The Silver on a Walking Stick or Walking Cane

Like or dislike of silver is subjective and will be dependent on how it is used and what the finished product looks like.  However, many items of silver are collected on the basis of  the creator-the silversmith.

For centuries silversmiths have created works or art with silver. Complicated uses of silver to embellish the shaft or cleverly manipulated the metal to crisply blend the joining of the handle to the shaft. Silversmiths have to be applauded for their near magical skill.

 

Properties  of Silver

Silver is a precious metal which is harder than gold, but still relatively soft to other precious metals.  A metal that is a better electrical conductor than copper, but its high cost makes it less attractive for electrical wiring. Silver is a metal that dependant on purity, in addition it is strong, malleable and ductile. A precious metal that can endure extreme temperature ranges and has the advantage of being able to reflect light to a high degree. The list of silver properties are endless and worth your time to explore.

Grades of Silver

British silver arrives in a range of  distinctive grades. Firstly, ’fine silver’ or 99.9%. This is a soft metal that tends to be used in the  bullion bars for international commodities, trading  and investment. Although not prone to tarnishing this grade is too fragile a grade of silver for the application within the manufacture of a walking stick.

The second grade is’ Britannia silver’. This grade of silver is much softer than sterling silver at 95.83%. With the hallmark of 958.  Again, this a grade of silver that is generally too soft to be applied as a decorative metal applied to walking sticks.

The third Silver graded  as 925 or sterling silver, This is the  grade  commonly used to embellish walking canes .  Sterling silver  is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5 per cent copper or other metals. The existence of copper and other metals will induce the tarnish when exposed to the atmosphere but does have the advantage of increasing the strength of the metal.

Polishing Silver

Where tarnish is present on the metal, inevitably there becomes the need for the individual to get out the polish.  However, too much or too regular polishing will wear away the surface of silver.  In addition, the grease, salts and friction of a hand on a walking stick handle on a regular basis, will induce wear to the metal. This explains why the detail on old silver walking stick handles or assay punches become worn and indistinguishable over time.

 

 Standardisation of Silver

We are extremely lucky having a standardised control mechanism for silver within the UK. This guardianship and control held with the powers and provision of the Assay Offices located throughout the country:

  •  Birmingham Assay Office-
  • Edinburgh Assay Office
  • London Assay Office
  • Sheffield Assay Office

Current Irish Assay Office

  • Dublin Assay Office

 

Theoretically, for silver to be regarded as authentic then the item should hold the relevant Hallmarks. These marks include the Assay Office that has issued the marks. Secondly, the date mark which indicates when the item was stamped by the Assay office not when the item was manufactured. The third punch will define the metal and the purity.

Makers/Sponsors Punch

The final stamp may or not be present. The Assay office define this final stamp as the ‘sponsors’ punch.  A means to identify the maker  and or origin of the item.  For the premium silversmith, this is  marketing tool to differentiate their creations in order the avid followers buy.  Hence a cane with the Howell makers punch will not only be sought by the general cane collector but by the collector of specific silver embellished canes holding the ‘Howell’ stamp.

To Assay or Not

However, although we have one of the best means of controlling the quality of silver being sold and manufactured, silver does not need to be hallmarked under 7.78 grams.

Nevertheless, over the decades there are many items in excess of the 7.78g  weight in the market place that are not hallmarked. The reasoning for this in part is simple.  Order a bespoke item from an individual stick maker and require a silver collar then there is a high possibility that the cane may not be hallmarked.  The buyer may not be prepared, or have the time to wait  for the stick maker to contact a silversmith to make and further  organise the hallmarking, nor be prepared to pay a further amount for the process.  Achieving a hallmark on an item does  incur a range of costs.

 

A further view is given  in an article written by Roland Arkell for the Antiques Gazette, stating:” For many reasons town silversmiths in Ireland and Scotland seldom sent their plate to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dublin to be assayed.  Here, often for reasons of security and economy, it was prudent to operate outside the jurisdiction of the metropolitan assay houses of Dublin and Edinburgh.

Instead, they stamped the silver themselves with a maker’s mark, a town mark or combinations of these and other marks.” (1)

 

Silver & White Metal

Legally,  silver above the 7.78g weight,  cannot be sold as silver but must be described as ‘white metal’.  Possibly, a collector with a beautiful cane with a ‘white metal’ silver embellishment would decide to visit the nearest  Assay office and have the unmarked silver, on a walking stick Hallmarked. The stark reality is, that to do so would possibly reduce the value of the walking stick as  assay stamps are not retrospect.  Imagine, a beautiful Georgian walking cane holding a silver collar bearing the hallmarks for 2017!

Silver is a very large field to explore but is one of the most fascinating.  If you have five minutes, sit at the computer with a cup of coffee then explore the field, you will be surprised with what you can find.

 

 

 

Victorian Frenchie Carved Dog Head Walking Stick

Many walking stick handle or  pommel head studies of the Georgian & Victorian period have an interesting background. In part, an integral ingredient to understanding the social and industrial development  of Britain

As a dog lover and a collector of dog head walking sticks, I have always admired, sadly never owned the French Bull dog or more commonly addressed as the ‘Frenchie’. A lovely ‘domestic companion’ dog breed.

Sporting Dogs V’s  Domestic Companion Dogs

If you love dogs as a walking stick collector you will love hand carved Victorian dog stick handles . Collectors will likely hold some superb hand carved French Bulldogs and similar Boston Terriers. The  carvings produced  in the Victorian period by  outsourced wood carves and then mounted by walking stick manufacturers.

The most popular dog head study of the later Georgian and early Victorian period was the ‘sporting’ dog . These dogs being the whippets or greyhounds. These dogs used in hunting and racing. This begs the question as to how a domestic companion dog like the French Bulldog became so popular as a walking stick mount.

The answer can be found in historical reference relating to the Industrial Revolution and the core industrial production within towns and cities of England. The link with the French Bulldog is Nottingham and the Lace making industry.

Frenchie  & Lace Making

The toy sized canine, that has DNA links to the bulldog, is suggested to have evolved through good and bad  British breeding. This little, good, compact  ratting dog found  favour with  the lace workers, of Nottingham.

Increased industrialiation throughout Europe aided  the free movement of labour. Many Lace makers emigrated to France to seek a higher income, taking with them, their loving companions, the little Frenchie.

The Opportunity For Stick Makers

It’s not surprising that  this  little breed of dog became popular throughout Europe and America. The  high degree of popularity of the canine, suggest the reasoning why the walking stick makers adopted the Frenchie so readily. The  dog carvings outsourced to wood carvers on piece work basis. On completion   returned to commercial stick manufactures,  to adorn many a walking stick shaft.

YOU WILL LOOK  at that that little Frenchie and Boston Terrier in a different light  the next time you cross paths!

 

 

Victorian carved horn greyhound on bamboo shaft
Victorian Carved Greyhound Walking Stick

For further information on this little dog:

Carved Dog Head
Victorian Carved Wood Boston Terrier /Frenchie Glove Holder Gadget Walking Stick

Information on the French Bulldog as a breed

Collecting Carved Dog Heads

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lace_Market

Researching Strategy for the Walking Stick Collector ( Part 1)

 

The world of walking sticks & canes is huge. For your initial collection objective make your target sticks as narrow as possible but not un-achievable. This will make life a little easier for you.

Secondly, define an area that there are sticks available and at a price you define, as reasonable.

 

Whatever area or type of collection, you wish to pursue, then research is essential and time consuming. Without a basic knowledge supporting your purchasing decision, you likely be buying  a bogus imitation.  Fraudulent imitations are not reproductions as their purpose is to deceive in order to achieve a premium price.  This has been prevalent during the latter 20th Century on wards with highly prized ceramics and Georgian tea caddies etc. Ivory snooker/pool balls re-engineered into an exact copy of a Georgian or early Victorian figural pommel.

Internet Research

The internet is possibly the easiest and cheapest source for base level research. There are  bucket full’s of material relating to woods,  metals, precious metals, precious stones, hallmarks, walking stick makers, metal standards etc.  This will aid you in defining the difference between ebony wood and ebonised wood when purchasing a cane.

Hard Copy Desk Research Material

Now, to the nitty gritty, the hard copy material. Reference material does arrive quite readily, but, at a much higher price than a soft backed copy of Mills & Boon. Therefore, do shop around online and offline.  Prices do vary and based a lot on availability. Some material only arrives as second hand used copy format, that may be a little tatty, but still information viable.

Suggested Texts

The suggested texts  below will give you a good introduction-choose 1 or 2 to explore as many texts tend to go over the same ground. Boothroyd is a good little text book but try to avoid the 1st Editions as they appear to be very highly priced.

 

  • Canes: From the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century-1998- Jeffrey B Snyder
  • Canes &Walking Sticks: A Stroll Through Time & Place- -1993-Jeffrey B, Snyder
  • Walking sticks -1998 –ULRICH KLEVER
  • Fascinating Walking Sticks – A.E.W. Boothroyd

So time to brew the coffee, switch on the computer and let your fingers jog over the  key pad!

 

Display collection of antique Victorian silver ,white metal  & ivory embellished walking sticks
Collection of Victorian Walking Sticks in white metal,ivory and silver

 

 

Displaying A Walking Stick Collection

Early Victorian brass boot walking stick stand
Walking Stick holders arrive in a large range of designs and age

 

Unlike collecting classic cars walking sticks are little easier to store and display. However, that is dependant on how many- get over the thousands and you may need a collection/ display  room or possibly a warehouse!

 

You do not need to be an avid collector of walking sticks to appreciate a good display of attractive walking sticks. The great advantage being that walking sticks make a great display in any size residence.

 

Many people use ceramic pots to store and display walking sticks. This type of display does look good but beware someone, some day, will ram a stick with a metal ferrule down too hard into the pot and crrracckk- there goes the lovely display pot. The solution to this being is to place a rubber ferrule on the base of all the sticks that have metal ferrules.

 

We all have something we dislike in respect to a collection. The author’s  pet hate is scratched walking stick shafts. So when using any pot, be it ceramic or metal try to line inside the container with felt to stop the scratching as you remove the cane.

 

Alternatively, you can get stick sleeves / socks but these can be expensive and generally only arrive in one size. However, you can make your own with a little time and help from a sewing machine.

 

The key point in displaying in pots, is do not throw every walking stick in. This will only result in overcrowding and damage.

 

You can purchase a stick stand be it old and a collectors item or new and made from MDF. The prices again will vary, based on the age, size, material etc. In general stick stands with age are a good investment, as well as a means of storage and display.

 

 

If you do not have a lot of floor space then think about displaying your sticks on the wall. A great project, for the DIY enthusiast. Alternatively, you can buy a wooden gun rack, which does very well with a little tweaking. Just enter wooden gun rack into Google and you will see the potential for that wall stick display.

 

 Have fun in displaying your walking stick collection

 

Measuring For a Walking Stick

For the comfortable use of a walking stick or cane it is important to select the correct length.

Key Tips in determining the correct length for general use are:

 

  • Firstly ensure you wear your normal footwear when determining the measurement.
  • Secondly, stand near a wall for support.
  • Have someone available to take the measurements. Alternatively, use a long brush handle as a measuring guide.
  • Measure from the crease on the wrist to the floor see diagram – This is the length you will need in a walking stick. 

    If you are dependant on a walking stick to aid mobility we strongly advise you seek professional advise to the length,style and strength  of the walking stick you require in relation to your height and needs.

 

Collecting Walking Sticks & Canes

People collect all sorts of things be it buttons, napkins, spoons, antiques, cars…… So collecting walking sticks is not unusual, and in the long term may prove to be a good investment if the right sticks have been bought.

 

No one can say you must only collect a certain type of walking stick, after all a collection is a personal choice. However, to make collecting a little simpler one could start by having the collection based on ‘the unusual.

 

Wow!!! that is going to be a really big collection of walking sticks. The solution then would be to think a little narrower in your collection objectives.

 

By material

Glass

Ivory / bone

Scrimshaw Canes

Wood

Metal

 

By design

Animal head

Horse Heads

Systems / Gadget Canes

Country Sticks

Folk Canes

Swagger Sticks

Military

Sword Sticks

 

By Date /Historical Period

Georgian

Victorian

Edwardian

New and Unusual

 

By Nation /Maker

Briggs – London

 

By Precious Metals

Silver

Gold

 

By Celebrity

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/4094299.stm

 

“A cane twirled by silent film star Charlie Chaplin in movie Modern Times has been sold for £47,800 ($92,000) to a private US buyer at a London auction”

 

 

Factors Affecting

Price

 

The price of a walking stick can start at a few pound to thousand of pounds, depending on the age, rarity of the cane, maker etc. In your collection objectives you have to determine what you are willing to pay for a stick and the monetary or aesthetic value, it will add to your collection in the longer term. Like any collection, many low quality canes will hold much less value than one good quality walking stick.

 

Availability

 

More and more people are collecting walking sticks and once a stick enters a collection it may be decades before it returns to the open market. Hence, good quality sticks are becoming more difficult to find. But depending on what you are looking for, there is sure to be something if you search. With the internet it is a global market for you to investigate.

 

Quality

 

A good collection can arrive in every price band. However, it is best to obtain a stick that is not totally battered, split or broken unless you are prepared to undertake or pay for the restoration.

 

Restoration can work out to be very expensive and may not add much value to the stick if common or low value. Some walking sticks are just beyond repair so avoid and keep your money for a walking stick that is in good condition.

 

However, do not forget old collector’s walking sticks should not be as new. There should be evidence of wear and tear, wear on the shaft, worn or replaced ferrules will show the stick holds a history and not a reproduction.

 

 

Homework

 

A good collection is based in part on doing your homework and getting to grips with the differing styles/ periods of walking sticks. For example if you are collecting silver walking sticks learn about silver and hallmarks.If you are collecting ivory canes, work to recognising different types of ivory and the age of ivory. As your knowledge grows you will be able to identify a good original walking cane against a poor and  possibly reproduction that has far less value or historical interest to add your collection.

 

 

These brief points should help you on your way to collecting walking sticks or any other collection .

 

So are you ready to start collecting?

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