Hallmarks

A friend recently asked me to look at a silver tea service he had acquired in a distant relative’s will. Apparently he always played with it as a small child. Not remembering the tea service and hardly remembering the relative, he was however interested in it’s history and I think more importantly it’s value. Sadly I was a disappointment to him as what looked to him like hallmarks were not and the service was silver plated not silver. The value therefore was greatly reduced. In an attempt to appear interested after his let down he asked the question, “Well what exactly is silver and how can you tell?”

Pure silver is too soft to be practical and is therefore combined with small amounts of copper. Ideal proportions of 925 parts silver to 75 parts copper have been used in Britain since the 13th century and this is Sterling silver. The use of Sterling silver is enforced by The WorshipfulI Company of Goldsmiths and Silversmiths and the proof of the purity of the metal is punched into items, making hallmarks.

In Britain, a hallmark generally consists of the Sterling mark (the lion passant) together with symbols to denote place of assay, date and maker. Full hallmarks are present on the main body of an item and detachable parts such as lids, but part hallmarks are used for other areas such as handles, which could be separated by removing a screw or pin.

By 1300 the hallmark was made compulsory and in 1363 every Silversmith had to have their own mark. Originally the first two letters of a Silversmiths surname were used and then from around 1720, the initials of the first name and surname became more common and are still used today.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Dazzle in December with Sheffield Auction Gallery (and it won’t cost as much as you think!)

Sheffield Auction Gallery’s forthcoming Fine Art Auction on Friday 1st December includes over 200 lots of diamond and gem set jewellery.

Pretty in pink, gorgeous in green, beautiful in blue, there is something to match every outfit.

With estimates ranging from as little as £50 there is also something to suit every budget.

Whether a sumptuous Tanzanite for a December birthday, an engagement or just because, there is something on offer for everyone.

Antique & Fine Art Auction including Silver, Jewellery & Watches and Fine Wines Friday 1st December at 10am.

Viewing – Thursday 30th November 9am-4.45pm and Saleday from 8.30am.

For further information or to consign entries in to future auctions, please contact specialist valuer Sarah Clark by emailing sclark@sheffieldauctiongallery.com or by calling 0114 281 6161.

Curiouser and Curiouser!

Sorting through a box of mixed items consigned for sale, amongst the paper and ceramics I came across a box. Inside the box I found nearly a dozen miniature creatures. Each hand made and naturalistically detailed as insects and reptiles.

Silver Centipede
Silver Centipede

On inspection they appear to be made of thin sheets of silver, tooled and decorated to look like the real thing – miniature studies of nature wrapped up and kept together for the last however-many-years.

Throughout time artists have produced their own interpretations of creatures and animals through painting, sculpture and metal work. Providing reference for the learner, at times when books were limited and there was no such thing as the internet.

A group of silver insects
A group of silver insects

Working in an Auction Gallery environment we see all kinds of works, depicting all kinds of creatures. However, for me, these little models are certainly the preferred way to look at creepy crawlies!

A private collection of creatures and insects
A collection of creatures and insects which will be going under the hammer in our forthcoming Two-Day Auction of Silver, Jewellery & Watches on Thursday 22nd October 2015

Silver & Silver Plate Specialist Sarah Clark

For further information on these or any of our Specialist Auctions, please visit our Sheffield Auction Gallery website.

20th Century Design Forever

The 1960’s and 70’s saw some silversmiths becoming less interested in designing anonymously for large manufacturers, and started to set out on their own. Focusing on their own style meant they could also publicise and market their own creations.

Regarded as one of the great goldsmiths and silversmiths of the 20th Century – Australian born Stuart Devlin is one such example. Being acclaimed by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths as the designer with “the Midas touch”, he believed that the role for a contemporary silversmith was to ‘enrich the way people live and work’.

The overall nature of precious metals gave Devlin the opportunity to design pieces that added delight, surprise, intrigue, and even amusement. A recipe for huge success in the concept of ‘limited editions’. The most popular being the novelty Easter eggs and Christmas boxes.

Over time he devised and adapted new techniques in producing wide varieties of textures, finishes and filigree forms, resulting in a new collection being produced each year.

He was later commissioned by Viners of Sheffield to produce a range of stainless steel tableware, utilising the stark contrast of shiny ‘silver’ with textured ‘gold’. Although phased out in 1979, the collection included wine and champagne goblets, dishes and candle holders.

A collection of Stuart Devlin Stainless Steel Tableware
A collection of Stuart Devlin Stainless Steel Tableware

The quality, the workmanship and the overall appearance of Devlin’s work, together with limited numbers produced, result in high prices being realised at auction. Many pieces being highly sought after by collectors.

“If I have made a contribution, it has been to add elements of richness and intrigue to purely functional objects such as knives and forks. It seems this element has been sadly missed since the turn of the (20th) century”

Today, in his 80’s, Stuart Devlin continues to create stunning and interesting pieces, from his studio in West Sussex.

Jewellery Specialist Sarah Clark

For further information on these or any of our Specialist Auctions, please visit our Sheffield Auction Gallery website.