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Salvaged: Silver Engravers work sample.

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English Sterling Silver64 of 101Ultra Rare Sampson Mordan writing setVictorian Silver Propelling Pencil c.1888:
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Posted 2 years ago

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Hems303
(51 items)

This is the second installment of the salvaged copper plates containing Birmingham Silversmiths work samples or test pieces. The following link is to the first CW installment:

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/67790-victorian-silver-engravers-work-samples?in=user

This copper plate was found in the bowels of an old Silversmiths' workshop in the Jewellery Quarter, in Birmingham. It was found when the blocked off subterranean stairs and corridor leading to a derelict workshop were being cleared.

It was discovered in a damp and rusted trunk along with other discarded bits of detritus, furniture and unidentified wreckage (hopefully more posts to follow!), all blocking access to the sealed up workshop door. It only escaped the tip because the owner of the premises thought it might be a silver plate under all the grime. He is a member of the family that has been the buildings' custodians for best part of 150 years; he kindly gave us the previous plates (as posted) and subsequent to our CW post; said we were quite welcome to this plate as well! He had partially cleaned the plate but stopped when it was obviously not silver, I have finished the cleaning process, but it took some real "elbow grease" to get it to shine!

This Royal Cypher or crest of Edward VII is obviously engraved by a skilled artisan, and my question, as before, remain; why would the Silversmith do it on copper?

I am now fairly sure the previously posted engraved plates from inside the workshop are by different hands and that the corridor leading to the workshop now gives up another engraver's piece. It is a bit like the layers of time being "peeled" back bit at a time, with interesting pieces contained in each layer!

Much help and insight from ROBinHawaii & miKKoChristmas11 (below) has been appreciated on this, and the previous 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:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13458313

Mystery Solved

Comments

  1. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Here is the link to the first finds/Collectors Weekly post:

    http://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/67790-victorian-silver-engravers-work-samples?in=user
  2. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 2 years ago
    What a magnificent treasure trove. If this piece isn't the mother lode, I can't imagine what it would be? No slight intended, but the lion's face looks a bit like the one in the movie "Wizard of Oz".
    Let me know when you get down to the blunderbuss level.
  3. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Hi blunderbuss2: You are spot on with your observation; the Lion certainly has a"cartoon" aspect to it's face when you look at it closely. Comparing it to a "real" Edward VII coat of arms, the animals are portrayed differently.... perhaps this is a silversmith's "in joke" or something?
  4. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    In fact: From the Lion's expression, it looks like he has just been grabbed somewhere painful! LOL ;)
  5. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    ROBinHawaii: Many thanks for this, from your link it almost certainly gives the answer to our little mystery! If they were student/apprentice practice pieces, then they would almost certainly be the likely candidates for being left behind, forgotten and unloved, when everyone "pulled out"! Until we found them. I think they are very evocative, and your insight makes them more so, in my opinion. Again, many thanks. :)
  6. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Wow, Hems303! Spectacular find! I hope that you'll pardon my forthrightness, sir. I "love" many items that are not "very fine", but when I encounter something from a fine purveyor of silver goods, I am extremely picky. Thus, good Vetraio50's old sterling Gorham coffee pot didn't earn a "love", despite the fact that it is a fabulous and significant piece. My Frivolous Reason: I didn't care for the shape. Stupid reason, for it is indeed very fine, and superbly executed. I must go back and redress that wrong! Just mentioning this because I am going to be critical here. For the record, I think that this latest plaque is wonderful and thrilling, but I don't think it's particularly well engraved.

    Now, for some off-the-top-of-my-head comments.

    1.) REF the small 'doodle' plaque in Part I, I wouldn't attribute it to Victorian Age without further evidence, preferably external. Reason: some of the lettering is moving towards 'Deco' - indeed, that is what first struck me about the small plaque.

    2.) REF the large plaque in Part I: I think that the engraver was much more accomplished than the man who engraved the Part II Plaque. Or, if both Part I Large and Part II Plaque are by the same engraver, I think it probably that Part II was either meant for a 'draft' only, or that it was intended to be further developed later. The man who produced Part I Large sought to execute his monogram designs in moderately high bas-relief. Further, he has rounded the letters themselves, producing a 3-D effect. Note also that he is a highly-skilled 'draftsman' (for want of a better word). He is further highly skilled in transforming negative space into an elaborate ground for his designs by very 'even' and masterly executions of hatch marks, arcs, feathers, interlacing/'arabesque' elements, etc. I suggest that you examine Part II under your jeweler's lens, and compare with Part I Large's control, strokes, technique, and style with Part II Engraver's . I submit that I think it probable that Part II’s lion and unicorn were not engraved by the engraver of Part I Large. Grounds. The Lion and Unicorn are 'flat', not 3-D. The lion's facial hair is 'naive', and I feel confident that the Part I Large engraver would have executed the facial hair in a masterly fashion, even if the Part II was only a sketch/draft. In my opinion, the animal's figures are not well 'drawn' at all. Finally, it's hard to see the crowns in Parts I and II, but I tentatively submit that the crown in Part I Large is engraved in higher relief, and is more molded, than the crown in Part II.

    Hope that makes sense. Just preliminary comments - very forthright. Thank you for your courtesy, sir!
  7. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Hi, Hems and ROBinHawaii! ROBinHawaii, I started typing comment before you weighed in on this show and tell item. I see, as per usual, you have nailed it. It looks like we are all in agreement - at least some significant agreement. Love the super link you provided here!
  8. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Hi miKKo: MANY thank for your summation, I agree entirely with your analysis. I am no expert on engraving, but looking, as you suggested, through my loupe; I see what you mean from an artistic and stylistic point of view! Your comments and analysis coupled with ROBinHawaii's comment and pertinent link; has pretty much put any qiestions on my two posts "to bed", as it were! Mystery solved!

    I completely agree on the naivety in the handling of the animals engraving, it is almost as if two different "hands" were involved in this "kings arms" plate. But I still love these discoveries and the way they were discarded, forgotten then found again! I don't expect the engravers all those years ago would have thought their work would have been seen again by so many on Collectors Weekly! (Probably spinning in their graves...if no longer with us, that is)

    It was at blunderbuss2's suggestion; that I posted "Before & After" sequence of photos, a brilliant idea! Unfortunately the first shots were a bit "blurred" and I did not check the quality as I was more interested in seeing what the plate revealed as I cleaned it. So I apologise for the first two photo's poor quality!
  9. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Thank you for your courtesy, sir! I do love these plaques. I think that they're marvelous. I knew you'd want my frank opinion. I started my comments 34 minutes ago. If I'd read ROBinHawaii, I would have focused more on the drafting skills. Ref the quality of your Part II Photos: Very hard to photograph surfaces that shine so brightly. One turned out excellent, and quite sufficient for the task!
  10. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Thank you BELLIN68 for you love it and kind comment!
  11. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 2 years ago
    Forgot to ask, what are you using to clean these with? How many hrs. to clean the last one? Good job!
  12. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    As the plate is not of particularly high value, intrinsically or historically; I used Solvol Autosol chrome polish (used on my motorcycles) along with "0000" fine steel wool......it took a while!
  13. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    miKKoChristmas11; thanks for the "love it" all your hard work on these two posts!
  14. vetraio50 vetraio50, 2 years ago
    Love the humour of these cartoon characters. Maybe it was done later? I think you're right about the Deco look. By the way my coffee pot is Tiffany and not Gorham, miKKo! LOL!
  15. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Hi, vetraio50! Yes, I revisited the scene of the coffee pot crime yesterday evening, and in the process of "loving" the offending "superb", "significant" coffee pot, I saw that it was by Tiffany. In the interim between my first disapproving sighting (months ago), and my encountering Hems Part II Show and Tell, I had forgotten that it was a Tiffany. Before I take refuge in the closet from public merriment and my own chagrin, please permit me to ramble a bit on the merits of Gorham and on its association with Tiffany.

    When I encounter antique Tiffany silver, the first thing that comes to mind is Gorham. This ‘coming to mind’ is not ungrounded. Gorham produced fine silver wares before Tiffany ever entered the ‘business’ of producing in-house silver wares. In fact, Gorham was an early supplier of fine silver for Tiffany. Tiffany did not ‘manufacture’ its own silver until it had purchased the firm of Edward C. Moore – 1868. Gorham's silver was superb when this pot was made. This coffee pot design is similar in significant aspects to some Gorham designs of this age. Now, if I had remembered the chrysanthemums, I would not have indicated Gorham. As you indicated, Tiffany’s “Chrysanthemum” pattern was widely acclaimed, and other silver firms brought forth chrysanthemum patterns. Tiffany’s was distinctive. However, I have seen at least one other American silver firm that produced a very similar chrysanthemum design, i.e., Durgin. I note that I don’t know anything about the design genesis of Durgin’s Chrysanthemum, but here’s a link to a serving piece in the line. Compare Durgin’s “Chrysanthemum” with those featured on Tiffany’s repoussé-chased pitcher of 1893.

    http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=durgin+chrysanthemum&view=detail&id=5AB28B58FFD61F4E8803D4B42C057524E07B39B2&first=1

    For Tiffany’s chrysanthemum pitcher, see page 82, "Silver in America: 1840-1940, A Century of Splendor", Charles L. Venable (Dallas Museum of Art), NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994.

    Further observations of interest. Your Tiffany Charles Grosjean pattern line was originally known as “Indian Chrysanthemum”. Dr. Venable’s worthy book has a fascinating discussion on the American taste for ‘exotic’ styles. It is too lengthy for me to summarize here, but I make the following very brief observations. Venables states that Tiffany’s Edward C. Moore was the “driving force” of the foray into ‘exotic’ designs (p. 164). It is interesting to note that Moore’s early experiments were described in Tiffany’s records as “Moresque”. Venables states that the apex of this style “appears to have been” the 1889 World’s Fair (Paris), where both Gorham and Tiffany exhibited “large numbers” of wares described as “Saracenic” or “East Indian”. Some descriptive tags attached by those who produced wares in this ‘exotic’ fashion include “Indian”, “East Indian”, “Saracenic”, “Moresque”, “Turkish”, and “Persian”. China, Japan, and Russia were also design sources. It is interesting to note that a Frenchman in 1893 described Moore's 'exotic' ouevres as an “individual and personal conception” of Oriental art, and indicated that he thought that Moore’s designs didn’t correspond precisely to any known historical style. The Frenchman opined that it would be more accurate to refer to this style as “the American style”. He opined that these exotic elements appropriated for use in a non-historical style appealed to “cultivated” American women who “wished novelties” (Venables, p. 164). Venables states that the “exotic” style remained popular until WWI. Tiffany’s “Chrysanthemum” flatware pattern continued to be made until 1934. You can find a detailed discussion of these things in Venables, Chapter 6, “Consumption and Design”, pp. 123-202. Especially relevant to your coffee pot design are pp. 160- 165. (Venables book also has detailed sections on the houses of Tiffany and Gorham. I highly recommend this book. It should prove most helpful if you chose to pursue the genesis for Charles Grosjean’s original design. Venable’s book is expensive, but perhaps you could get it through interlibrary loan if your library doesn’t carry it.)

    One final note on Gorham’s relation to Tiffany. In 1878, Gorham recruited one Frederick A. Jordan, a “Chaser”, away from Tiffany’s house. Jordan provided Gorham with much information on Tiffany design motifs and techniques, as evidenced in Gorham Mfg. Co.’s technical notebook of the time (Venables, p. 151) .If you are still researching your Tiffany coffee pot, you would do well to consult the research of Samuel Hough, and other works on Tiffany.

    Now, I shall take refuge in the closet, for, while the ‘coming to mind’ of Gorham is not inexcusable, I should have verified the maker before making my comments on Hem’s Part II. : ( I hope that I get some credit for overcoming my prejudice to non-English silver forms and “loving” your superb coffee pot. If it had been a silverplated coffee pot instead of an antique Tiffany sterling pot, I’d have “loved” it immediately. Mea culpa!
  16. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Thank you so very much, Hems303! It was a pleasure and an honor to work on these. Can't wait to see what you post next! : D
  17. vetraio50 vetraio50, 2 years ago
    Many thanks for the info. MiKKo. I will pursue it. Thanks too to Hems for his patience.

    By the way, hems, overnight I had the thought that the look on the Lion reminded me of the look on those Staffordshire flatback spaniels that parody poor King Charles.
  18. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Uh oh! I hope I didn't impose on Hems by posting the Tiffany info on this thread. If I did, I do apologize, Hems! I had thought it appropriate to post it here, and I thought that you'd want that info, vetraio.
  19. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Thanks for the "love it" Manikin and ttomtucker.

  20. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    No Worries MiKKo... I just had a read...and off I went at a tangent onto something new, as you do! So comment away, I've never been less than impressed by anything you've got to say!

    And.. vetraio50....your observation is apposite as usual...we have all been struck by the portrayal of the lions face. I know of the King Charles parodies but you are also probably aware of the serious lack of esteem His Royal Portliness King Edward the VII was held in.......a fat fornicating buffoon!.... I think was just one published opinion! I wonder if this was any inspiration to the forgotten engraver? ;)
  21. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    If this has caught your interest, this link might be worth a watch:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13458313
  22. kerry10456 kerry10456, 2 years ago
    Pretty neat Link, thanks for sharing, Might have to catch one of the tours
  23. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    kerry10456: I've already been well before it opened, Tony on the BBC vid is a really nice chap....it was VERY dirty but after some hard work by all concerned, it will now make a brilliant visit for all who go. Are you in UK?
  24. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    kerry10456: I just went to your CW Profile page and see that you are in Northwest Missouri, so when you say you might have to catch one of the tours in Birmingham; I guess that would be on a visit to the UK. If you do travel to UK, give Rachel and I an email! Steve
  25. kerry10456 kerry10456, 2 years ago
    Will do, I am planning a holiday next spring, hopefully it will work out.
  26. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Hope you manage it, everyone deserves a good holiday! Perhaps see you then!
  27. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Many thanks to fellow CW members: toolate2, Hunter, walksoftly, vetraio50 and inky!
  28. rniederman rniederman, 2 years ago
    Love the underlying story.
  29. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    rniederman: Many thanks for your "love it" and how true your comment is!! The stories behind all our collectables is always the "icing on the cake" for me! That's why I like CW and it's members because the stories are so important!
  30. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 2 years ago
    Steve, so yo r'as returns! Have you run out of your super things?
  31. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Hi Blunderbuss2....I have several extensive and differing collections and some of the things are "super"..or I think so, so I'll carry on posting them when I get the chance...You'll have to define "Super things".

    P.S when I posted thes 2 posts about the plates, I really didn't think they were anything but a bit mucky & mundane, but a few people seem to think them fairly interesting. :).....

    ................. and m'as is back! ;)
  32. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 2 years ago
    I think these engravings define "super" fairly well. Wish I had them but I keep forgetting that I'm supposed to be getting rid of stuff.
  33. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    But in and of themselves, they are pretty worthless. I suppose the history and story behind them is certainly of more interest and "value", and the insight they provide into a different time and place!
  34. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Many thanks to the following for their kind comments & "love it's": scandinavian_pieces, Manikin, rniederman, kerry10456, toolate2, Hunter, walksoftly, vetraio50, inky, tomtucker, BELLIN68 and miKKoChristmas11!

    (12)
  35. chinablue chinablue, 2 years ago
    Incredible piece! I hate to think that this could have ended up in the trash. I agree with your comment about value. Unless I missed something, we have no ID on who the engraver was, correct? If that is unknown, it's possible that this was one of the first works of a great and talented smith whose work is highly valuable now. It would be like having a great artist's first attempt with paint and canvas. I'm glad you saved it! :-)
  36. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 2 years ago
    Quick question for RobinHawaii, if I may. Rob, do you think that the larger plate in the other 'silver artifacts left behind' thread is just a student practice piece? I don't have your knowledge or skills, but it seems to me that the artisan who produced the larger piece was rather accomplished. I see nothing inconsistent with its being a practice sheet, but I don't see it as the work of a novice. Would love to hear your take on this, please. Thanks so much!
  37. Hems303 Hems303, 2 years ago
    Hi chinablue, thanks for your kind comment. Thanks to everyone who has "loved" this item. Makes it all worthwhile to keep posting! :)

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