Early Jamaican silver is amongst the rarest of British colonial silver wares to be found. It is highly collected and often very difficult to source. These pieces were usually produced for the wealthy plantation owners who tended to live a luxurious lifestyle, often imitating the customs of the wealthy in fashionable London.
Unlike other British colonies which had a self governing system of control, Jamaica enforced the same rigorous assay laws as that of Britain. The assay master who would have been installed by the crown appointed Governor of the island played an important role, regulating the quality of all gold and silver manufactured.
All silver and gold workers had a duty to enter their names in the assay office under penalty of 10 shillings if failing to do so. They were then able to carry their wares to be assayed. If the item was below the standard, it would be broken apart. If equal to the standard, the assay master would have marked the piece with the assay office's mark and the initials of his name.
The alligator's head assay office mark that was in use on the island is well documented and is found on silver objects dating to 1765 or earlier. It is these alligator marked examples which tend to fetch high prices at auction. Notable makers names include Anthony Danvers, William Duncan, Joel Burroughs, Abraham Kipp, David Manson, George Hetherington, Gerardus Stoutenburg and the jeweller William Imray.
If you have any silver, please contact Robin Newcombe, silver specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.
- Posted by Robin Newcombe