Blog - Grand Auctions


There are five notable hallmarks struck on British silver, gold and platinum pieces to commemorate important, historical events in British history. The first of these hallmarks implemented was the Silver Jubilee mark of King George and Queen Mary struck in 1935 which depicted both the King’s and Queen’s crowned heads combined in profile and set within an oval punch.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

When an item of silver is engraved, lines are cut into the object’s surface thereby removing silver in the process. Although sometimes visually similar to the chasing method, the two techniques should not be confused (see Decorating Silver: Chasing, Embossing and Repoussé blog). As well as creating general decoration, engraving is typically used to apply armorial coats of arms, family crests, the owner’s initials and inscriptions.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

There are several ways in which a silversmith can decorate a silver object once the desired article has been formed. Typically, prior to the process of applying the decoration, the object is supported and held steady for stability with either a sandbag or filled with pitch such as a viscoelastic polymer.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

It could be obvious to assume that miniature silver items such as candlesticks, teapots and plates were samples produced for travelling salesmen or alternatively practice examples made by silversmith apprentices. Although some miniature objects were produced for travelling salesmen by, for example, the ceramic manufacturers Moorcroft and Doulton, in the context of silver this is simply not the case. Miniature silver objects were generally made for those who collect novelty silver items or manufactured as toys to be integrated into extravagant dolls houses.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

In my blog, Enamelling Silver: Cloisonné, I discussed the silver enamelling technique know as cloisonné, which involves soldering silver or gold wire to the surface of a silver object to form patterns acting as the skeleton of the design, which is then filled with enamel and fired.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

The process of decorating silver objects with colourful enamels has existed in England since the 12th century. However, the origins of enamelling metalwork items can be traced further back to the early Byzantine Empire mainly being found on religious objects and articles of jewellery.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
19th century Russian Niello silver snuff box

The technique of decorating silver with the black metallic compound known as Niello can be traced as far back as both the ancient Egyptian and Roman times. However, the majority of examples found tend to originate from Russia with the majority being produced during the 19th through to the early 20th century. Some of the finest examples were produced in the Velikiy Ustyug region of Russia and typically incorporate depictions of towns, landscapes, architectural scenes or florally inspired designs. The town of Tula in Russia is especially renowned for its niello work which accounts for the reason why it is sometimes alternatively referred to as ‘Tula’ silver.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

The word ‘bosun’ (Bo’sun / Boson) is derived from ’boatswain’. The boatswain was the individual onboard a ship in charge of anchors, cables and rigging amongst other duties. They would either be integrated as a warrant officer onboard a warship or a petty officer onboard a merchant vessel. Originally, the bosun whistle was utilised to pass commands on to the crew onboard the ship. With its distinctive high pitched sound, the message could be heard throughout the ship over noise of crew activities or during a time when experiencing poor weather conditions. To this day, the bosun whistle is used by the Navy in traditional bugle calls for announcing events and ceremonies and they are also used as standard by military navies from around the world.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
silver tea caddy spoon

Silver tea caddy spoons are used for taking dry, loose tea from a tea caddy and were designed to fit inside one of the tea caddy’s compartments. Silver caddy spoons can be found dating as far back as the 1770’s. Towards the end of the 18th century, production steadily increased and by the early 1800’s their popularity was thriving.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
silver card case with castle engraving

Although visiting tickets later known as calling cards or business cards were popular in Great Britain during the 18th century, it wasn’t until circa 1835 that silver card cases were designed to hold them. The popularity of these silver card cases kept growing and it wasn’t until the mid 1860’s that their appeal began to wain. However, production still continued well into the 20th century.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
 

Stirrup cups first appeared in Great Britain during the 1760’s. However, little is known about their specific origin. The most plausible explanation for their purpose was for making toasts prior to departure of a hunt whilst seated on horseback with both feet in stirrups. Before the arrival of stirrup cups, dram cups and tot cups were generally used in Britain in similar contexts.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
 

Candelabra are large candlesticks designed for the dinner table with additional branches for holding extra lights. Early silver examples can be traced back to the mid 17th century. However, the vast majority of surviving examples originate from the late 18th and 19th century.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

In 1842, the British Customs Act was imposed requiring all imported silver and gold to be submitted for assay at a British office and marked accordingly before being sold in Great Britain or Ireland.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

The vast majority of Irish silver originates from Dublin. The earliest examples date as far back as 1637 when a King Charles I charter was devised for both silver and gold warranting all pieces to be marked with a crowned harp together with the maker's mark.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

Chocolate first appeared in Britain during the 1650s. Being marketed as an expensive, luxury product this triggered silversmiths to design and produce a series of utensils to both aid the drinking of chocolate and emphasize the consumers status. The main object used was the chocolate pot. The majority of chocolate pots were produced around the late 17th century to the early 18th century. As opposed to coffee pots with only one lid, chocolate pots are distinguished by the inclusion of a secondary lid attached to the main lid.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
silver vinaigrette box

Vinaigrettes are small tightly lidded boxes designed for containing strong aromatic substances. They were produced from around 1780 through to the mid 19th century during which a seemingly infinite variety of designs were created. They were usually made from a range of materials such as gold, silver, enamels or glass mounted in silver. A good proportion of these were highly decorated with beautiful ornament and interesting topographical scenes which successfully disguised their real purpose which was to refresh and revive the individual.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
Scottish thistle silver mark

The first official marks on Scottish silver appeared in 1457. This was due to an enactment implemented requiring a minimum of 91.66% silver content for silver objects. These silver pieces were struck with both the maker’s mark and the deacon's mark. The deacon was the chief office bearer of the craft in the town and was often a silversmith himself. In 1485 another enactment was introduced requiring the town of origin to be stated, meaning that three marks were now struck.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
Jamaican silver alligator mark

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.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
Britannia silver standard mark

In 1697 a new high standard rate of silver was introduced known as the Britannia Standard. Britannia silver was an increase from the sterling standard rate of 92.5% to 95.84%. The reason for its introduction was actually a consequence of the English Civil War (1642 - 1651) during which massive amounts of silver had been melted down and converted into money to pay the troops.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
silver assay office city marks

1300 was the year when London sterling silver was first marked with the leopard's head. Unfortunately there were some unscrupulous goldsmiths who developed their own leopard's head punches which they would then strike against sub standard silver objects.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
Leopard's head silver hallmark

Pure silver is a very soft and malleable metal. However, by adding a small quantity of copper, it can become much harder and more durable. The combination of silver and copper was first used by the Greeks and Romans and has since become a very practical material for coinage as well as for domestic and ceremonial use.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
Faberge silver inkwell

For centuries silver has been admired and collected by many for its beauty, brilliant lustre as well as for its intrinsic value. However, silver was once considered by some to be a necessity, symbolic of one's place in society. Whether you were a nobleman in the 18th century or of the Medieval period, a magnificent display of silverware was almost paramount.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe
silver tea service set

Antique silver objects have been seen as a safe haven for savvy investors for a long time, but for many people who have acquired silver objects, knowing how, who to sell to and when to sell can be a difficult decision to make.

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  • Posted by Robin Newcombe

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