Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
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False Marks on English Sterling

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Spurious Marks on English Silver
by Reginald Foster

Note.- Originally published in 1899. The use of the word "plate" does not refer to silverplate, but has the older meaning of "sterling".


Cover: pamphlet published by the London Goldsmiths Company on which Foster's article was based.
The cases reported from time to time in of seizures of spurious antique plate have not been many, but the fact remains that quantities of such goods have been manufactured and disposed of and are still being dealt in. The Goldsmiths' Company of London, who are specially empowered to take action in such cases, have in their possession a considerable number of silver wares of this description. They have just issued to manufacturers and others interested a catalogue of recent seizures, with facsimile copies of the forged or counterfeit marks upon the goods. The goods seized in Holborn, London, some time ago on the premises of Reuben Lyon, who also paid fines of over £3,000 to the Company, no doubt represent the bulk of those catalogued. Similar articles are constantly offered for sale. By the courtesy of Sir Walter S. Prideaux, the clerk of the Goldsmiths' Company, I am enabled to supply copies of the spurious marks for the guidance of dealers and collectors of antique silver. As is well known, the American demand for these antiques has greatly stimulated the trade in them and enhanced their market value. The making of forged plate has been, no doubt, encouraged at the same time. It must not be supposed, however, that it is of recent origin; the business is an old and progressive one, but although many specimens have acquired the patina of age in a genuine way, it is probable that the bulk is of really modern make. The latest date forged upon the articles catalogued by the Company is 1830, but there are only one or two later than 1809; the great majority purport to be made in the reign of George III., 1760 to 1809 being the years chiefly affected. The earlier the date the greater the presumable value, but, of course, in proportion to the price put upon an article the greater the scrutiny it is likely to meet from a purchaser. Very "early" forged plate is, therefore, as rare as genuine articles. Georgian plate is, perhaps, the most profitable field for enterprise. One would think that the maker's first aim would be to get his spurious marks complete and consistent, but detection frequently arises from carelessness in this way. Many of the specimens under review, especially forks, spoons, tongs, etc., have one or more essential marks missing, numbers bearing maker's mark and lion only and lacking the all important date letter. Of course, even in genuine antique plate omissions occur occasionally, and impressions become worn by use or are imperfectly struck in the first instance. Fancy prices should never be paid for plate unless the proper marks are complete and identifiable.

Forgeries are carried out in several ways. Those referred to in the annexed list are no doubt produced by forged dies or punches cut in imitation of genuine marks. As will be shown by reference to facsimiles of makers' marks, the imitations are in some cases very close. They may be copied from genuine plate or from the published list of old makers' marks and date letters. These forgeries, if carefully carried out and without anachronisms in the subsidiary marks, are the most dangerous. Of course, mistakes are made in reference to style, shape, etc., of the articles themselves, which lead to detection despite apparently genuine marks.

Another series of forgeries consists in the utilization of genuine marks cut from smaller or battered or otherwise useless wares. These are inserted bodily in the new silver, and, although a blow pipe may- show up the join, the method is often successful. The expert will sometimes spot this deception by noticing the grouping of the marks. The forger, of course, is anxious to fill the whole of the marks in one piece; old spoons, forks, etc., being cheaper to buy are oftenest used, and a glance at the marks in a straight line upon the bottom of a cream ewer or coffee pot would at once arouse suspicion. In one flagrant case the shaped 'sides and center ridge of the spoon were plainly visible. In the same category the remodeling of old but obsolete wares, even when no silver is added, may be mentioned. This is specially prohibited by the law. Again, a genuine foot piece, plinth, or whatever it may be, is soldered onto a new and perfect body. Cream ewers, candlesticks, coffee pots, muffineers, etc., give scope to this fraudulent method. In the same way new bowls are fitted to old handles of spoons or forks.

A less skilled procedure (adopted by a forger a year or so ago, who received his due punishment) is the reproduction of old marks by casting. These are more readily detected, because of the essential difference between the impression of a punch and the want of sharpness in a casting. It is at best a clumsy imitation.

The patina on old silver, the peculiar appearance to the eye and touch which cannot be described but which is so well known by experience, is successfully imitated, but is, perhaps, after all, as good a test as any in the hands of experts. Other points might be mentioned, but enough has been said to illustrate the necessity of extreme caution in buying antique silver. The particulars supplied in the following list of spurious antique plate cannot fail to be useful for reference in disputed cases, especially in conjunction with the standard works on the subject. The notes as to old silversmiths are founded upon references to Cripps's "Old English Plate." The analysis of these spurious marks-the most extensive selection hitherto published-illustrates many of the mistakes made by
forgers. Where no names are mentioned the writer has been unable to trace any maker whose mark resembles the spurious one. About 50 marks are included, the wares concerned numbering upwards of 500.


Fac-simile Maker's Marks Found Upon Spurious Antique Plate Recently Seized By The Goldsmiths Company, London:
wb false mark71 articles, including cream ewers, sugar basin with ram's head and paw feet, embossed ash trays, bat's wing salts, spoons, toasting forks, tongs, etc. Some without date letter and no king's head. The majority dated 1809, others 1783, 1790, 1804. fe false markspoons and sifters dated 1784, 2 plain muffineers 1809, and tongs and sifter with maker's mark and lion only. sm false mark111 wares bearing one or other or both of these marks. About 80 spoons, nippers, tongs and dessert knives, etc., have maker's mark and lion only. The rest, salts, spoons, cream ewers, muffineers, etc., are dated 1804 or 1809. One cream ewer dated 1783 has S. M. with W. L. over and also below, but reversed.
ws false mark81 cream ewers, taper sticks, baskets, shoes, castors, spoons, tongs, etc., dated 1782-3-4 and 1790 and 1804-9-13. About 50 spoons have maker's mark and lion only. Wm. Sumner (spoon- maker) had a similar mark registered in 1802,' and Wm. Shaw in 1749. gs false mark66 articles: Ewers, cups, vases, spoons, forks, candlesticks, etc.. mostly dated 1783-4, but also 1729 (2 egg-shaped vases), and as late as 1809. A number of the spoons and tongs have maker's mark and lion only. Several silversmiths used these initials, but their marks are different in character. fa false markChased octagon sugar castor, 1721. Similar mark to Wm. Fawdery's, 1698.
hb false markHot-water jug (1777). gadroon soup basin and cover (1781) and octagon pierced and engraved basin (1783). Hester Bateman was a maker at these dates, but her mark, though similar, was in a different shield. ed false mark3 waiters dated 1702. pb ab false markPierced stand for spirit lamp, 1813. Peter & Ann Bateman (reg'd 1791) had a similar mark, but in 1800 "W. B." was added. The forger evidently overlooked this fact.
ec false markOval basket with ram's-head handles (1759), 3 salts (1774) and sugar castors (1783). John Eckfourd's mark is somewhat similar, but he flourished a good many years before. gc false markTeapot, sugar basin, cream ewer and mustard pot, 1791-7-9. hc false markPlain pepper castor (1777). Henry Chawner's mark, 1786-1796.
ic false markOval double-lipped punch ladle (1759). A number of silversmiths appear under these initials, but the only similar mark is dated 1807. rc false markSalts (1795), teapot, etc. (4 articles), 1809. Richard Crossley (reg'd 1782) had a similar mark, but he appears to have made spoons. sc false markBeaded and embossed jug (1757).
wc false markJugs, ewer, candlestick, etc., 1762 tp 1798. A similar mark (unidentified) is on genuine plate of 1758. William Chawner's mark, also similar, was not reg'd till 1815. tc wc false markCoffee pots, jugs, waiters, beakers, etc., dated mostly 1781. 17 articles in all. No record of these initials in this shaped shield. ad false markTea caddy and 2 (1774 and 1784) pepper castors.
cd false mark13 baskets, salts, beakers, basins, etc. (1779 to 1791). id false mark2 castors, mustard pot and beer jug (1754 to 1763). td false mark3 castors (1762). Like T. P. Dexter's mark, 1805.
af false markCastor, muffineers, etc. (1781 to 1830). Andrew Fogelberg had a similar mark in 1776. ef false mark3 stands with festoon ornaments, ram's head and paw feet, etc. (1777). Probably an imitation of Edward Fennell's mark, reg'd 1780. wf false markHot-water jug (1800).
ng false markEwers and salts (1779 to 1796). The only similar mark is a century earlier. sh false markSmall oval basin (1814). Samuel Hennell, of this period, used a different shield. wi false markCream ewer (1779).
il false markWaiter, 2-handle cup, etc. (1759 to 1784). John Lias, with a similar mark, was not reg'd till 1799. tl false markBasins and sauce boats (1783, 1790). An unknown maker used a similar mark in 1786. gm false markSugar basin (1779).
pn false markCup, ewers, etc. (1772 to 1810), 9 pieces. bp false markTeapot and helmet ewer (1781). tp ah false markTeapot, ewer, basin and beer jugs (1781 to 1791). Thos. Parr (1733) and Thos. Pitts (1804) had similar marks.
js false mark2-handle cup and cover (1783). j false markShaped octagon waiter, engraved plate (1761). ts false markChased rustic mug, with mask under lip (1777).
it false markBellied hot-water jug (1723). Thos. Streetin's mark, reg'd 1799, is like this; he was a spoonmaker. rt false mark2 chased oval hot-water jugs (1784). John Thompson, of Sunderland, registered a similar mark in 1785. fw false mark2 oval sauce boats, with lips and side handles (1739).
sw false markTea and coffee pots, hot-water jugs, salts, baskets, etc., 26 articles bearing one or other of these marks and date letters 1777 to 1790. tw false markCastors, caddy, Argyle, cups, salts, etc., 10 articles in all. Dates 1749 to 1804. Thos. Wallis's mark, reg'd 1792, might be intended by this forgery. sw false markWaiters, ewer, hot-water jugs and inkstand dated 1759-62-77. This mark is a common one, being used by Samuel Whitford, 1807, Samuel Wintle, 1783, and Samuel Wood, 1734.
tw false mark7-inch waiter (1781) and embossed coffee pot (1783). ct ww false markHot-water, salts, beaker, basins, entremet dishes and beer jug (1762 to 1781). A clear forgery of one of Barnard's old marks, used from 1756 to 1775. A dangerous collection, because of the exactness of the mark and the comparative correctness of the dates. iw wt false mark3 candlesticks, ewer, teapot and sugar castor (1759-74-7). Another almost exact forgery, but of Garrard's mark, registered 1776. The candlesticks and ewer are dated before this mark was registered; the other articles might have been correct.
Background Notes
by Trevor Downes

In 1853 Octavius Morgan published a paper in "The Archaeological Journal" entitled "A Chronological list of articles of ancient Plate; authorities for the Table of Annual Assay Office Letters from the earliest period of their earliest period of their use". This was the first successful attempt at deciphering the London date letter system and was perhaps the catalyst that started the interest in antique silver that continues to this day.

Prior to that date, there was little or no interest in antique silver. It was considered as a way of making good use of your savings in the good times and to be melted down in the not so good times, and to be restyled when fashion dictated.

Morgan's success in analysing and reproducing the London date system was followed by improvements, firstly by William Chaffers, then by Wilfred Cripps, but it was not until 1905 when Sir Charles Jackson produced his legendary work, "English Goldsmiths and their Marks", that date letters and maker's marks were reproduced with any degree of accuracy. It is indeed incredible that no one outside the Goldsmiths Hall circle understood the date letter system.

This period of interest in antique silver resulted in demand outstripping supply, which is of course the perfect recipe for the forger and the Goldsmiths Company found themselves bringing prosecutions on several occasions, but they were to suffer a series of setbacks. The cause of these setbacks was the harshness of the law. To counterfeit or transpose a hallmark or possession of an article bearing such a mark was a felony under section 2 of the Gold and Silver Wares Act of 1844 and carried a maximum of fourteen years imprisonment. Juries were often unwilling to convict with such heavy penalties, and the Company after having taken legal advice most often settled with prosecution under section 3 of the above Act which applied to dealers only and carried a penalty of £10 for each item discovered.

When the Reuben Lyon case came up the Company was desperate for a success,

Reuben Lyon (b.1831) was the son of Louis Lyon, a London watchmaker. Reuben is listed in the London directories of the time as variously; "antique silversmith" and "dealer in antique silver plate"
as it felt that there was a rising trend in the manufacture of forged pieces and a message had to be sent out to the transgressors. Following the raid on Lyon's premises, two cab loads of silver were removed for a decision on their origin and taken to Goldsmiths Hall.

At this time there was not an Antique Plate Committee; that board was not formed until 1939. So the job of sorting and deciding what was genuine and what was not was done by the staff at Goldsmiths Hall. The staff were experts, but this would not have been a task that they would have been trained to do and mistakes may have been made. It has to be remembered that knowledge of old silver was still scant even at this time, even for the officials of the Company. The old date letter sequence for example was something that would in the normal run of events have been rarely referred to; their interest would have been on the current date letters. It must also be remembered that the date letter was only struck to confirm the identity of the Assaymaster - it was not applied to be a handy reference for the collector.

As for the maker's marks on Lyon's seized items, they would not have been familiar with them at all. The marks would have fallen into disuse many years before and they would have had to search through the old registers, some of which had been lost, to attempt to make comparisons. Further complications could be envisaged where retailers had overstruck maker's marks.

All this work would have had to have been done with no little haste, unlike nowadays where court cases can take months, sometimes years, before being heard, there was just a month between the issuing of the warrant to search Twinam's home and the Twinam case being heard at the Old Bailey. This coupled with the desire to find as many forgeries as possible to give weight to the Company's cases against Lyon and Twinam may have been the cause of many errors.
Related Pages at 925-1000.com:

British Hallmarks Explained
London Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Birmingham Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Chester Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Exeter Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Newcastle Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Sheffield Date Letters & Maker's Marks
York Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Edinburgh Date Letters & Maker's Marks
Glasgow Date Letters
Dublin Date Letters
British Import Marks

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