Patina is a difficult subject to discuss, however it is extremely important with antique silver (as it is with any antique).

For those of us that watch the popular television programmes about antiques, this word is very often used. It is most often used when discussing antique furniture, but it also applies to silver. In the context of examining antique silver, very often experts will say that practise and experience are the only ways to detect a good patina. Well, whilst this may be true, it is very easy to detect when the patina of a piece has been seriously damaged!!

More & more often nowadays, silver dealers (and some collectors) are polishing up their silver so much that they are actually removing the patina. This is, of course, disastrous because it can never be recovered. Perhaps they have the mistaken view that folks want their silver to be extremely bright & shiny. Perhaps if you buy a brand new piece this is what you want - you do NOT want it with an antique. I have lifted this phrase from Wikipedia:

Apart from the aesthetic appearance and practical protection of patination, antique experts confirm that an object's value increases when its patination is intact because it is an important effect of the ageing process and this evidential history is reflected in the value of the piece.

There are all sorts of possible technical explanations given about patina, but in its broadest sense it is the "signs of age" that a piece has. This can be a "dulling" of the silver or reduction in its reflective-ness but it is also the tiny scratches and dents that a piece will receive over the years.

I have shown some pictures below to attempt to describe the differences. To see them properly, you will probably need to click on the pictures to zoom in. I will update these over time, as more examples of both good and bad come to light. Unfortunately I do not have any examples of tongs with poor patina as I tend to try to avoid buying them! I will put pictures of these up whenever possible.

Good Patina - notice the myriad small scratches around this maker's mark - a true sign of 200 years' age

Good Patina - a whole pair of tongs - again notice the myriad small scratches over the whole item (these tongs are only 120 years old)

Patina is important. Over-polishing tongs through use of a machine destroys the patina - and in my opinion, reduces the value of a pair of good antique silver sugar tongs by as much as half.

I appeal to all you dealers out there - please do not put your sugar tongs on a polishing machine.

The best way to have information about Georgian Silver Sugar Tongs always at your finger-tips is to buy the book. It is available from this web-site, simply click the picture!