There are numerous companies with long legacies in Baltimore City. Here at Samuelson’s, we’re proud to be one of them as we near our 100th anniversary. Another local company that we have high respect for is Stieff Silver. Known for their high-quality silver products, beautiful hand chasing, and Repoussé work, Stieff Silver products are instantly recognizable and iconic. We often see Stieff sterling silver flatware in our line of work buying and selling silver, and thought it would be fun to take a dive into their rich history.
What is often forgotten about Baltimore is that it once was a key location for the silversmith industry, dating as far back as 1815. The Stieff Company was one such company that contributed to Baltimore’s industry. It got its start in 1892 after local entrepreneur, Charles Clinton Stieff, bought out his partner in a predecessor firm. While Charles was not a silversmith, he dealt primarily in silver, cutlery and fine housewares such as cut glass and clocks. After numerous name changes, the company landed on its final name: the Stieff Company.
In the early years, the Stieff Company made silver for both its own retail shop in downtown Baltimore as well as other retailers whose names would be stamped on the silver. By cutting out the middle man and manufacturing their own silver, they were able to offer a high quality product at value pricing. Eventually, as the fine silver products became better known around Baltimore, the company became a major player in the silver manufacturing business.
What made the Stieff Company stand out was a particularly compelling sterling silver flatware design: “Hand Chased Rose.” Over time, the design became known as the Maryland, Rose, and ultimately, the Maryland Rose. Other early silver patterns were Victoria, Baltimore, Vestalia, Chrysanthemum, and Plain & Engraved. It takes a trained eye to discern what is true sterling silver flatware from Stieff, especially given that the company went through various stamping iterations. Many early pieces carry the Crown and B mark, indicating the manufacturer. Later, the stamp would change to the word “Stieff.”
Charles C. Stieff handed the reins of the company to his son Gideon Stieff in 1914, who made a number of strategic decisions that helped expand the Stieff name. A move from downtown Baltimore to its now iconic location in the Hampden area allowed Stieff to bring in more craftsmen and artists to create its collections. And as a family-owned business, the Stieff family made sure to take care of its employees and its country when times called for it. During the Great Depression, Gideon found odd jobs around the facility to keep his skilled silversmiths on staff so he could call on them when business inevitably picked up. And once business did start to pick up during World War II, the company switched its attention to electronics, radar parts, and surgical equipment. Additionally, Gideon had the foresight to sign a contract with Colonial Williamsburg in 1939, where they would reproduce silver for colonial tourists.
After the war ended, Stieff was able to return its attention to producing silver products – such as the silver trophies given each year to the winner of the Preakness Stakes, held in nearby Pimlico. Stieff made silver items for the Eisenhower administration to gift dignitaries, as well as flatware for use in the White House. In the 60s and the 70s, Stieff ventured into pewter, which was becoming more popular, before struggling with the same issues many other companies faced in the 80s and 90s. A family legacy, Gideon’s three sons remained with the company as its leadership until its sale to Lenox in 1990. When the factory closed its doors in 1999, it marked the end of an era of a tradition that had flourished in Baltimore since the early nineteenth century.
While Stieff no longer exists as it once did, collections of its famed sterling silver flatware and other products are still to be found. Among the most rare Stieff patterns are Victoria and Plain; both discontinued prior to 1920. It’s a banner day at Samuelson’s when one of these patterns appear before us, for sure! We are always on the lookout for sterling silver of all types as silver has a set market value. And finding gems such as iconic Stieff sterling silver for resale allows the Stieff legacy to live on.
If you’re interested in learning more about Stieff sterling silver, have a collection to sell, or are interested in purchasing one, the best way to get started is by contacting us. Call 301-804-6176 or contact us online to request an appointment with one of our certified experts today!
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