Posted 8 months ago
A truely beautiful addition to my collection of Pre Victorian ~ Victorian Silver & Gold Writing Equipment: This is a Sterling Silver propelling pencil by Gabriel Riddle the sometime partner of Sampson Mordan Snr.
The pencil tests as 925 Silver but it bears no Hallmarks but is marked "PATENT ~ G.RIDDLE ~ MAKER ~ LONDON".
Length: Closed 85mm - Open 108mm. The letter 'M' on nozzle denotes the lead type required (Specification as laid down in the Patent of Sampson Mordan). See my post below for details of Patent/Leads:
The last photograph shows the "pepperpot" or "revolver" end to the lead refill storage area; revealed by unscrewing the finial cap. The finial often bears an inset, faceted jewel but in this case a silver "crown". The "pepperpot" storage compartments are invariably a sign of quality in these gold or silver pencils, and is always something to be "looked for". One of the "finer" presentations is a central tube surrounded "revolver style" with five further tubes or cylinders, for the lead storage. As you can see; this example has just three tubes or cylinders.
A further note on "quality": to the uninitiated, it may seem that "quality" is denoted by the presence of Hallmarks, however this is not true with the very high quality, prestigious makers, often their pieces had no Hallmarks at all, they preferring their name alone to guarantee the unquestionable quality, they did not present their work to be officially assayed, and consequently marked. (You will often find pieces by such makers as Riddle, Mordan and Butler etc. etc. to have only their name, "maker", "patentee", "Co" and perhaps their city marked).
Another reason for the absence of Hallmarks is the fact that these pencils are very small and delicate and could sometimes be damaged in the Hallmarking process, depending on the skill of the person wielding the hammer and punch! So you will also find lesser makes without makers name or personal marks AND without Hallmarks too!
To confuse things slightly more; sometimes you will also find precious metal pencils made by one of the premier makers with all their own personal company markings AND the assay Hallmarks too! That then is a bonus for the collector trying to date and identify.
You will also find gold items sometimes have even less markings than silver to assist. In the case of Sampson Mordan they would use 15ct gold and NOT mark their name / patentee/ company / city NOR have Hallmarks, but what they did show, was; what has come to be called the "Mordan Arrow", a small simple fletched arrow! And nothing else! (I will post an example of just such a pencil in the near future).
See my earlier post for a potted history of Mordan & Riddle: