About the Silversmith:
Silversmiths of Meriden
Oldest family-owned silver company in the
world is located in Connecticut.
By Henry McNulty
CT Business Magazine
The Miss America
Pageant, the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the Super Bowl, the Bob Hope Desert
Classic, the Calder Cup – all have gleaming, unique trophies. And all these
trophies were made by Boardman Silversmiths, one of the last remaining silver
manufacturers in Meriden.
“We’ve always been know for making one-of-a-kind
pieces,” said Burton E. Boardman, the company president.
The company’s, and the family’s, roots go deep into
American silver and pewter-making. As far back as 1798, Thomas Boardman and his
brother, Sherman Boardman, were making silverware in Hartford. As their
descendants began to leave home and set up shop elsewhere, the name came to
epitomize American silver and pewter.
Timothy Boardman worked in New York City in 1822;
the Boardman & Hart and Boardman & Hall companies thrived in New York and
Philadelphia, respectively; J. D. Boardman and Henry S. Boardman worked in
Hartford in the 19th century. (Another relative, Elijah Boardman,
founded the town of Boardman, Ohio.)
In the 19th century, when it was known as
“the Silver City of the World,” Meriden was home to dozens of silver
manufacturers, many of which united to form International Silver in the 1890s.
Now, besides a few silverware repairers, there are only two: Boardman, and
Valerio Albarello Inc., which is located on Hanover Street in South Meriden.
Employing 20 people, Valerio Albarello makes hollowware and specialty silver
goods for Reed & Barton, Tiffany, and other firms. It has been in Meriden since
The present Boardman Company, which employs between
22 and 35 people depending on the season, was begun in 1985 when Burton Boardman
purchased his father’s business, J. C. Boardman & Co., which was located in
Wallingford not far from the Oakdale theater.
“The family tradition is that you don’t inherit the
business, you buy it,” he explains. “And at the same time, you change the
company’s name, if only slightly.”
Among the items manufactured by J. C. Boardman were
the silver bowls that movie star Grace Kelly gave her bridal attendants when she
married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.
In 1996, Burton Boardman moved the company to
Meriden, where several ancestors had practiced the family trade. “I found that
there was room in the old Parker manufacturing Building on Pratt Street,” he
says. “The floors here are 16 inches thick, which is perfect for our needs.”
Today, Boardman Silversmiths limits itself to three
areas of trade:
Sports and pageant trophies, including several
NASCAR events, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, tennis, football, the
Jockey Gold Cup, the Seagrams Seven Crowns of Sports trophies, and more;
High-end corporate pieces, usually retirement
gifts and awards for Fortune 500 companies;
And a limited line of jewelry for the country’s
most exclusive stores. “We go after a fraction of the top 1 percent of the
marketplace,” Boardman explains. “It tends to be inflation- and recession-
proof, which is not true for the department store trade. No matter what,
you’ll always see cars pulling up in front of Tiffany’s.” The New York jeweler
is a customer, as are shops in Beverly Hills and other tony communities.
Although the company does make bowls, tankards, and
other standard pieces, Boardman says he is most proud of his unique creations.
“If someone says to me ‘It can’t be done,’ that piques my interest,” he laughs.
And for some of his customers, price is no object. “If someone has the money,
and they want a piece that won’t be duplicated anywhere else,” he says, “they
come to talk to us.”
With silversmithing roots stretching back to the 18th
century, Boardman has one eye on the future, especially since he turned 60
earlier this year. He and his wife have two children; one is an attorney, and
the other works for a think tank. Neither, he says, has shown much interest in
the silver business.
“But I’ve also got nephews and nieces,” he says.
“I’m sure I’ll be able to get some family members involved.”