Unloved Antiques: ‘Bronze’ Flatware

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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