughly PHP200 a piece or $4 each, after bargaining with the saleslady. Too bad they didn’t have the whole set, they said one of the nearby homeowners sold it to them as a set but they sold it off in pieces…yikes! And yes, it did cross my mind that the pieces may have been stolen and pawned, but they did have a LOT of silver for sale.


Back in Manila, the pieces were cleaned up quickly to see if they were a steal or a rip-off and these beautiful pieces emerged. We are so pleased. These will definitely add to our eclectic mix of second hand silver pieces. And at the right price as well!


We got serving utensils for fish, and other shapes I don’t even know what for. They are cleanly designed, heavy in weight, most of the silver in good shape, and just an all around minor treasure! You just never know where you will find an incredible goody…



  1. portugalbear says:

    Lucky lucky you. Good thing you know a lot about silver otherwise you’ve missed out on a good find. Good for you MM.

    Sep 21, 2007 | 4:48 pm


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  3. Wyatt says:

    Wow! I miss these when I went to Vigan.

    Sep 21, 2007 | 4:49 pm

  4. Blaise says:

    You know this may sound corny, but I feel the same way when I go to an ukay ukay and find an interesting piece upon piles and piles of clothes, the dust and all.. It really feels good afterwards.. ;)

    Sep 21, 2007 | 4:54 pm

  5. Marketman says:

    Blaise, that is not corny at all, it is the joy one feels upon unearthing a diamond in the rough… Wyatt, you have to troll through some of those stores for some interesting finds… portugalbear, I almost missed it completely…

    Sep 21, 2007 | 4:56 pm

  6. corrine says:

    Wow, I love treasure hunts! Lucky you!

    Sep 21, 2007 | 6:05 pm

  7. corrine says:

    MM, how did you clean the utensils?

    Sep 21, 2007 | 6:06 pm

  8. dizzy says:

    wow, that’s a really great find. although I wouldn’t really know the significance of the names/brands, sorry, hehe. but I do love anything that’s old and a bit worn. I like the fork with five tines because it would go well with the three-eyed fish featured in one Simpsons episode (joke) :-p

    Sep 21, 2007 | 6:06 pm

  9. erleen says:

    a lucky kitchen find!

    got the same feeling when I found an authentic Levi’s for 50 pesos sa ukay-ukay sa kanto =)

    Sep 21, 2007 | 6:25 pm

  10. DADD-F says:

    When I go have a look see, I just don’t browse. Somehow, I manage to zoom in on really great finds. Too bad I am not moneyed. But I did manage to get a very old pewter cup for my son when we visited Vigan. And I had a very old, utterly simple baul sent to Manila about two years ago. My old pillow rack is still at a friend’s house. Lucky her. Siya muna ang gumagamit until we find a way for her to send it to me. :)

    Sep 21, 2007 | 7:19 pm

  11. Traci says:

    wow, very good finds, MM. Mappin and Webb is British, right? I wonder how the piece got there.. and an interesting piece at that! In Singapore last month, Takashimaya was having a sale of WMF pieces (18/8 stainless), and they had asparagus tongs and sausage tongs and even mango forks!

    Sep 21, 2007 | 7:42 pm

  12. sister says:

    Wonderful finds! Mappin and Webb is a favorite silversmith and even their silverplate fetches good prices. You have an asparagus server there, a master butter, a sardine fork, etc. Remember. Vigan had a highly developed tradition of major entertaining in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Someone travelled with that Christofle from France to Vigan!

    Sep 21, 2007 | 8:11 pm

  13. elaine says:

    i wish i have the patience to go through piles, i think it’s my mom who seemed to be gifted with an eye for terrific finds in flea markets, second time around shops, ukay2 with fairly good bargaining skills. but with these fabulous finds in local shores, i’m inspired…

    Sep 21, 2007 | 8:59 pm

  14. z says:

    what great finds! but the thought of antique silver (80-100 yrs old… aaack!) creep me out a bit though! haha :)

    Sep 21, 2007 | 10:50 pm

  15. eej says:

    Antiquing’s draw is similar to the thrill of braving weekend garage sales. The excitement and extra rush of adrenaline when finding a treasure from someone else’s junk. The best part is getting it at less than a third of the original price, BUT you end up with more doodads you really don’t need.

    Sep 22, 2007 | 12:00 am

  16. Maria Clara says:

    Very nice find. How did you clean and bring out their natural beauty?

    Sep 22, 2007 | 12:07 am

  17. betty mahmoudy says:

    Wow, what fantastic finds! I was in HK recently and wanted to replace a Christofle salad fork my maid had thrown in the bin by, well, sheer carelessness. Fortunately, the fork was out of stock and had to be ordered because the price for a single fork was HK$780 or $100! Seemed a lot to “fork” out for a fork! I’m so glad – and grateful – I got my set as a wedding present!

    Sep 22, 2007 | 2:01 am

  18. bernadette says:

    That’s so neat! When I was Vigan, I was told that it was once considered the Vienna of Southeast Asia and European traders were fond of their indigo especially. Whenever I get to see quiant antique shops in the provinces I look for the glassware. I got my finds too! And they’re always very affordable compared to that in Manila.

    Sep 22, 2007 | 8:01 am

  19. wil-b cariaga says:

    lots of people in Vigan don’t really know how to clean their silver/ don’t even know it is silver, many households inherit these stuff but some just throw them because it’s already black. . .

    Sep 22, 2007 | 12:18 pm

  20. kulasa says:

    Some people can get really lucky. Very nice find.

    Sep 22, 2007 | 12:28 pm

  21. rina says:

    same way i felt about finding my Le Creuset cocotte (unused still in the box – seemed to be a wedding gift received by a non-cook) in a garage sale for P1,000.

    Sep 23, 2007 | 12:15 pm

  22. mila says:

    What a wonderful reminder of your trip! Could you write up about what a 5 tine serving fork would be used for? Part of your silverware story arc.

    Sep 23, 2007 | 1:30 pm

  23. palengkera says:

    Congratulations MM! Excellent finds for a steal of a bargain!

    Sep 24, 2007 | 9:28 am

  24. Daisy says:

    Wow great find MM. I also feel the same in finding great outdoor gear at ukay ukay. I was really interested when you mentioned the brand Mappin and Webb and thus, I googled it, and alas found that they were silversmiths to Queen Elizabeth. Such a steal! how did you clean the silver?

    Sep 24, 2007 | 3:37 pm

  25. Marketman says:

    To clean the silver, they were coated with a good silver polish which looks like a cream. Then with a damp cloth in straight motions (rather than circular), the black gunk was taken off slowly but surely. It takes elbow grease if you have several decades of tarnish on the silver. Do not use other more abrasive metal polishes unless they specify that they are safe for silver. They also sell liquid silver cleaner but they are quite harsh and probably peel off or dissolve some of the silver if you leave them in the fluid for too long. Once clean, just store your silver in plastic bags or ziplock bags and keep them in a dark clean drawer. Of course, if you have an anti-tarnish felt-lined silver chest (we do not), that would be even better… For others who might be curious, here is a link to Mappin & Webb, and a bit about their history. Mila, I believe the five tined serving fork is for serving fish, along with the wide flat knife alongside it…or at least I assumed that when I bought it…

    Sep 24, 2007 | 3:56 pm

  26. maria says:

    we have nearly black silverware…your article just inspired me to clean them this coming week-end. thanks!

    Sep 24, 2007 | 7:05 pm

  27. Rowi says:

    What great finds you made in the most unlikely place! I usually get suspicious when I see an antiques sign in shops outside of Manila. “Antiques-while-you-wait” i label the items from these places.

    May I add some tried and true tips for the cleaning of silver? The silver polish in cream form is the best. Wash the silver first before using the polish using dishwashing liquid as you would with regular flatware. Use silver polish and then wash them again, to remove any trace of silver polish. Then using a clean soft cloth (preferably old cotton t-shirts) or flannel, if available, dry up the silver until it gets a nice sparkle and puts a satisfied smile in your face. If the silver will not be used for everyday dining, line them in flannel cloth, don’t let the pieces touch each other, and then wrap up and store in ziploc bags, in a dark cupboard. This way, the silver would take some time to get dark again.

    Antique silver are quite common in Europe and could be acquired at auction houses and bidding could be made even online. If interested in really outstanding pieces, please check the Swedish site http://www.lillabukowskis.com and click on catalogues, choose any date, and then check silver.

    Sep 24, 2007 | 9:38 pm


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