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Victorian Silver Engravers work samples.

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Silver Collecting50 of 68A Favorite Jewel Box Manufactured by P.A. Coon c1908Silver Cigarette Case
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Posted 5 years ago


(51 items)

These copper plates were found in the bowels of an old Silversmiths' workshop in the Jewellery Quarter, in Birmingham. They were found when the derelict workshop was being cleared (below ground with narrow strip, metal grilled, high opaque windows, and very, very dusty & "musty"!).

They where behind the back of an old wall fixed workbench and cupboard, alongside other discarded bits of detritus. They were so messed up and filthy, they were very nearly thrown in the skip without a second glance. A member of the family that had been the buildings' owners for best part of 150 years; said he thought they might date back to the late 19th Century, and we were quite welcome to them! That particular room had only been used for storing "junk" since the time when many of the men had enlisted in the early years of the Great War!

These are obviously monograms engraved by a skilled artisan, but my question is would these have been executed on copper before engraving on the Sterling Silver items, in case of "slips" or "mistakes"? (

Or; were they practice pieces of an especially skilled apprentice before he was let loose on the Silver? (The answer is "Yes"; copper is apparently used for practice, in leu of more expensive silver because of it's similar hardness...... see the comments below and on the second post)

Or could they be "style samplers" for patrons to choose the script they wished engraved on their precious object? This latter, is raised as a possiblility, as the nearest plate in the first photo above; has a hole carefully drilled in each of the four corners...perhaps for fixing up on the workshop or foyer wall so clients could see the styles more easily? (The answer is "No"...... see the comments below and on the second post)

All help and insight was much appreciated on these mystery finds from the world famous but gradually vanishing historic Jewellery Quarter in the English Midlands.

If interested; cut'n'paste the following link in your browser:

Mystery Solved


  1. Hunter Hunter, 5 years ago
    These are amazing - I'm really inclined to thing that they were samplers to show the various designs to potential customers. The way they are laid out on the copper sheets is what really suggests this to me, very organized and symmetrical.
  2. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Good point Hunter! Thanks for that :)
  3. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Many thanks for your kind enthusiasm BELLIN68, it makes posting all the more worthwhile when one gets accolades like that! Cheers! :)
  4. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks for the "love" vetraio50!
  5. vetraio50 vetraio50, 5 years ago
    Fabulous items both! I look forward to seeing what others think about them.
  6. walksoftly walksoftly, 5 years ago
    These are amazing, you must have been so excited as the years of accumulated filth was washed away to reveal these beauties!
  7. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    These are truly magnificent & fine works of art. My ex worked for a company & brought some plates home now & again, which I made into under-glass table tops & they looked great. She can't explain the process now as she is in the "X-Files" so I can't help you there.
    I do want to thank you for not posting another bloody vase!
  8. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks walksoftly! It was an exciting but dirty..DIRTY! filthy process, when we pulled these plates free we thought they were part of the fabric of the bench.... we also found some other "goodies".......I'll post those in a just a little while ;)

    Thanks blunderbuss2...but sorry, dohn't have no vases!... well only the wife's and they have flower type things in them at present...I'll perhaps post when empty! ;)
  9. vetraio50 vetraio50, 5 years ago
    Looking forward to these new posts!
  10. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Which posts do you mean vetraio50? the wife's empty vases (thatblunderbuss2 doesn't want to see) or the oddz 'n' ends from the old jewellers workshop? ;)
  11. vetraio50 vetraio50, 5 years ago
    The other goodies, the odds and sods and ..... vases, vases, vases! I like vases. I live in the 'house of vases', I'm told. I do understand blunderbuss's frustration that there are so many like me. We can be a little overpowering!
  12. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    lol .......I'll have to find the photo's or re-shoot (not the vases...they are very ordinary..honest!)
  13. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Ahhh now, the "Q" with the crown, that's actually a part completed insignia of the Order of the Garter.... see the link to "chinablue"s little mystery we are trying to clear up:

    The rest is, as you say just a collection of initials and monograms..which made me think of practice pieces...or you and Hunter lean toward..samplers
  14. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    It was the unfinished nature of the Garter central portion that initially tipped me toward "practice" piece but I think that less likely...they would have left the central "monogram" area blank if it were a sampler.....prospective clients could "imagine" their initials engraved there, while they chose their type face (just guessing now!)
  15. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    Hems & Vetra, please, please, - no more bloody vases!! Should be a separate site like, Vase Huggers Weekly. Speaking for us men, we want to see something historical, mechanical or something for defending/killing enemies of you bloody vase huggers. Watches, clocks & antique cars are also nice (as long as there isn't a vase in the pic.).
  16. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    After much study of these engravings, I have come to the conclusion that they were done by computer guided laser engravers. Who would have guessed that they had such technology back then? LOL
  17. vetraio50 vetraio50, 5 years ago
    Next week it will be boomerangs, blunderbuss! I promise! Sorry Hems!
  18. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Now, now blunderbuss2, take deep breaths!....As a motorcycle rider myself I understand where you are coming from, so here is a nice post I know you will appreciate.....I just left a "love" and personal message there myself!..........enjoy! :)

    Now...isn't that better?
  19. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    hems, are you familiar with the Jamaican term "Bum'ble clot?
  20. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Ahhhh... not really....I'll Google it! Ooops wrong post....sorry :P

    I meant check this out!
  21. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    NOW! blunderbuss2 THAT is just SOOOOOOOOOOOOO rude!
  22. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Another one for blunderbuss2...MY Norton:

    Now lets get back to the copper plates, samplers, apprentice pieces..whatever!
  23. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 5 years ago
    Morning, gentlemen! Glorious items, fascinating description, worthy and engaging thread. Thank you! I especially love the larger of the two sheets. The work is magnificent – both design and execution!

    May I propose third and fourth hypotheses? Just some humble thoughts.

    No. 3. Hems, for many years I was an amateur calligrapher. I'm no good any more – I just use it for thank you notes, RSVP’s, and letters of condolence. However, I can still recall the times I worked on a piece in a style with which I was not well acquainted. I kept an open guidebook at the ready, just in case I forgot the proper formation of a certain letter. Could the sheet with the holes have been a guide (for the artisans/silversmiths) to letter or monogram designs that had been chosen as a standard for certain clients? Such designs that might need to be used on multiple items in a set, or ‘lot’, for one particular client or his family? (Not suggesting that any one family had all these monograms.)

    No. 4. Hems, REF your hypothesis that these might well have been practice sheets. Could they not have been, instead, ‘doodle sheets’? A calligrapher has many exercises to warm up – beginning with hand stretches and then simple strokes. (Engravers must have their own warm-up regime, I expect.) Then there’s the pre-work drill of practicing the letters until one’s hand is even and regular. (More important as we age.) Then one might practice placement on page - the design that the lettering block will take on the page. Then there’s the charm of designing original initial letters, e.g., an illuminated letter. Consider that one has chosen one’s designs and one commences the practice. One will make the same letter and associated design – not with full details – over and over again. I don’t see that here. However, suppose that the calligrapher is in the creative process of imagining an original design and tweaking it. He’d doodle a lot. He wouldn’t work the one design in exactly the same manner over and over again, as one would in practice. There would be variations in the designs. Could this engraver have been casting about for an original ‘lettering style’, or much more likely, for a distinctive style of integrated monogram design? Could the sheet with holes be a doodle sheet? Just thoughts, gentlemen. miKKo
  24. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks for all the "love it's", my appreciation to: miKKoChristmas11, toolate2, PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, czechman, AR8Jason, bratjdd, inky, blunderbuss2, walksoftly, vetraio50, BELLIN68, Hunter, hope I havn't missed anyone! ;)
  25. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    miKKo: MANY thanks for your hypotheses; I like No.3 a lot! No4 raises the question with the smaller plate...why the holes in the 4 corners? When found, the plate was NOT affixed in any way, the holes were empty. But idea No.3 then the plate might well have been affixed ? to bench or wall IN the workshop where found (as the work of the Silversmiths certainly, at one time, went on in that room.)

    Keep the ideas flowing because I relish these other viewpoints and possible insights.
  26. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    I've done a little bit of engraving on brass. I can truly admire a good engraver & anybody who can speak dutch.
  27. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 5 years ago
    Hi, Hems. Thanks very much! Some comments.

    What about the name that appears on the smaller sheet with holes? See the name at the bottom, nearish center? Is it “W” or “T” “ TAYLOR” or “TAYLUR”? or something like that? Why a name on this sheet of monograms? What is name so plain and so small? Is this the name of one of the artisans/apprentices known to have worked in the firm? Or could this be a name of a client?

    Let’s look at the odd assortment of letters/monograms on this smaller sheet.
    Look at the bottom row. I count four “A’s”, three “M’s”, and one each of “D” “P”, “B”, “F”, and “G”. Now, let’s consider this from the point of view of “letter frequency” in the English language. “E” is the most commonly used letter in the English language – for every 100 letters, there will occur approx. 12.702 “E’s”. There are fourteen letters on the bottom row. Not one of them is an “E”. Now, “A” is also one of the most common letters – accounting for 8.167 occurrences in any 100 letters. “A” here appears with far greater frequency than average – here, it accounts for about 25 per every 100 letters, or a 25% frequency rare. Now, the letter “M” is much less frequent in English than many other letters – it accounts for only 2.406 occurrences per 100 letters. Yet, we see three “M’s” in a line of 14 characters – that works out to a frequency rate of 28.57 per 100. (Hope my math’s not off – it might be. It’s been a very long day, and my head is swimming.) An examination of other rows will yield similar oddities. In the top row, we have two “L’s”, two “S’s”, two “H’s”, and two ”E’s”. There are one each of “K”, “Y”, “A”, and “T”. The letter frequency on this sheet indicates to me that this was not produced as a ‘general sampler’ to present to a broad range clients or potential clients. One would expect such a sampler to represent every letter at least once, and present perhaps the most frequently occurring letters in several styles. Moreover, consider the spacing of the middle row. Notice that the middle monogram is not perfectly centered on the sheet. I don’t think that a good silversmithing firm would display a sampler that showed that its artisans can’t recognize when something is off-center. Frequency can also be applied across the sets of letters used in each of the monograms. “A T”, and “A T Y”, and “A A” (?) are remarkable for frequency. (Head is spinning now.) Also, both “A T” and “A T Y” could be monograms for the same person. Note the marked similarity between the monogram on bottom row @ third from left end, and the monogram in center row, @ center position. It seems to me that the artisan is using a small set of certain letters, and I think that this is consistent with a doodle design piece. I think it might well be the case that this is a case of an artisan casting about for good monogram ‘styles’, perhaps for a client ‘A. Taylor’?

    On smaller sheet still, note that artisan is not practicing letters all in the same ‘style’ (‘font’, per colloquial, layman’s usage). However, they all look like they’re of a certain ‘date range’.

    REF the monograms on the bottom row, some are more finished than others. The “A G” monogram to the far right is perhaps more ‘finished’ that the monogram on the far left. I love the “P B M” monogram that appears second from end on Left side. Monogram is beautifully balanced, and the artisan has included three flourishes, which though sparse enough to render the design ‘spartan’ are yet perhaps sufficient to transform it into a finished design, or a nearly-finished design. The only other monogram on the sheet that looks to me to be a finished or a nearly-finished design is the “T E” that appears in top row, at far left.

    I have worked a finished design from a chosen doodle design without further developing it in another doodle before proceeding to good parchment. I still think that this sheet is perhaps consistent with a doodle sheet.

    RE the holes in the smaller sheet. As far as being nailed to a wall is concerned, what about being placed over a triangular box that serves as a ‘display stand’, similar in concept to a ‘book holder’ that one uses at breakfast table to hold the pages of a book open so that one can read while breakfasting. I’m not an engraver, and I welcome comment! But as a calligrapher, I have worked on drafting table angles and on flat surfaces. If the engraver works on flat surfaces, and his work table is not adjacent to a wall, or doesn’t have an area on which he can mount a guide, then he might have used a triangular display unit to display this sheet while working. In any case, I do not see holes as thoroughly inconsistent with a doodle sheet.

    Finally, I bring to your attention the fact that the smaller sheet is beveled and that not all of its holes are ‘neat’. Significance? Don’t know. Inviting reflection. Thanks for forbearance with miKKo’s ‘cloudy head’!
  28. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 5 years ago
    Hi, blunderbuss2! Hope your Saturday is a great one. Do you not speak Dutch? Your English is superb.
  29. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 5 years ago
    P.s., Sorry, forgot to include a source for frequency rates of English letters. Here's a link to the table I used - from a Wikipedia article. It's not clear from the article where this table came from. Smart author, but his brain was perhaps cloudy, too, when he wrote the article, and his attribution comments are very confusing.

    Please note that the frequency rate for a letter in general is different from the frequency rate of an 'initial' or 'first letter in a word'. I should have used the second table instead of the first, but I think that you will take my point, anyway.

    Finally, please note that the the frequency rates in the first table are not uncontested. Thanks!

  30. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    WOW!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for all that. The work you must have put in!!! You have really opened my eyes; I'd seen the "W. TAYLOR" but had really forgotten about is so small!... just under a millimetre high if that! I think you are absolutely right in your deductions.....NO I know you are right!

    The smaller plate is a bit too "rough & ready" for public/patron display. I am now SURE this plate was for the benefit (in some way) of the engraver him/her self. Like you postulate: it was pinned on/at/in a place accessible to him i.e by his "work-station".

    Galvanised by your input miKKo; having spent an hour with both plates in front of me (and a JD in hand)... they are definately the work of separate engravers, the cut or stroke (or whatever you call it in engraving circles) IS different: The bigger plate is far more refined and accomplished!

    The smaller plate WAS produced by engraver "W. TAYLOR", he wanted people to know this so engraved his name so you need a magnifying glass to see it, then pinned it to his ..........??????????????.......... for everyone in the workshop to see. MYSTERY SOLVED on this plate (I am convinced... thanks miKKo!)

    The bigger plate is higher quality, very accomplished engraving, a blank Order of the Garter in the middle, plate with bevelled edges, rounded corners, but no fixing holes in the corners. Hmm....................
  31. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 5 years ago
    Thank you very much, Hems, for your generous and encouraging words! It was a pleasure to work on this.

    Yes, the larger sheet bears the work of a highly accomplished artisan. Splendid work!! Will think about this later. Beautiful. So glad that you have these.
  32. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    Mikko, enough dutch to get laid or killed.
  33. stefdesign stefdesign, 5 years ago
    What an incredible find! They cleaned up beautifully, they will look stunning on display!
  34. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks for the "love it's" from bratjdd, czechman, PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, shellshock283, petey, official fuel and stefdesign many thanks from a fellow artist for your kind comment.

    More info: The larger plate is twice the thickness (guage) than the smaller of the two. I don't know if this has any significance, but I think both plates are NOT connected with each other, in either; maker or purpose. We are getting there!

    Oh Yes! And guess what!!! I was talking to the person who helped clear the workshop and he now tells me that there is ANOTHER plate which he kept without letting me know (he forgot as it was found when the blocked corridor leading down to the workshop was cleared when I wasn't present)....I haven't seen it yet, but he says that it is larger and is just a large single depiction of a Royal Coat of Arms or a Crown...and he thinks the name "EDWARD" is on it, but is not 100% sure. He says that "if it's that important to you, you can have it!" So I will find out the details of it's discovery and actually lay hands on it, photograph it and post it above instead of the last photo. :)
  35. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    Waiting anxiously. How about a before & after.
  36. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 5 years ago
    Ah, I can hardly wait!!!! : D
  37. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Here is the CW link to the final plate salvaged from Birmingham:
  38. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Hi All! See the above post link; miKKoChristmas11 & ROBinHawaii have pretty much wrapped up the rationale and insight into all the plate finds from this Silversmiths workshop. As far as I'm concerned; I'm convinced by their carefully argued comments and have marked both posts as "Mystery Solved". Although I hope people will still enjoy the copper plates and their engravers of old, for their quiet eloquence. :)
  39. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    PhilDavidAlexanderMorris; thanks for the "love it".
  40. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks for your support on this one; shellshock283 :)
  41. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Great story and research.
  42. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    rniederman, kind comment; and many thanks for the "love it"! The "kudos" for the research belong to miKKoChristmas11 and ROBinHawaii, they were topshots as per usual!
  43. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    If this has caught your interest, this link might be worth a watch:
  44. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
    Steve, with my background experience, that was great.
  45. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Glad you enjoyed the video clip, blunderbuss2!
  46. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Just in case I miss someone; MANY thanks to all of the following fellow CW Members for their continuing kind support, comments & "love it's": kerry10456, rniederman, stefdesign, officialfuel, petey, shellshock283, miKKoChristmas11, toolate2, PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, czechman, AR8Jason, bratjdd, inky, blunderbuss2, walksoftly, vetraio50, BELLIN68 and Hunter!

  47. chinablue chinablue, 4 years ago
    What can I say but WOW? These pieces are extraordinary, the research superb and the comments lively. I am sorry I missed out on it! THIS is why I love this place and the people here. Excellent detective work, everyone. :-)
  48. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 4 years ago
    Hi, all! Some weeks ago, I came across an antique Belgian gilded bronze medal by Ch. Würden that featured the same 'belt' motif as is pictured on both Hems' larger copper sheet above and on chinablue's Order of the Garter sterling egg cups. I remembered that AR8Jason, who has a most excellent eye for an image!, had remarked in this thread that he thought that he might have encountered this same belt motif previously - not in connection with the Order of the Garter.

    The motif I found appeared on an equestrian prize medal awarded by the Royal Cercle Equestre de Bruxelles - on a first place medal dated 1892, which places it during the reign of King Leopold II. Both Kings Leopold I and Leopold II were Knights of the Garter. Presumably, however, this equestrian award had nothing to do with the Order of the Garter. Follows a link to images of the horse medal. (According to the seller, the word "Mascotte" appears on the rim of the medal.)

    I wonder how many organizations have used this motif in its logo? Has anyone else seen this belt motif used in another logo? Thanks.
  49. Hems303 Hems303, 4 years ago
    Thanks for that miKKo! There can be no doubt about this, this has nothing to do with "The Order of the Garter", however it is the EXACT portrayal of the Garter symbol which is one of the earliest "logo's" extant! There is no such thing as a formal "copyright" in Heraldry, but in England one of the earliest "users" of heraldry, it is still overseen by "The College of Arms":

    So there being nothing new under the sun, it now obvious that this very specific "heraldic device" was and is being used all over the world, in different roles and situations! Here is a multi-national link for "Heraldry" Societies, I'll now bet that there are more examples of this belt or garter out there to be found!

    Thanks for the continuing research miKKo!
  50. Hems303 Hems303, 4 years ago
    When I say there was no "copyright" in Heraldry, it was very obviously "not the done thing" to copy elements or devices from another's arms, because it was initially meant as a tool to clearly identify the bearer in bloody battle. There might not be copyright enforcement but you might just lose a limb or two, or perhaps even your head for "copying".

    In the UK; heraldic elements and devices do re-appear on other arms when families/clans "intermingled", i.e. sometimes on important marriages; devices from both family's coats of arms would be brought together to form a new coat of arms combining both. Sometimes down the ages, with the passage of time the "arms" would be "halved" and "quartered" over and over until they resembled an indecipherable patchwork quilt! For example scroll down for image (4) in the link below:
  51. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 4 years ago
    Very interesting, indeed, Hems! Thank you! And what super links - I promptly saved them to my "favorites"!

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