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Castle Top Silver: History, Valuations & How to Sell

Castle top silver is highly collectable. If you have a piece of Castle Top Silver and would like to find out more your item please read our guide to their history at the end of this page. You will also find a guide for the 6 things to look for in your Castle Top Silver and a guide to the common hallmarks used.   

Castle top silver refers to a specific style of English silverware that was popular during the 19th century. It is characterized by its elaborate designs and intricate engravings, often depicting castles, landmarks, or scenes from literature. The term “castle top” comes from the practice of engraving these designs on the lid or cover of a silver box, such as a snuffbox or card case. These pieces were often used for decorative or sentimental purposes and were considered highly desirable among the upper class.

One of the key features to look for in castle top silver is the quality of its engravings. Skilled artisans would spend hours intricately hand-engraving each piece, resulting in detailed and stunning designs. Another important factor to consider is the condition of the silver itself. Look out for any signs of wear or damage, as this can greatly affect its value.

Battle Abbey silver

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With over 150 auctioneers in the UK, choosing the right one can be daunting.

Our service connects you with the ideal specialist, ensuring accurate valuations and sales assistance.

Leveraging over fifteen years of industry experience, we match your items with the auctioneers most likely to achieve the highest prices, maximising your chances of a successful sale.

The valuers we work with have been carefully selected based on their reputation, specialty areas, and success rates. We work closely with them to market your items effectively and attract the right buyers.

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    What to look for in your Castle Top Silver

    castle top silver subjects

    Condition

    The condition of the decoration on castle top silver is very important. Look for signs of an over zealous cleaner as a previous owner; if it has been over-polished there will be no fine details left. A split around the seam of the case is normally repairable.

    castle top silver hallmarks

    Hallmarks

    The hallmarks on your card case are likely to be on the inner rim of the base. As the marks are placed in direct contact with the closing lid they can sometimes become obscured. As long as the date and maker are readable it is considered ok.

    castle top silver sell

    Card Cases

    The record for a castle top card case stands at £9,800 which was for a very rare example of The Post Office, Dublin.  More typically they sell for £300-500, with the value being mostly formed from how unfrequnetly the building or castle occurs on a case.

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    what is castle top silver

    Vinaigrettes

    Although castle top vinaigrettes have a higher average selling price than card cases, often around £500-1000 depending on the subject, the record is only £6,600. Look out for vinaigrettes in their original boxes as they are often in perfect condition.

    castle top silver valuations

    Embossed decoration

    Most castle top silver is made by die stamping (pushing the metal out from behind using a stamp). The greater the decoration stands clear from the front of the cover, the harder it was to make, and highly detailed cases are very sought after by collectors.

    castle top silver valuations

    Engraved Decoration

    Castle Top Silver can also have engraved decoration. A specialist engraver would often be employed just to add the decoration to the front of the card case or vinaigrette. As the decoration is shallow it can be prone to rubbing and loosing details.

    The Main Castle Top Silver Hallmarks

    Castle Top Silver

    Alfred Taylor

    Birmingham – registered mark 1851, active circa 1853-1870.  Currently it is an Alfred Taylor card case which holds the world record price for an item of castle top silver. 

    Castle Top Silver

    George Unite

    Birmingham – registered first mark in 1832, active circa 1832-1901.  The record for a George Unite castle top card case is £9,200.

    Castle Top Silver

    Nathaniel Mills

    Birmingham – active 1826-1857.  The record for a Nathaniel Mills castle top card case is £9,200.

    A History of Castle Top Silver Boxes

    In the mid-19th century, small silver boxes depicting images of castles, manor houses, or churches were used to carry cards, snuff, and vinaigrettes. These silver cases were fashioned by the Birmingham ‘toy’ makers. They were engraved or die-stamped with British landmarks. Castle top silver cases were likely marketed as souvenirs for honeymooners and day-trippers in Victorian England and are highly collectable.

    The custom of leaving visiting cards lasted throughout the 19th century, and the need for covering up offensive odours outdoors (which vinaigrettes were used for) certainly persisted through that period. Yet castle top silver was only at the height of fashion between the period of circa 1830 to 1860. This rather brief period of popularity limits the cases availability and in turn makes these Castle Top Silver cases highly collectable today.

    Castle top card cases

    Calling cards were left behind at a residence if the required person wasn’t available. They served as both an introductory letter and a symbol of manners and social standing. Cards for unmarried men were usually smaller than the cards married men carried. The most desirable card cases in the mid-19th century featured scenes of British landmarks.

    Castle top vinaigrettes

    Vinaigrettes held sponges dipped in strong fragrance to help mask unpleasant street smells. Wealthy citizens could afford the fragrances needed to mask the strong scents. The beautiful castle top silver cases helped a disagreeable situation feel a bit more tolerable.

    Castle top silver in the 21st century

    Castle top silver is now valued for the variety of depictions of British landmarks. The rarer the building, the higher the demand in today’s market. You can find engravings of Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Melrose Abbey, and Oxford College, just to name a few.