What did silversmiths do when the Great Depression crashed their business? They turned to affordable aluminum! Aluminum is a soft, malleable and lightweight metal that can be polished to a bright shine.It is the third most common element and inexpensive. But, that was not always the case. Before an extraction process was invented in the 1880′s aluminum in its pure form was as expensive as gold. Napoleon III, Emperor of France, is reputed to have given a banquet where the most honored guests were given aluminum utensils, while the others made do with gold. In 1884 the largest single piece of cast aluminum at the time (100 oz.) was used as a capstone of the Washington Monument. Extracting processes were refined and costs reduced so that by 1910 aluminum foil was being used to wrap leftover food.
Cellini Craft started in 1914 in Evanston Illinois by Ernest Gerlach. He named his company after the Italian Renaissance goldsmith Benvenuta Cellini. Gerlack produced many prized silver products but the Depression hit his company as it did so many others. In 1934 Cellini Craft began using aluminum and calling it their Argental, or silver-like, line. They used several marks, some stamped with the letters MW the initials of Max Willie an East Coast distributor.
It seems the most prized pieces of Argental contain tiles. Being from the Midwest the company used many from the Mosaic Tile Company, of Zanesville Ohio. But, the best of the best contain tiles from California. The Cellini platters shown go from the hammered surface of the Arts and Crafts era, through Art Deco, to the smooth clean lines of Modernism.
You can find these for sale at BungalowBILL.com