The general design terms ‘Baroque’, ‘Rococo’, ‘Neo-Classical’, ‘Victorian’ and ‘Celtic Revival’ are used to group the silver chronologically. The pieces selected to illustrate these designs show that Irish silversmiths understood and followed the European design style of the day – in their own way. Since its foundation in 1637 the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin exercised control over silversmiths, pieces being hallmarked by them to guarantee quality. However, the fear of loss through sending precious metals to Dublin is shown in that silversmiths in centres such as Cork, Galway, Limerick, Kinsale and Waterford had their own official town marks.
This national collection of silver was acquired from many sources. Some pieces were inherited from earlier institutions, while others were acquired through the purchases and donations overseen by successive generations of curators. The national collection, however, is indebted to the scholarship and assiduity of the collector Dr. Kurt Ticher. His collection included such remarkable pieces as the pair of silver-gilt standing cups made by Edward Swan in 1679 for the Dublin Guild of Merchants, and the magnificent accoutrements supplied in Dublin for a toilet table in the 1680s. The family silver of Lady Esmonde and that of the Earl of Milltown shows the range of silverware required for tea and dinner tables, as well as items such as candlesticks and wine labels for decanters.