Although hundreds of silver manufacturers were creating their own silver patterns in the United States during the twentieth century, two names are the most familiar—Tiffany and Gorham. These and other sterling silver manufacturers, including International Silver (the result of many small companies merging in 1898), Towle Silversmiths, and Reed & Barton, are still making both traditional and contemporary silverware in “open stock” patterns. That means that often an old set can be completed or filled in at any time. Many of these and other companies also made silver-plated hollow ware and flatware that was less expensive than sterling silver. Until the 1970s, a “best” set of silverware was sterling. Then stainless steel became the choice of some important designers, both for looks and for price.
Silverware for the table, like all other household items, is made with a “look” that is in the style of the day so it will sell. Twentieth-century silver designs ranged from art nouveau to Mission, art deco, streamlined, mid-century modern, post-modern, and the very unusual contemporary designs. Silver manufacturers and designers worked in more than one style.
This puzzling art deco box held cigarettes. It was made in the 1930s by Cartier of Paris from silver with onyx, coral, and black enameled trim.