Durgin Silver is a silversmith that has produced some exquisite and original cutlery designs that are prized by silverworks collectors today. They are mostly considered antiques and are passed on within families from one generation to another. These are in every sense your grandmother’s silver, but with a deviant artistic twist. If your grandmother’s silverware has the authentic Durgin trademark, then it was most likely made by William B. Durgin Silver Company, an American company based in Concord New Hampshire. The company was at it’s peak in the mid 1800s.
Durgin Silver was a supplier for high end cutlery, flatware, centerpieces and hollowware for the New Hampshire, Providence and Rhode Island areas. The company was dissolved when it sold to Gorham Manufacturing in 1905. The most popular Durgin sterling silver patterns where the Colfax and the Chrysanthemum. A set of Durgins will value today into the thousands of dollars, the record being $28,000 just for one set. Gorham sold silverware under several names, including Durgin after they had bought the company in 1905. Which is why designs created using the Durgin brand after 1905 is credited to Gorham rather than Durgin, even when the pieces holds the same trademark.
Durgin had made some popular silverware patterns like the English Rose, which was then in direct competition with Gorham’s design which was called the Cambridge. Both patterns came out around the same period in 1899. When Gorham Company absorbed Durgin, they relaunched some of Durgin’s signature patterns, including the English Rose version which was re-released around 1955. This was a marketing scheme on the part of Gorham, to reaffirm the Durgin brand and to sell more silverware using the old name. Pieces that were created by Durgin prior to its merger with Gorham are considered more valuable and authentic representations of the company’s handicraft.
There are some patterns that Durgin made only on special order while other patterns were very popular and mass produced. Fairfax was a popular pattern that was very simple and could still be found in silverware today. The Chrysanthemum pattern was a wide floral design used for spoons and forks that looked very feminine. There are elaborate flowers embossed on the edges of the handle, tapering down to the spoon. Because of it’s unique aesthetic, the Chrysanthemum pattern was sometimes created only on special order.
The Antique Madame Royale design is a more understated floral design, compared with the Chrysanthemum. The design extended from the handle into the spoon itself. Some unusual patterns from Durgin include the Watteau pattern where in the ladle is in the shape of a round tropical leaf or a clam shell. Even spoons in the Watteau pattern has some embossed design on the spoon end which would give some texture to the mouth when used for eating. The handle of the Watteau pattern is irregular and curvy. The pattern design is extremely elaborate and intended to look like twisting vines and flowers.
Durgin has also designed for cutlery that is no longer used today, such as the lemon fork with prongs that look askew. Many of the Durgin patterns were inspired by the French Nouveau Art movement. These pieces are distinct in their overly elaborate designs fit into a small pieces, such as a dessert fork. Most Durgin pieces are auctioned in pieces of one or two, but they fetch the best prices where sold as complete sets.