Monday, October 14, 2013

Wheathills Expert helps to solve Silver Markings Query

The initial message from the client ran:
"We purchased this serving tray with 11 hallmarks. Both handles have six and some numbers. One sequence has: quarter moon with a star in the middle, a scale, and what looks like a thisle plant. The same handle opposite corner has: 00521 1/2 with 20 I N. The other handle contains: a crown, i don't know, and a star. The opposite corner has: i believe is an M B O with an E P or E B underneath the first three letters. All letters are encased in a shield. Any information given would be greatly appreciated."

Our Silver Expert specialises in Antique British Silver, ie Sterling Silver (classic hallmarked Silver), this tray presented a series of different challenges in the quest to track down its roots:

I detail below his response to the query

"This item has presented a considerable number of problems in trying to identify not only the country of origin of the piece but also the interpretation of the marks. The fist thing that can be said is that the piece is not manufactured from British Sterling Silver as none of the marks stamped on the piece are British hallmarks. The next thing is the design of the tray which is what I would call high Victorian and the use of vine leaves and grapes (which look as if they are on border of the tray above the 'pie crust' design) was very popular in the early Victorian period. The plethora of marks stamped on the tray handles cannot be identified from any of my reference books, thus the suggestion that the piece may be foreign is not unreasonable to suggest. HOWEVER the number 00521

appears to be a British Registration mark as this was one of a series of numbers used during the year 1884 on a number of electroplated wares (1-19753 was the full series for this year) whilst 20 IN probably represents twenty inch width of the tray. The letters stamped on the handle cannot be identified because of the convoluted way in which plated silver goods were manufactured and unlike sterling silver these marks did not have to be registered.

The letters 'EP' would indicate that the piece is electroplated silver and the other initials MAY refer to either the manufacturer or the craftsman who made it.

Looking at one mark, namely the scales, according to the reference book there was only one company that apparently used such an identification device and that was the Meriden Britannia Company, but that device was usually stamped within a circle with a double outer edge and the name of the company inserted between the borders and without any supporting marks. If however the tray is American then further research would be required to be carried out by the client as this is outside my area of expertise which is antique British Sterling Silver. All in all this is a fascinating look into how silver plated goods can give rise to good mysteries and which more often than not cannot be solved in their entirety. As with such other matters, the caveat to the above opinion is based solely on seeing a photographic image of the item and not through a hands-on inspection."

Response from client:
"THANK YOU very much for your quick response and helpful information. Our information coincides with both of our findings. I finally narrowed the piece down to: Rogers Brothers, whom along with their designs were bought up buy the Meridian Britannia Company in or around 1895 out of Meridian Connecticut, in turn were absorb into International Silver in 1898. We were hoping for real silver but it is a nice piece and look forward to having it restored. Thank you again for your time and information."

More Information on Identifying Silver Hallmarks can be found in the Features Section of Wheathills.

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