Christmas Table

December is here again. Over 40 years ago for our first married Christmas the Santa on top of our tree was a yogurt carton, red paper and cotton wool and we had a lovely romantic day all to ourselves. This year the “children” are all coming with partners and grandchildren and our table will be seating sixteen (with the help of some “emergency chairs”). The same Santa will grace the tree. I imagine it will be a touch noisier than our first Christmas but we are both looking forward to it.

Thinking recently about the day my wife’s mind drifted to the table centre and mine to the subject of electroplate. I thought of all the table decorations there are for sale in all the department stores all over the country and how incredibly expensive they all are. Then I thought about all the electroplate we auction month after month and how reasonably priced it is.

A pair of polished plated candlesticks flanking a decorative epergne, or a pretty pierced bowl, or a tall trumpet vase with matching similar smaller vases, to name just a few exciting combinations. All or any would make a lovely table centre.

When Bolsover’s remarkable fuse plate was superseded by the wonderful development that brought us base metal articles plated by electrolysis, the resulting electroplated items opened up a whole new world to the purchasing public. I think that surge in plated popularity should happen again for this year’s Christmas table.

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

Cream Jugs

I love custard almost more than any other food. Cream however does run a close second and the 18th century vessels that housed that wonderful liquid are quite exquisite and worth collecting. The earliest form of cream jug was plain and ovoid in form. It had a shallow foot and the handle and lip were made separately and attached later. There should be no seaming evident on the body as these pieces were usually raised from a single piece of silver.

Some jugs were fitted with hinged lids and wooden handles and used for serving hot milk, which was popular before 1720.

The pear shape continued until much later in the 18th century but could then be found with three cast feet, which were either hoof, shell, scroll, or pad formed.

Other types of vessels for cream produced in the mid 18th century were cream boats (smaller versions of sauce boats) and cow creamers. The cow creamer was a speciality of the silversmith John Schuppe, a man of Dutch origin who was working in London. He is known to have been working between 1753 and 1773. These creamers have a covered opening on the back of the cow, allowing it to be filled with cream, the curled back tail acts as a handle and the cows mouth
was a spout. In silver these creamers are rare. They were also made in pottery and porcelain.

From the end of the 18th century the production slowed considerably because like teapots and sugar baskets, cream jugs were more popular in tea and coffee sets.

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

Rings

I am in the fortunate position to be happily married to someone who does not crave her fingers jewelled with rings. Now I love a jewelled finger, but financially the bare finger does win by more than a short head. We must all agree however that the history of the ring a fascinating one.

Rings have been worn since ancient Egyptian times. Signet rings engraved with a personal seal are associated with power and status, while plain gold wedding rings are tokens of betrothal. Wedding rings have been given or exchanged since Roman times and from the 16th century it has been customary to use a plain gold band.

Before the discovery of large deposits of gold in the USA in the 1840s and diamonds in South Africa in the 1870s, jewellery that was no longer fashionable was often dismantled, melted and the stones refashioned to follow changing tastes. This makes rings before 1800 reasonably rare.

In the early 19th century half hoop and cluster rings were introduced and they remained fashionable throughout the century. Snakes, symbolising wisdom and eternity, were a particularly common motif in the mid 19th century, especially after Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with an emerald set snake engagement ring in 1839. Serpent rings consist of one, two, or three bands with single or double serpent heads, often set with diamond or ruby eyes.

New patterns introduced in the 1890s reflected the late Victorian and Edwardian revival of interest in 18th century court styles and jewellery of this period is characterised by the use of delicate settings.

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

Candelabra

Twice each year I think about the candelabra, once at Christmas and once at Easter. Both are times of celebrating and what better way to celebrate anything than to bring out the candelabra.

Candelabra follow the styles of the candlestick, but they are rare before the late 18th century and if found will generally only have two detachable arms. By the end of the 18th century candelabra
are more common and fashion dictated that the number of arms found on their detachable tops increased, initially to three but by the middle of Victoria’s reign five, six and more were common.

The three branch candelabra was a common sight by the end of the 18th century. These were tall and they grew in size until their peak in the Regency period. The decoration, as explained, followed the candlestick and around this time decoration of fluting was enclosed by beaded borders.

It is important to ensure that the decoration of the main body matches that of the detachable branches, therefore ensuring the candelabra is all original and not a marriage of two parts. As in life there are good and bad marriages, but with the candelabra ever a top and bottom living together in complete love and perfect harmony will never be as good as a completely original example.

On the early candelabra the branches could be removed and the central stem used as a candlestick. On later examples this dual usage was impossible because the stems grew too high and the nozzles too wide to hold a candle.

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

Vinaigrettes

At the end of the 18th century a combination of poor personal hygiene and disastrous sewage control made walking through streets a rather smelly business. Enter the vinaigrette. Used by many in polite society, it was a tiny hinged box which opened to reveal a decorative grill trapping a perfume soaked sponge. When held close to the nostrils the smell was considerably more pleasant than the surrounding odours.

The earliest vinaigrettes were simply the tiny boxes already described. The interior of the box was gilt lined to prevent the acidic liquid from destroying the metal. A side ring would be added, which enabled the owner to wear it as a pendant on a necklace or as part of a bracelet.

As the earliest vinaigrettes were so small their decoration was little more than simple engraving or bright cut patterns. However by the early 19th century vinaigrettes had grown somewhat and now at an enormous 4cm there was room for much more elaborate decoration. They were decorated with intricate scrollwork, flowers and foliage and figural and animal designs. The borders were often cast raised with flowers and shells and the lids could sometimes be engraved with initials or personal Coats of Arms.

The basic rectangular form was eventually abandoned in favour of more exciting shapes and designs. These varied widely from tiny purses and fob watches to books, flowers, fish, animals and shells. These are the details that make the collecting of vinaigrettes such an exciting and vibrant hobby for today’s collector and why they always sell so well in the saleroom.

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

Cutlery

In medieval Europe most people had a wooden or pewter spoon at home and if visiting friends or relatives they took it with them. The wealthy tended to do the same, but theirs were silver. Later a knife was added, but spoons, especially silver ones, hammered from a single small ingot, have survived in much greater numbers.

With the exception of Apostle spoons, spoons were not made in sets until the end of the 17th century. Many were, however, given as presents on special occasions, which could account for why so many have survived today.

When Charles II returned from exile in France in 1660, he brought with him the idea of setting a table for eating. This was a wonderful idea which not only dispensed with the embarrassment of forgetting one’s spoon when visiting, but also made the whole dining experience much more enjoyable. As with all good ideas though it took many years to catch on and it is unusual to find complete sets of cutlery that date much before the late 18th century.

Individual designs all have their own names. In Britain, the Trefid pattern gave way to the Dog Nose pattern circa 1702. Throughout the 18th century the Hanoverian pattern was followed by the Old English and finally the Fiddle pattern. The 19th century started with the Kings pattern. These patterns and their variants are still produced today.

Collectors have great fun collecting full canteens by matching patterns and periods. What is even more fun is to collect one maker.

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

Hallmarks

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

Tureens

With the exception of high days and holidays when was the last time any of us used a tureen to assist with the serving of our evening meal? I suspect the answer for most of us is almost never and it seems such a shame.

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

For more information or if you have similar items, 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.

Say Everything Without Saying A Word

Sheffield Auction Gallery’s forthcoming Fine Art Auction on Friday 1st December includes a sumptuous selection of single and multi-stone diamond rings.

A Christmas engagement, special gift or just because, there is something to suit every taste – antique, vintage or modern.

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 this sale, please contact specialist valuer Sarah Clark by emailing sclark@sheffieldauctiongallery.com or by calling 0114 281 6161.