Born With a Silver Spoon

A local estate silver expert breaks down three eras of past silver design and explains why Southerners still can’t get enough.

JC London Rococco Silver Tea Kettle • $3500 // Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau

Louise Doggett has been up to her elbows in beautiful things since she was a child. Her mother ran Virginia Stickney Antiques out of their home on Church Street in 1970s Mobile and taught Doggett a lot about the quality and workmanship of fine furniture and decorative objects. 

That innate familiarity was soon finely honed when, as a young bride living in New York City, she landed an apprenticeship with a renowned porcelain restorer from Poland. Her mother had sent her to New York with a family heirloom in need of repair, with instructions to leave it with the best, and Doggett planned to ask for a job while there. The life-changing gig almost didn’t happen, however, after a shy and unassuming Doggett couldn’t muster the courage to inquire about a position.

“After meeting with her in her little shop, we walked out and Joe said, ‘You didn’t ask her anything!’” She laughs, remembering those years. “He told me, ‘You go right back in there and tell her you’d like to do an apprenticeship.’  And that’s where it all started.” The family heirloom was repaired, Doggett got the job and she spent the next four years learning the fine art of restoration, absorbing everything she could about china and collectibles from an expert.

Doggett later spent years taking care of children, or her aging mother, or her husband while he was on hospice. When she finally returned to the workforce, she found many of her peers were retiring. “I got it backwards, and here I am. I’ve been at it almost 25 years since,” she smiles. Antiques were always a part of her life, either helping at her mother’s store or working booths at antiques fairs across the Gulf Coast, but she landed the permanent home of Louise Doggett Antiques by accident. 

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Her daughter-in-law asked her to co-sign on a building on Sage Avenue so she could open a yoga studio, but when Doggett’s son graduated from medical school not too long after, the couple promptly moved to the West Coast. Doggett was left with a lease on a building, and she filled it with what she knew — antiques.

“I always loved furniture,” she remembers, “but never really sold any because they were hard to handle. When Joe was sick, and my boys were both living away, I had nobody to help lift and transport things. And so my wares got smaller and smaller, to just what I could carry in my van.” Estate silver and fine jewelry is now what she is known for, and she is an expert at it.

From her little shop in Midtown, behind cinder-block walls and barred windows, she sells things to customers around the world. “We sent a beautiful pitcher to Switzerland. We recently sold some things to Shanghai and Taiwan. I just sent four place settings of a beautiful pattern to Texas. So we sell all over.”

Customers come to her for beautiful pieces, yes, but more so for her knowledge of the patterns, manufacturers, styles and levels of quality. As we sit in a pair of antique French chairs, surrounded by piles of dinner forks and ladles, pitchers and lockets, Doggett rattles off names and dates of when a certain designer moved from Tiffany’s to Gorham, when a fanciful floral pattern came into or went out of style or when the Art Deco movement removed a lot of the flourishes she loved so much.

“The more you’re around it, the more you love it.” She giggles almost like a schoolgirl, enamored with the beauty of her favorite things. “They’re works of art. Some of these pieces are works of art. And it just happens that the medium for the artist was silver.” 

She inherited six place settings from her mother in Durgin’s New Vintage pattern, a set that had once belonged to her grandmother and was split between the two daughters. It’s a less common pattern, and so Doggett has searched and collected through the years to complete the place settings. She says that’s what a lot of Southerners do today — fill in a collection that got distributed amongst family members. But is it her favorite pattern, amongst all the ones she sells? 

“It’s not about the pattern anymore for me. It’s about the piece.” While she says today many hosts and hostesses want their table to be set in one pattern, she never knew you weren’t supposed to mix. “You are supposed to mix in my mind,” she laughs. “It makes a beautiful table.”


A period of unprecedented economic growth in the United States, the Gilded Age saw the rise of railroad tycoons and New York bankers whose wealth began to exceed those of the European nobility. Names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Guggenheim became synonymous with both prestige and corruption. But the way these families dressed, decorated and entertained became fodder for the daily news, and Americans of more modest means couldn’t get enough, seeking to emulate their every move. Restaurants were rare and usually reserved for male travelers, and so entertaining at home was de rigueur. Silver, china and linen, along with elaborate eight-course meals served by household staff, became the
way to show wealth.


Early America was incredibly agricultural. People lived close to the soil and largely grew their own food. However, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, people moved away from farms and rural areas and began to live and work in cities. Factories became the daily grind, and people started to long for the romantic ideals of pastoral life. The elaborate florals and botanicals of the Victorian age, such as lily and orange blossom, are a reflection of this romanticism of nature.

Cucumber / Petit Four Server in Old Orange Blossom by Alvin • $275
Butter Dish with Insert in Repousse by Kirk • $975
Confection Spoon in Lily of the Valley by Whiting • $175
Salt and Pepper Set in Repousse by Kirk • $375
Tea Caddy Spoon in Holly by Tiffany • $425
Ice Cream Fork in Bridal Rose by Alvin • $115
Lettuce Fork in Lily of the Valley by Whiting • $245
Whisk Broom in Repousse by Kirk • $125

Saratoga Chip Server in Chrysanthemum by Durgin • $1175

Art Nouveau

In the 1890s, a new style emerged in Europe and the United States that celebrated sinuous lines and organic shapes above all else. In contrast to the periods before, the designs of the art nouveau movement were rarely symmetrical and often featured energetic movement and life. It was a time of free expression, and the style sought to boldly reject tradition and historicism. It was beautifully applied to jewelry, architecture and the glass works of Mr. Tiffany himself. It was en vogue for just a short time, as the artists sought to always be looking for something new.


Clockwise from top left
Wave Dish by Shiebler • $795
Pierced Asparagus Fork in Du Barry by Durgin • $795
Cocktail Fork in Lily by Whiting • $75
Berry Spoon in Rafael by Alvin • $1495
Candlestick in Iris by Shiebler • $2750 for pair
Baccus Platter • $3750

Poppy Bowl by Wallace • $875
Oyster Dish and Spoon in Narragansett by Gorham • $1750
Tea Strainer by International Silver • $375
Sugar Spoon in Old Orange Blossom by Whiting • $75
Teaspoon in Lily by Whiting $45

Art Deco

After World War I, according to Doggett, the extravagant entertaining all pared down. Dinners were more casual, the number of courses and serving utensils decreased and everything was less elaborate. “That’s when the industrial achievements of our country seemed more important than anything else,” she explains. Think Empire State Building and Chrysler Building — two structures looming over the New York City skyline with clean lines and repeating geometric patterns, influencing a new style that all of America soon embraced.

Clockwise from top left
Asparagus Fork in Fairfax by Durgin-Gorham • $275
Oyster Fork in Etruscan by Gorham • $35
Dinner Fork in Etruscan by Gorham • $95
Gumbo Spoon in Etruscan by Gorham • $95
Grapefruit Spoon in Etruscan by Gorham • $55
Sterling Silver Tumbler • $275
Toast Fork in Fairfax By Durgin-Gorham • $595
Cold Meat Fork in Fairfax by Durgin-Gorham • $95
Flat Butter Spreader in Louis XIV by Towle • $40
English Sterling Napkin Rings • $75 Each
Asparagus Tray in Theodore Starr • $1,750

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