Greenwich residents don't have to travel to the Antiques Road Show to find out how much their grandmother's silver is worth. They can walk into The Silversmith on West Putnam Avenue and find an expert right in our own town. Mark Fakundiny learned the trade from his father, a trained European silversmith, who opened his business, along with Mark's mother and uncle, in 1967.
As a boy, Mark worked at The Silversmith between semesters and then became an analyst after graduation. However, he could not let go of his early silver-repairing passion and started fixing up old vacuum tube guitar amplifiers. Pretty soon he found himself borrowing more and more of his father's silversmith tools. When his father wanted to retire as The Silversmith in 1997, Mark decided it would be fun to become the new silversmith and left the corporate world.
And he says, "I have been happy ever since." His wife, Jennifer, and his cousin, Mike Billowitz, have joined him in the fun.
Mark's face lights up when he is talking about silver. Although I assumed that many young people are not buying silver, Mark assured me that even young people realize that owning and using silver is still "a classic sign of style." He added that nothing makes a dinner more romantic than beautiful silver candlesticks and, indeed, I have to agree with him.
If you add to the candlesticks a silver wine coaster to hold that favorite bottle of wine, the moon doesn't have to be full that night for romance. Silver still makes a great gift. A friend, Kathy Lovett, told me that she always buys wedding cake knives from The Silversmith and has them engraved for the bride and groom. Silver wedding presents will always have value, Mark claims, and silver often becomes a family heirloom (especially when the silver market is up).
When I asked Mark to describe his most challenging repair project, he laughed, saying that he has had so many challenges, he couldn't recall just one. But, he admitted, it is always nice to see someone's reaction when a piece has been beautifully restored. "Sometimes," he said, "I think it is an endless parade of broken forks, teapots that have fallen over, broken candlesticks, you never know what it is going to be. It is amazing to get double antiques that have been used daily." When I asked what "double antique" means, he responded that the term depicts a piece that is more than 200 years old. Another friend told me that she has challenged Mark with projects such as repairing a silver chandelier. No silver object, no matter how badly damaged, seems to faze him.
Doesn't owning silver require a lot of maintenance? But Mark convinced me that once the silver is restored, it looks like new and all one has to do is polish the piece a couple of times a year. The shop also works with brass and copper. I was amazed at the brilliance of a brass fireplace tool stand that he had just restored. He also sells and engraves trophies for clubs and schools. The Silversmith seems to do everything.
When my husband and I were married, we received many gifts of English silver (my mother-in-law loved English silver and made sure our guests gave us some). Mark told me that the hallmarks on the back of each piece tell the origins and some could be hundreds of years old. Since the cards that came with our wedding gifts have vanished, I will have to cart the pieces to The Silversmith to discover their history. I wonder if he will recognize the kangaroo foot silver cigar lighter from Australia.
Although Mark does not take consignments, he will buy silver outright. Of course, he also carries some new silver, including contemporary pieces. Walking through The Silversmith made me think of "Downton Abbey," the popular PBS show. Mark reminded me that the main butler, Carson, was the only servant qualified to polish the silver. Entering The Silversmith brings one back to that Downton Abbey era of elegance, one that remains today -- within an ordinary person's grasp -- because of The Silversmith.
Ann Caron is an author of books on adolescence and a parent-educator. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.