Bloomberg points the finger at silver and gold prices and their effect on the market for antiques, especially the items that no longer appeal to collectors either aesthetically or in terms of their lifestyles, now that the value of melting the metal is often equal to or greater than the value of the antique:
“For 20 years, silver was 3 to 7 pounds ($11.47) an ounce,” said director Vince Clegg. “Now it’s at more than 20. The antique stuff is outweighing itself. We’re scrapping some stunning pieces.”
A Victorian Georgian-style salver and an 18th-century three-piece tea set were among the items destined for the furnace, respectively valued at 457 pounds and 800 pounds.
“Things like that shouldn’t be melted,” said Lewis Smith, managing director of the London-based dealers Koopman Rare Art. “As the price goes up, there are going to be more mistakes.”
Neil Franklin, partner in the London-based antique silver dealers N. & I. Franklin, agreed. “If it carries on like this, there will be nothing left to buy,” he said. “So much is being melted that even the pedestrian pieces will become rare.”
Sotheby’s (BID) now has to “take melt value into consideration,” said the auction house’s London-based head of silver, Cynthia Harris. “This only really applies to about 5 percent of the lots we’re selling, such as flatware and salvers. We’ve also seen some new people coming to auctions who could be described as speculators. They’re looking at heavy items like centerpieces.”