Saturday, September 4, 2010

Silver Rosaries, The Beauty of Precious Metals

Sterling silver rosaries are not only beautiful but highly collectible. From the first decade of the 20th century, US law required that all precious metals sold in the United States be marked for their silver purity. Markings such as 925 or Sterling are generally stamped into the metal itself. This is not always the case though as some rosaries and jewelry came with paper tags that are long gone. If you want to be 100% sure that the rosary is sterling, look for the stamp.
This can't be done though with antique rosaries over 100 years old as they generally were not marked. European silver may have complex hallmarks that can be found in books or websites devoted to silver hallmarks. The French used little punchmarks that sometimes are almost imperceptible and difficult to decipher. Look on the bail of French crucifixes for a little indentation- you may be able to see just that on the sterling and milk glass rosary pictured here- look hard between one o'clock and two o'clock on the bail and you can just see the little mark. There is another at three o'clock on the right bail of the center. These indicate the region of France where the rosary was made- if you can make out the punchmark! Other European silver may be marked with an 800 which is a little less pure than sterling which is 925, what we would call "coin silver." German markings are usually based on 16 units so you may see 13 or 14 indicating how many parts out of 16 are pure silver.
Silver plated rosaries that have been used often show a little of the metal beneath showing through- look for a hint of brass on the high spots where rubbing may have worn away the plating.
Many antique rosaries have had replacement crucifixes added over the years; sometimes the crucifix is silver but the center is bronze or brass. Knowing that a rosary is antique, it is generally not a detraction for there to be replacement parts- this just shows that the rosary was prayed upon and well loved.
You can find many beautiful sterling rosaries, antique and vintage on The Sacred Bead. Sterling and European coin silver have a gorgeous warmth when aged. I never polish rosaries that I sell, I always leave that to the discretion of the new owner. Try to avoid dipping antique silver as it may remove all the patina, use a gentle silver polish or just let the rosary start to glow again with use.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Silver Filigree Rosaries, Fabulous Spanish Colonial Style

These rosaries are simply gorgeous! They can be found with agate beads, mother of pearl, cut glass, and other quality materials, or as in this one, the beads are also silver filigree. Unlike most rosaries, these usually have extra filigree spacer beads above the center. Note that the center is a beautiful stylized M with three dimensional crown. The style is southern European and most likely made in Spain, Italy, or a country with Spanish influence. Most of this style were made near the end of the 19th century during the Victorian Era. I have seen a more modern example, it is in the gallery section on The Sacred Bead, that had moonglow lucite beads dating it to the middle of the 20th century. This is one of the most beautiful of the antique rosaries. For the high end collector or to use on rare occasions- because of their age I don't recommend daily use. Silver is a little soft and the links can be weak. This fabulous rosary can be found on the Antiques page 18 at The Sacred Bead.