davidross wrote:Just in case you haven't seen it, recently (Oct 5) a certain auction site sold a Chinese export silver snuff box with the same set of marks. A netsearch for ""Chinese silver gilt snuff box" made by Wang Hing should call it up.
This snuff box has the exact same set of import marks--JM, Edinburgh, date letter for 1910. It also has Wang Hing's 'WH" mark, the Chinese master's mark (in Chinese, different from the brush set) and a "97" mark that closely resembles the "97" of the brush set. The snuff box is dated at circa 1880.
I saw the snuff box as well, the mark is "WH 97 何国
" (何国 should be mark of the silversmith). I had a pair of small dishes have marks "WH 90 ä½•å›½", the maker's mark in Chinese looks the same as the one on the snuff box.
Another coincidence is that I have a CES bookmark with marks "WH 90 温益" and Edinburgh import marks for 1925. And the importer is also J.M. Although it has a 90 mark, the purity should be above 925.
The fineness of the silver ingots (sycees) minted in Qing dynasty officially are generally above 92%. But the fineness standards in different provinces/cities are different. Even in one city, different standards have been applied for different purposes (storage, paying for tax, etc.), but they were almost in the range of 93~97%. At that time, most silversmiths or firms had to use "纹銀" or "足銀" (means pure silver or sycee silver) for the fineness instead of a numeric mark. It's because the actual purity for different items world be slightly different, since the fineness depended on the raw materials the silversmiths had. Silversmiths or firms got the raw materials by reclaiming old jewelry or purchasing silver ingots from the market. In about 1915~194x, materials can be bought from the banks as well.
The purity of the silver coins officially made in China from 1889 to 1935 is 90%. Some foreign coins such as American trade dollar are 90% and above. Some foreign coins and coins made in some special areas and so on were only 85% or a little more.
Wang Hing (WH) and some other companies in Hong Kong were mainly the dealers or exporters of silverware and jewelry. Most the silverware they sold were made by the silversmiths in Canton (Guangdong). In a certain period, one dealer cooperated with several fixed silversmiths or firms. So I have the guesses: the silversmiths in Canton bought both silver ingots and coins as materials, since the lowest finess in the silver materials is basically 90%, these companies then used the 90 mark (maybe under the guidance of a foreigner) which meant 90% and above. A few of them used 85, because they knew their cooperators were using some low-grade materials. Maybe 85 and 90 looks somewhat lower, for the items they can make sure which were made by high-grade ingot, 95 and 97 would be used (barely). Or maybe WH had all the benches for 90, 95, 97 in a period (say 1890~1910s) and dropped 95 and 97 later.