Best places to find vintage sterling silver conchos and buckles?
I'm looking to put some nice vintage sterling silver conchos and buckles on a couple of snaffle bridles. I'm really only interested in vintage solid sterling silver (no plate or overlay). Anyone have ideas on where to look? I've looked on Ebay, but would like find other options. I do go to the odd garage sale, and have looked in the local pawn shop, but so far nothing. Being that I'm not in a major metropolitan area (meaning out in the sticks), I don't have many options except the internet. Any help would be most appreciated!!
I actually didn't post the links. Just put "vintage sterling silver conchos" in the search. Haven't tried Bing. Sometimes that has different ones. Bing used to have an image results in the search that was nice.
Ah, sorry I misunderstood your post. I search Google and Bing extensively, but was hoping someone might have other ideas. Vintage silver is a little hard to find for the right price - especially since a lot of people collect it and the price of silver has gone up considerably.
You might be missing something by passing on 'overlay'.
The really good bits and spurs are steel, overlaid or inlaid with silver that is then hand engraved. A spur or a bit made of sterling silver only would be too soft to stand up to much use.
A concho doesn't really need to be over/inlaid on steel for strength, but I'd probably be happier with a buckle that wasn't solid sterling, unless it was a belt buckle or something not holding a bridle together.
What you are paying for is not the difference in value of silver, versus steel, but the artisan skills in design and engraving. You can find occasional brass engraved bits or spurs, and they are not significantly less expensive than their counterparts done in sterling. The cost isn't so much in the metal as in the skills of the maker.
As for the sterling conchos, which I love too, I've really only found stuff on ebay under a search for vintage sterling.
This family has been making all kinds of silver engraved bits, spurs and buckles for decades.
They make many headstall buckles with people's initials or brands for locals here and are very good.
You may want to check with them:
Fillabeana is correct. Overlay is not the same as electroplated. Overlay IS solid sterling on a thin piece of stronger metal.
I had a silversmith make custom conchos and saddle silver for me years ago. The only solid pieces were the swell plates so that they would conform to the swells when I nailed them on.
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Thanks everyone for the great links. I already have some very nice overlay sterling on a few of my bridles, and actually prefer overlay on my everyday bridles. The reason I wanted vintage sterling is for a two-rein set up - which is a little way down the road, but I thought I'd start collecting pieces now since it's such a big investment. I also realize prices reflect the craftsmanship of the piece as much as the metal content - which is another reason why I am looking for vintage silver. I really like the look and designs of the older pieces - and it seems fitting to put traditional vintage silver on a traditional bridle horse (in the making).
Bluey - I think the silver over brown steel is really eye-catching. Would love to have a belt buckle set like one of those.
Lori - I would love to see pictures of your saddle with the silver on it. It must have been fun to have custom silver made for you!
As for the strength of sterling silver buckles and conchos, I believe since the actual sterling silver content is typically 92% at most, the other alloys make the silver strong enough to be durable in bridle hardware. Which is probably the reason there is so much vintage sterling still around for people like me to covet...
Thanks for the link!! Ebay is a little hard to predict. Some of the silver items go for really great prices, and some are bid on so aggressively that the final prices end up being extremely high. I have my eye on a few auctions so I'm keeping my fingers crossed....