Welcome to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.
This week I found a rather fascinating item with an even more fascinating hallmark. It confused me and it confused people I showed, and on researching it further, it's confused me even more! As such, I thought I'd share the confusion because, a problem shared, is, of course, a problem halved...
So, as always, get that kettle on, get your silvery bits out and let's solve the mystery of this mysterious hallmark once and for all!
Whilst on my search for treasures I stumbled across this tiny little pair of antique spectacles, which I think may be for a child. They're likely to be from the early 19th century. I bought them because, 1. I do love a pair of spectacles, 2. they are miniature and I do love a miniature, and 3. they had a rather mysterious hallmark on them and I do love a mystery.
Now, whilst the lion passant indicates that it is English or Irish, it is facing to the right, something I'd never seen before. So, I called on a few contacts to see if they could shed any light on it, but they were just as baffled as me.
Initial research suggested that the right facing lion passant is only recognised as a meaningful stamp, i.e. not an assayer's mistake, in 1803 and 1805, in York. Apparently, "a well known oddity of York hallmarks is the Sterling mark which is sometimes shows the lion facing right in the period 1798 to 1808 and perhaps in later years too. Except for the hallmarks of Newcastle in the 1720's and very occasionally in the next two decades, this anomaly is peculiar to York and is therefore an immediate form of recognition. There appears to be no significance in this right-facing lion and it is likely to be no more than a mistake by the engraver in employing a punch mark, rather than another punch, for his model."
Source: 'York Assay Office & Silversmiths' 1776-1858 - 'Martin Gubbins' - 1983
However, I then stumbled upon the crazy world of 'pseudo hallmarks'...
The term 'pseudo hallmark' is used for 18th, 19th and early 20th century marks which either resemble marks from other makers, towns, countries and assay offices or are complete fantasy marks.
"Most silver pseudo-marks are found on items made outside Britain, in particular, during the 19th century in British colonies. Silversmiths and silverware companies would use them to quickly gain acceptance in their domestic markets, which at that time were dominated by British silver imports. This practice was by no means an attempt to sell an inferior product. Their wares were of high quality and very comparable to their British counterparts."
Reference: Marks4Antiques - (https://www.marks4antiques.com/pseudo-marks-on-antique-silver.htm)
Unfortunately, the 'pseudo-marks' were not registered with an administrative office and therefore no records exist to check them against. However, I've found a wonderful website that appears to have done some immense research into this subject and have even begun collating examples of these marks and their makers, or at least the Hanau pseudo hallmarks - HERE
A minefield, huh...?!
My next step will be to get these spectacles silver tested to confirm whether or not they are actually silver and if they are, what the silver content is, as I know that some items created by American silversmiths were made of ‘Coin’ silver, which is of lower quality than Sterling.
Let me know in the comments section below if you've had any similar experiences with pseudo hallmarks and how you went about identifying them, I'm very interested.
That's it for this week folks! I hope your brain isn't aching as much as mine!
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