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The Silver Museum in Antwerp

Silver is not just a material. As a precious metal, silver has a special aura that gives extra cachet to DIVA. The roots of DIVA lay therefore also within the Silver Museum.


 

2014: On to a new chapter

The Silver Museum took its leave of Sterckshof Castle on May 2nd 2014, after the tenth jubilee edition of the Silver Market. It will be interesting to see what plans the eventual new owner has for Sterckshof Castle in Deurne.


2007: Prestigious award

In 2007 the Silver Museum Sterckshof was the first museum ever to win De Vuurslag, the art-historical prize awarded by Art & Antiques Fair ’s-Hertogenbosch. A prestigious award for a museum that has an extraordinary collection of silver.


1990s - 2000: From Provincial Silver Centre to Provincial Silver Museum Sterckshof

The Provincial Museum Sterckshof–Silver Centre, which opened to the public on Silver Sunday June 12th 1994, gradually became a knowledge and promotional centre for Belgian silversmithing. From 2002 the museum was generally referred to as the Silver Museum Sterckshof.

Largest collection of Antwerp silver

By 1995 the Silver Museum Sterckshof provided a comprehensive survey of the world of silversmithing in fifteen themed rooms. As well as boasting the largest collection of Antwerp silver in the world, the museum also showed silver from other Belgian towns and from abroad.

Objects like the inkstand by the Antwerp silversmith Verschuylen and an Antwerp chafing-dish illustrate the early nineteenth century in the collection of Antwerp silver. These items were displayed in an exhibition in 2006, for example, which provided the first ever retrospective of Antwerp silver from the sixteenth century to date. The sixteenth century was the city’s Golden Age and it is one of the starting points for DIVA as the new museum for silversmithing, jewellery and diamonds, in which craftsmanship and opulence take centre stage. 

Chafing-dish, Meester G, 1815-1832, Antwerp
Inkstand, Jan Pieter Antoon Verschuylen, 1837, Antwerp
 

Silver Sunday

On the annual Silver Sunday experts gave polishing demonstrations and provided tips on looking after silver and jewellery.    

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Silver expertise

International Silver Market

Silver enthusiasts flocked to the eleven editions of the Silver Market held at the Sterckshof until 2014 and at the DIVA building on Gildekamersstraat in 2015. They were able to stroll round the stalls, chat to antiquarians, booksellers and silversmiths from home and abroad and admire and/or purchase silver objects. Specialist antique dealers offered fine silver and silver-plated articles for sale as well as jewellery, while other silversmiths and jewellery designers catered for those with contemporary tastes. 

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Silver market


1950s: The Provincial Museum for Artistic and Decorative Crafts Sterckshof

In 1953 Piet Baudouin, an eminent expert on Belgian silver, opened what became the Provincial Museum for Artistic and Decorative Crafts Sterckshof. An annual exhibition showcased a different craft each year.

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1930s: Museum Association for Flemish Civilization and Open-air Museum

In 1934 when the Museum Association for Flemish Civilization and Open-air Museum was founded, Sterckshof Castle in Deurne (the later Silver Museum) was given a museum remit.

In 1938 Joseph De Beer was appointed Sterckhof’s first curator. He wanted to turn Sterckshof into an open-air museum. While awaiting completion of the museum, De Beer amassed archaeological, natural history, folkloric and artisanal collections in the castle. During the Second World War, while some 200 German soldiers were billeted at Sterckshof, Curator De Beer headed up a resistance group, hid British pilots and Jews in the castle and printed a resistance newspaper in the museum. His plans for an open-air museum in Deurne were literally blown to smithereens when a V-bomb struck.