In today’s fast living world the dining room rarely functions as it’s name suggests it should. There is little wonder therefore that the poor old tureen, once a highlight of the room’s table, has died a death. I find this a great sadness as I love the tureen.

Tureens were introduced in the early 18th century, reflecting the French fashion for serving stews, soups and sauces. It is said that the tureen was named after the 17th century Vicomte de Turenne, who ate his soup from his upturned helmet. In fact, the term derives from the French “terrine”. The tureen became associated with a show of wealth and was often the most richly ornamented and expensive piece in the dinner service.

Soup tureens were introduced c.1720 but examples pre-dating 1750 are rare. Generally of heavy gauge silver, they were set on four cast feet, with cast scroll ring drop handles at the sides and a domed cover. Some of the rare early tureens from the 1730’s and 1740’s by famous French silversmiths are among the most magnificent pieces of Rococo silver made.

Tureens from the late 18th century are generally oval and on a single pedestal foot. They were influenced by architects such as Robert Adam who was producing designs to match the dining room furnishings. The early 19th century Regency tureens were by contrast much heavier and more richly decorated with lion mask handles and Classical ornaments. However this was the time when gradually fewer silver tureens were made and the ceramic became much more fashionable.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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The hallmark of a good Dowse Christmas is a healthy discussion over the choosing, placement and decoration of the Christmas tree, which in over forty years I have never won and an increase in trouser size for my return to work.

Also at Christmas we think of gifts and often those gifts are made from Sterling silver, which is another time when we come across hallmarks.

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 Worshipful 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, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website