Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

For centuries, the town of Sheffield, England, has been synonymous with art of silver making. Dating back to the 14th century, many craftsmen worked in silver in and around Sheffield. In the mid 1700s, silver was fused to copper and called Sheffield plate.

An invention of Thomas Boulsover (1705-88), Sheffield plate was born by accident. While Boulsover was busy repairing a silver pot, he discovered a process for plating metals together. In 1740, he accidentally fused copper and silver together, which resulted in a very strong metal.

The attributes of Sheffield plate include good looks and durability. Sheffield plate is comparatively quite inexpensive when compared to sterling silver.

The stamped marks found on Sheffield Plate resemble sterling silver hallmarks showing town marks, makers’ marks and date stamps. In 1773, a law was passed banning the use of hallmarks on pieces made from plate. By the 19th century, Sheffield plate pieces also were produced in Birmingham and other parts of Europe.

The process of making Sheffield plate is pretty simple: a sheet of silver is fused on top of a thicker sheet made of copper. The compound is then rolled and both metals expanded equally together to become a thin sheet of copper hosting a thin layer of silver.

A one eighth of an inch thick sheet of silver can be pressed on top of an ingot of copper making a metal sandwich. The ingot was placed inside a furnace and then allowed to cool. The copper and silver were flattened into a sheet of workable metal. By the 1750s, Sheffield plate was produced in large quantities. Thomas Boulsover produced Sheffield silver objects such as coat buttons, patch boxes, snuff boxes, etc. His market was the middle class who wanted objects that looked as good, but weren’t as expensive, as those owned by the upper classes. Makers that followed Boulsover such as Joseph Hancock and Matthew Boulton produced more impressive objects using Sheffield plate such as coffeepots, teapots and candlesticks. The works of these important Sheffield silver plate makers are remarkably popular with collectors now. Today, values for original Sheffield plate objects range from the several hundreds of dollars to several thousands of dollars.

Be careful not to be overzealous when cleaning your Sheffield objects. Over cleaning Sheffield plate can reveal an object’s copper core exposing the copper through the silver.

When it comes to collecting Sheffield silver plate, look for decorative objects used for table service, figural objects that have a sculptural appeal and utilitarian objects of quality and strength. Condition is key to value and quality will be exceptional as long as you have identified that you are buying an authentic piece of Sheffield silver.

Unlike Sheffield plating, the process of electroplating metal uses an electrical charge and a salt bath. Electroplating results in a fine coating of precious metal over another material using an electrochemical reaction. The process of electroplating (also referred to as electro-deposition) works when a negative charge is placed on an object to be coated. The object is then immersed into a salt solution of the metal. The negative ions of the salt are positively charged and are attracted to the negatively charged object. Once they connect, the positively charged ions revert back to their metallic form, resulting in a newly electroplated object.

Plating thickness is based on the amount of time that the object spends in the salt solution. The longer the object stays in the bath, the thicker the shell becomes. The shape of the object will affect the thickness with sharp corners plated more thickly than other areas. Why? Because the electric current in the bath will flow more densely around corners. The electroplating process is used in the jewelry, automotive, optics and decorative arts industries. Applications are infinite.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.

Art & antiques by Dr. Lori

If you are planning a trip to celebrate all that the summer season has to offer, I recommend a sojourn to New England to take in the sea breezes and the landscape dotted with lighthouses.

Lighthouses date back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The first signals for seafarers were actual fires set to warn sailors that they were coming close to shore. Shortly thereafter, lighthouses were constructed to warn seafarers of the nearby coastline.

Boston’s beams

During Colonial times, lighthouses became synonymous with safety along the rocky and treacherous eastern coast of the United States, namely in the states of Massachusetts and Maine.

The first guiding light in America was constructed in 1716 in Boston Harbor. Boston Light, as it is known, was destroyed during the Revolutionary War and later rebuilt in 1783 to aid the activities of the busy seaport.

Constructed of granite, brick and rubble stone, Boston Light is a beacon soaring 89 feet high. Today, it not only holds the special distinction of being the oldest lighthouse in the country, located on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor near Boston, Mass., but it also will be forever maintained due to an 1989 Act of Congress.

The congressional mandate states that Boston Light will serve as a monument to the service of light-keeping and will always be manned and cared for by human hands. While automated, Boston’s famous lighthouse will remain a symbol for the innovators who kept the seaside superhighway safe since the infancy of our country.

Cape Cod and the islands

As Boston set an example for lighthouses along the rocky Atlantic coast, Cape Cod presented some of the most dangerous areas for the all-important fishing and sea-shipping industries. Cape Cod’s eastern coast and “elbow” as the natives call it near Chatham, Mass., saw horrible storms, significant beach erosion and shipwrecks in great numbers during the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Around the famous Cape, lighthouses were built with multiple lights to illuminate the path for ships. For instance, a ship traveling from points south to north along the coast, the government commissioned on light at Monomoy, two lights at Chatham (at mid-Cape), and three lights (known as the three sisters) at Nauset.

This group of lighthouses aided in safe passage along the waters off the Cape Cod shoreline. Famously, the two towers that once stood at Chatham to give light to the seafarers succumbed to beach erosion from storms.

In 1879 and again in 1881, the two towers fell into the sea. A single lighthouse was reconstructed and serves sea traffic today at Chatham. It is a site that warms my heart as a native New Englander as we spent many a summer vacation along Chatham’s shoreline.

Coastline Maine

Along the coast of Maine, some of the most famous and often photographed lighthouses exist including Marshall Point Light at Penobscot Bay.

Marshall Point Light was made famous by Tom Hanks’ cross country jog in the film, Forrest Gump, Portland Headlight which was commissioned by President George Washington in 1791, and the red and white candy-cane striped West Quoddy Headlight near Lubec, Maine. West Quoddy Headlight marks the easternmost point in the continental United States.

When visiting lighthouses, remember they are a nod to bygone times when they showed a sailor the way to safety. Before radar or GPS, these beacons saved many lives.

Many lighthouses are brightly painted, high stepping landmarks while others serve as commercial bed and breakfasts where you can rent a night’s lodging beneath the lantern.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.

Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on Discovery channel’s “Auction Kings.” Visit, or call 888 431-1010.