Silver trefid spoon but only has maker's mark?

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Taraxacum
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Silver trefid spoon but only has maker's mark?

Postby Taraxacum » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:54 am

I thought this spoon was pewter till I took it to the V&A and they said it was silver. However, it only has what seems to be three identical maker's marks: RM with three little dots below (see photo). Having looked through this website I'm a bit mystified, as it seems that even a spoon as apparently old as this should have a full set of hallmarks.
Any ideas welcome!
NB. Sorry about huge size of photos - don't know how to shrink them!

http://i444.photobucket.com/albums/qq165/Taraxacum_bucket/004.jpg

http://i444.photobucket.com/albums/qq165/Taraxacum_bucket/006.jpg

(admin photo edit - images too large - link only - see Posting Requirements )
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dognose
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Postby dognose » Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:13 pm

Hi,

Welcome to the Forum.

The lack of Hallmarks on a spoon of this date is no surprise as this is probably a provincial piece.
Sending items to the Assay Office often entailed a long and dangerous journey, and if the customer trusted the silversmith there was no need to take the risk, and the extra cost of the assay. Although it would have been a legal requirement for the item to be assayed, these laws were rarely enforced, particularly in the provinces.
As for finding the maker there is a good chance of it, as many spoonmakers are documented even at this date.

Trev.
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Taraxacum
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Postby Taraxacum » Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:18 pm

Hi, and thanks for the info! I'm reassured.

I've been doing a bit of googling and found this spoon listed in Woolley and Wallis Early Spoons & Silver Sale of 29th April 2003:

"362. A Charles I silver-gilt ascribed South West provincial seal top spoon, with a large, chased terminal pricked 'ME' over 'IE' on the back of the bowl by Robert Mathew, Barnstaple 1630-40, 17.7cm long Marks R M [thrice] one the back of the stem and a fruitlet mark in the bowl, 1.50z.."

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This I believe is an earlier type of spoon but it does sound a similar mark... quite exciting!
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dognose
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Postby dognose » Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:40 pm

Hi,

What you have is a Trefid spoon, these were in fashion from the early 1660's until the early 1700's.
Robert Mathew of Barnstaple as the maker is extremely doubtful as he was almost certainly dead by this date.

Trev.
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Granmaa
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Postby Granmaa » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:01 pm

Please could we see a photo of the "fruitlet" mark in the bowl; it may prove helpful.

Miles
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admin
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Postby admin » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:13 pm

I, and I'm sure many other members, would love to see a photo of the front of the spoon.

Thanks, Tom
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Taraxacum
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Postby Taraxacum » Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:12 pm

Hi Dognose/Trev,
You're right of course, the Robert Mathew spoon is probably a red herring... I was getting a bit carried away!

Hi Granmaa/Miles,
The fruitlet mark was on a spoon I erroneously thought might be made by the same maker as my spoon, see above.

Hi Admin/Tom,
Here is a pic of the front of my spoon, plus the previous pics re-sized - I worked out how to do it (involving transferring the pics to another computer and back again...!) I hope they are the right size this time.

As you can see it is very plain and I admit, rather tarnished. The metal is quite thin and seems to have been well-used, which I like. I'm glad I joined this forum - been trying to find out more about this spoon for 20 years!

Image

Image

Image
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dognose
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Postby dognose » Sat Oct 18, 2008 6:15 am

Hi,

Having thought some more about this spoon, I am inclined to think it is an early example. The bowl, even allowing for wear, is very rounded, the stem does not flare out until it reaches the terminal and the rat tail is reeded. All indications of an early type of Trefid.
The Trefid arrived from France to this country with the Court of Charles II in 1660. In normal circumstances fashion may take some provinces some ten years to catch up, but I wonder in this case, bearing in mind Exeter’s south coast location, and its proximity to the busy and important port of Plymouth, and its trade with France, that it may have been up to speed with London straight away.
The new style also brought about a change in the way spoons were marked. Formerly the Leopard’s Head mark would have been found in the bowl near to the point were the stem meets the bowl, but now such marking would be impossible without damaging the rat tail so at this time the marks were now grouped together on the back of the stem.
As for the maker I cannot find a good fit for a known spoonmaker with the initials RM, except for Robert Mathew and Robert Martyn, both of Barnstable. Maybe the new fashion and the new style of marking brought new maker's marks with it, and I wonder if I was too hasty in dismissing the possibility of Robert Mathew. I had previously only noted his mark with his name in full on a Seal Top spoon.
But are they too early to be the maker of this spoon? Robert Mathew was prosecuted in 1632 for working as a goldsmith without serving an apprenticeship and Robert Martyn was fined by the visiting London Wardens of Goldsmiths Hall for selling below standard silver spoons in 1633*, so depending on their age at the time it may be possible that they were still working when this spoon was made.
If Woolley & Wallis’s attribution is correct then we know that Robert Mathew had been in the habit of striking his mark three times, but this was not uncommon at the time on spoons that had not been assayed.

Does anyone else have any names they can throw into the hat?

Trev.

*This fine of ten shillings was dropped by the Wardens in return that Martyn agreed to to become their guide for the rest of the tour!
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Taraxacum
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Postby Taraxacum » Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:47 pm

Hi - that's all fascinating, and I'm intrigued by these stories of slightly dodgy metal-workers!
If the spoon was made well over 300 years ago, I wonder what on earth it has been doing in the interim? I imagine that most of the artefacts discussed on here have an interesting story - if only they could tell it!
Cheers!
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nigel le sueur
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Postby nigel le sueur » Sun Oct 19, 2008 3:50 am

Just to add to Trevs theory about the west country (or should l say gods country :-) ) at Sothebys silver sales there were in a couple of recent sales two spoons both accredited to west country makers (sadly not RM) both of them with the makers mark stamped three times (nothing else)
Both these spoons were early though a seal top and a lace back trefid
One maker was Richard Sweet the other unknown
l cannot see it but did you say Tarax that there is a fruitlet mark on the spoon ? because if so this would make it (l believe) an west country spoon

Nigel
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Taraxacum
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Postby Taraxacum » Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:15 pm

Hi Nigel,
Thanks for your comments: no, there isn't a fruitlet mark, that was me just confusing the issue by mentioning another, earlier spoon with an RM mark. Mine is a quite simple spoon with no decoration except the initials. It's also got a rather flat handle, from what I can see by looking at other trefids on the internet.

General question to anyone: I guess the next step is getting access to one of the reference books on makers marks?
Cheers!
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Granmaa
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Postby Granmaa » Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:47 pm

Reference books are, of course, invaluable, and the silver collector would be lost without them. However, there are many marks which have not yet been identified, and yours might be one of them. I've gone through all of my books, journals and catalogues looking for Mr RM, but have had no luck finding him.
I had hoped he would be in West Country Silver Spoons and their Makers 1550-1750 or the Ellis collection catalogue of 16th and 17th Century Provincial Silver Spoons but my search was in vain.
I'm sorry to say I can't think of another book which might hold the answer.

Miles
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Taraxacum
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Joined: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:13 am
Location: Nottingham

Postby Taraxacum » Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:46 am

Hi Miles,
Thanks very much for doing that! Saved me organising an inter-library loan, etc... I can see that I may not find out much more about my spoon, but I have learnt a lot about it already. Before I posted on here I wasn't even sure it was what I'd been told it was.
Cheers!
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