The City Magazine Since 1975

Stories in Silver



Stories in Silver
WRITER: 
PHOTOGRAPHER: 
January 2019

A gleaming King Street shop stores Charleston’s treasures

Charlotte Crabtree with Silver Vault of Charleston displays

“Silver really footnotes the events in our lives,” says Charlotte Crabtree, proprietor of The Silver Vault of Charleston. She isn’t just talking about baby cups and cake knives; she’s thinking of, for example, the silver wedding casket (a box involved in 16th-century engagement traditions) she secured for a man seeking a special Christmas gift for his wife after a difficult year. ”It marked hope, their love for one another, their fortitude,” Crabtree explains.

Since 1995, her sliver of a shop at 195 King Street has traded primarily in American coin as well as sterling silver spanning centuries and countries from England to China. Many of the pitchers and brandy warmers, goblets and salt stands she “places” (that’s her lovely way of saying “sells”) come to the shop directly from other clients. “I like to work with individuals so I can hear their stories—how a piece entered their hands, what they know of its history,” notes Crabtree, who partners in the business with husband Alfred Crabtree, the master silversmith behind The Brass & Silver Workshop.

Crabtree finds herself untwisting complex family trees (it doesn’t help that Charlestonians once married their cousins) and otherwise playing detective to determine the lineage of an acquisition. Her discoveries live on with a family even after a piece is sold. ”To be able to share with someone a part of their history they can pass on for generations is so rewarding,” she says.