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Gorham Comstock Lode Coin Silver Bud Vase, Providence, RI, 1865-68

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Examples of silver stamped with the name of the mine from which the silver originated are extremely rare.

The style of this vase is neoclassical with its squat body, narrow neck, and columnar handles with acanthus leaf terminals. A block-style 'EHM' monogram decorates one side. Simplicity and form make this a beautiful piece.

The underside is stamped with Gorham's coin silver trademark, item number '720', and the retailer's name 'TIFFANY & Co.' It is also stamped 'GOULD & CURRY/ SILVER MINE.' This historic vase measures 7 inches high, weighs 5.55 troy ounces, and is in very good antique condition with a couple of tiny dimples to the surface.

Gold was first found in the mountains surrounding what is now Virginia City, Nevada in 1850. However, it was not until 1859 that a significant 'lode' of gold was found in a bluish-grey sludge that was very difficult for the miners to dig through. It was soon discovered this sludge contained massive amounts of silver, and the 'Comstock Lode' was born. One of the most significant silver discoveries ever, and the most important in the U.S., would soon change the course of U.S. history and the development of the western United States.

As various veins of silver were mined during boom and bust cycles, Virginia City became the home to over 30,000 people and the largest city between the Mississippi and San Francisco. More money was made in San Francisco from the silver in Nevada than the gold at Sutter's Creek. Silver from these mines helped the United States pay for the Civil War. In 1870, the United States opened a mint in nearby Carson City, Nevada. When the 'Mother Lode' was discovered in 1872, silver was so abundant that the U.S. started minting 'Morgan' silver dollars to help support the price of silver.

The Gould & Curry Company was the most important mining company in Virginia City, at one point employing 225 men. The Gould & Curry Mining Company headquarters was built in 1859 by George Hearst (father of William Randolph Hearst), and the mine was purchased by the 'Silver King' John Mackay.

Mackay successfully acquired other mining companies in the area and amassed a major fortune; his mansion, the former company offices, still stands in Virginia City and is open to the public as a museum. In addition, Mackay commissioned the most extraordinary silver service in U.S. history from Tiffany & Co. in the late 1870's – many of the pieces are in museums today and some have been sold by Spencer Marks. See the Mackay Ice Cream Service and an in-depth discussion about making the service.