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Unloved Antiques: ‘Bronze’ Flatware

by Mike Wilcox (05/31/11).

A Duragold place setting.

The fifth item in this series of “Unloved Antiques” is Thai “bronze” flatware. While it’s often listed for sale online as “gold plated” or “solid bronze,” it’s most likely based on a nickel/bronze alloy first created and marketed as “Duragold” by Swedish Metallurgist Carl Molin, circa 1914¹. It’s not known if the Thai flat ware uses the identical formula as the original Duragold/Dirilyte sets, but it is often listed as “nickel bronze alloy” in the literature/labeling, and has the same general appearance.

Some evidence places the origins of the Thai bronze flatware back as far as the 1930s, based on the marking “Siam,” as Thailand was officially known until 1939, but the majority we see appear to date from the Vietnam Era. Such sets were marketed in cities such Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong, widely purchased by U.S and other troops and sailors stationed in the area from the Korean War through to the end of the Vietnam War. Such sets are still in production; the new market now being tourists and export rather than sailors or returning troops.

To the recipients of this flatware in 1950s & ’60s America, it was seen as exotic-looking and often deemed “for special to use.” Many sets that we have appraised over the years do not appear to have been opened, let alone used, since they were first received during the mid-1960s, packed away with other things thought “to be worth a lot of money someday.” Now, some 45 years later, they are all surfacing as their original owners downsize or their children clear the estate. Most are very surprised to find—when these sets are dragged once more into the daylight—that they not rare and as exotic as first thought, nor as valuable as Grandma thought they would be. In today’s market, dozens of these sets are listed at auction sites every day, this past year even large boxed services like the one above, with 150-plus pieces in mint condition, have sold at auction in the $50-$150 range.

 

Many Duragold sets have been opened, let alone used, since they were first received during the mid-1960s, packed away with other things thought “to be worth a lot of money someday.”

 

¹Carl Molin’s Swedish plant company began production in 1919 and demand was such it was decided an American factory should be built in 1926. The “Duragold” name ruffled the feathers of the Federal Trade Commission in 1935, the commission claiming the name was misleading as there was no gold content in the cutlery. To avoid conflict and needless expense, “Duragold” became “Dirilyte” and the company operated under that name until 1986 when it ceased production of cutlery and hollowware.

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Previous “Unloved Antiques” articles:

Unloved Antiques: ‘Limited Edition’ Collectors Plates
Unloved Antiques: Singer Sewing Machines
Unloved Antiques: Decorator Prints
Unloved Antiques: Commemorative Whiskey Decanters

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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17 Responses to “Unloved Antiques: ‘Bronze’ Flatware”

  1. John Myers says:

    Gee. I feel like I Done Good when we found a full service for 12 (mostly unopened) for $15

    For that, I figured it was kind of cool looking with some of the dinnerware patterns in the house (we DID open it and use it now-and-then) and takes up a fairly small amount of room to store.

    And if anybody ever tries to break into the house, I figure I can just drop the box out a window on their head, since it weighs more than the falling anvil you see in all those Saturday Morning cartoons.

    Flatware AND Home Protection Device for fifteen bucks. I call that a WIN!! ;)

  2. Bob Dresser says:

    Mike is “spot on” as always. My aunt worked in Bangkok during the 50s and gave a small set of the unique flatware to my mom.
    Just like Mike says, I’m going thru her stuff and was curious
    just what this was – weird forks, etc. It looked unique. It was
    marked “Siam.” Was it really gold? Now I know what it is and what to do with it. Our church resale shop can make a few bucks on it. Maybe our local Thai immigrants will enjoy seeing this set – again !
    Thanks, Mike.

    • Mike Wilcox says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article Bob, and that it helped answer the questions you had about this set.

  3. BJ says:

    I am getting my Family Trust papers in order for my children. My Aunt Blessed me with a set of Dirilyte, Derigold, for part of my Wedding set of China. I am attempting to set value for Estate listing of Personally owned items; however my set was put into the dishwasher by a “Helpful Friend” at a dinner I gave and is deeply spotted with no more shine; therefore not used in years. I understand there is a facility that will restore it for a price? Do you have any information on this?
    Thank you for your assistance. I have always loved my set!

  4. d johnson says:

    I too have inherited a service for 16 set of DuraGold flatware. What is the best way to clean it?

  5. Mike Wilcox Mike Wilcox says:

    From what I understand there is some sort of anti-tarnish finish on these pieces. There used to be a special polish for it, here’s the link I have http://www.dirilyte.com/

  6. Kimberly says:

    I have been eyeing some of these bargains now re-surfacing and think that some are quite lovely. My question is are they safe to eat off of?

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Kimberly,

      Did you find a good answer to you question “is it save to eat with nickel bronze flatware” ? I have a nice set and so the same question… Thanks !

  7. Carole says:

    very good information Mike. came across this at a yard sale over 30 yrs ago. paid about $100.00. our set has same box as you have pictured, but also an additional 2 boxes. our handles have rosewood, or teak, plus the Buddha at the top. is the value in the same range? I think our piece count is about 200.
    thank you.

    • Carole says:

      additional info: ours does not say Siam on front. just made in Thailand on back. and the label inside is from a Louis Jewelry in Bangkok. if this additional info helps.

      • Mike Wilcox Mike Wilcox says:

        Hi Carole, I wrote the article three years ago, but I doubt much has changed in the value for these sets.The last big set I saw go at auction went for less than $100.00.

        • Tim Royal says:

          I Have a set that is not complete because it became brittle over the years and because some of my guests thought how lovely to have a souvenir of the dinner party. Ergo, not a complete set. It is hard to polish. The pieces were made for tiny hands. I have used the serving pieces with great success to make elegant table settings. I have had the box which includes 4 trays of about 40 .lbs in weight about 40 years,and I am tired of carting it around. We are downsizing to RV size living and have no room for such luxuries and less is best is my new motto. I hope someone will take it off my hands cheap. Perhaps a collector will buy it to round out a set with pieces missing. I apologize for the negative approach to this because it is beautiful stuff but I must let it go. Time for it to come out of the closet. Tim Royal

  8. Christine says:

    Hello, You wrote the article about after WWII flatware marked Thailand. Does the value change if the set is before WWII and marked Siam?

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