12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

PHOTOS REQUIRED - marks + item
steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Colonial silver buttons

Postby steve7408 » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:49 pm

Hi to all,

I have been researching these buttons for 7 years now and could really do with a little help, Ideally looking for similar items with the touch mark of the silversmith IP within a rectangle.

About these buttons.
I bought them off a gentleman from Connecticut, there are 6 large buttons and 6 smaller buttons. They are slightly naïve in their manufacture, what I mean by this is the placing of the loop being off centre on some and the soldering allowed to run without being filed or cleaned off, these I believe are a small town silversmith's work.
At some point these buttons have been engraved with a mirrored cypher on the larger buttons, RH/HR. On the smaller buttons these are engraved with just the initials RH, the silversmith I would guarantee is not the engraver, the engraving is very well done compared to the finish on the back of the buttons.

Have researched many marks without a good match, or within the date frame for this type of engraving, this type of cypher engraving was as a specialist told me (used mostly in the 17th century and ended roughly 1720's to 1730's) naturally he cannot be exact, so within this time frame I am having trouble finding another IP touch mark in the books.

Now this could be a 1 in a million chance, but here it goes, so far from my research to date I have come up with a Job Prince, first silversmith of Milford in Connecticut, 1699-1703/4. There is a mention of twelve silver buttons being traded with the merchant Thomas Clark of Milford, this is recorded in Clark's account's book, he dealt with Job over the years Job was in Milford. What I have been trying to do is find this account's book or a copy of it, as this may shed light on where or what the silver buttons were sewn on and furthermore, maybe the owner of the article. The I.P on the pepper box's attributed to Job Prince have now really been dismissed as not his, they are most likely to be by a specialist in pepper box's, so Job's mark is still unknown?


As for providence? I am unable to find the seller of the buttons to me, his email is no longer valid, where does one go from here? There is a distinct lack of colonial silver buttons that I am able to compare them with, any collectors with samples I could see would be very welcome.

The sizes of the buttons are:- Large button 26mm diameter. Smaller button 18mm

Any input would be gratefully received

Regards

Steve- From the UK.

Not the best on computers, having trouble downloading pictures, if you want to have a look here is Google address I pasted them on, https://plus.google.com/114943512961775 ... PUwphbFKkn
Hope it works!!!

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:00 pm

Hi,

Sorry about that last link in my previous post, please try this one https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/1149 ... 1873635009

Better luck this time

WarrenKundis
contributor
Posts: 624
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Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby WarrenKundis » Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:15 pm

Hi Steve,

Just to let you know that the link is pass code sensitive, access denied. Do try to post the images as an IMG above and from google if available.

Hope that works for you.
Warren

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sat Aug 09, 2014 2:00 pm

Hi WarrenKundis,

Thanks for that, I can only get better I think?

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dognose
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Location: England

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby dognose » Sat Aug 09, 2014 2:04 pm

Hi Steve,

Welcome to the Forum.

Please add some close-ups of the marks.

Trev.

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sat Aug 09, 2014 2:41 pm

Hi Trev,

This button has the clearest touch mark of the silversmith

Image

Steve

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

American colonial silver buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sat Oct 04, 2014 8:09 am

Have now taken some better pictures of the silversmith's mark & the engravings, note the hammered detail when the silversmith was flattening out the plate

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Awkward medium to photograph

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:48 am

Here's the best pictures I will get of the makers mark, as you can see his mark got progressively worse, it seems the punch he used was not up to standard and became flat towards the end. He also did not get the punch flat before striking on some, the others show a bounce after the strike making a double edge to the cartouche. On what I have gleaned at the moment from these marks are: 1) He would have needed to make a new punch due to the damage done to this one: 2) There is no doubt his next mark would have been different in those days, same IP but the cartouche may have been slightly different as well as the IP being out of alignment like his previous attempt, see what you all think.

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May need to wait for Google to upload pictures

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:34 pm

Latest update here is the X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy carried out by The Goldsmiths Company assay office
Button----- Silver 928.0 ppt, copper 67.9 ppt, lead 4.1 ppt
Loop------- Silver 925.6 ppt, Gold 3.2 ppt, copper 67.7 ppt, lead 3.5 ppt
Solder----- Silver 695.7 ppt, copper 229.6 ppt, lead 3.4 ppt, zinc 71.3 ppt

This is excellent news as it is consistent with ancient/historical silver

Now waiting on a answer from a British Museum

dognose
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Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby dognose » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:40 pm

Hi Steve,

Just to say thanks for keeping this topic updated, it is appreciated and is of interest.

Trev.

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:09 am

Hi Trev,

Well I am hoping that some of the knowledgeable people popping in here now and then may be able to offer some useful information, things are going in the right direction, but it does take time.

Steve

steve7408
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Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:58 pm

Just had the results of 6 buttons so far, please note button 4 is from another set from America, will post these buttons within the next week or so. Note button No-3 has Erbium in the solder, Erbium should be above the 5.5 ppt , never seen such a mixture of results for a set of buttons, melted down Spanish coins? No gold in one button, loop or solder, could this be silver ore from Potosi in Bolivia which has basically no gold in it? Just have to wait for the other results now.

Hello Steve

Here are the 6 buttons we have tested so far. Button 4 is the octagonal button, and button 5 has the pink cord attached

button 1 silver copper lead gold

front plate 917.8 ppt 75.5 ppt 5.0 ppt 1.7 ppt

loop 929.2 ppt 66.4 ppt 4.0 ppt 0.4 ppt zinc

solder 732.6 ppt 187.4 ppt 5.0 ppt 3.3 ppt 71.7 ppt



All figures are parts per thousand

button 2 silver copper lead gold

front plate 926.8 ppt 69.6 ppt 3.6 ppt ------

loop 930.4 ppt 66.6 ppt 3.0 ppt ------ zinc

solder 606.3 ppt 299.5 ppt 89.5 ppt ------ 4.7 ppt



button 3 silver copper lead gold

front plate 931.5 ppt 62.4 ppt 3.1 ppt ------ zinc

loop 937.4 ppt 58.8 ppt 3.0 ppt ------ 0.8 ppt erbium

solder 749.3 ppt 182.0 ppt 3.6 ppt 2.1 ppt 57.5 ppt 5.5 ppt



button 4 silver copper lead gold zinc

front plate 940.9 ppt 53.6 ppt 2.4 ppt 0.2 ppt 2.9 ppt

loop 936.5 ppt 57.8 ppt 2.2 ppt 0.5 ppt 3.0 ppt

solder 825.3 ppt 111.4 ppt 11.0 ppt 0.8 ppt 51.5 ppt



button 5 silver copper lead gold zinc

front plate 929.6 ppt 66.6 ppt 2.2 ppt ------- 1.6 ppt

loop 933.1 ppt 62.9 ppt 2.2 ppt 0.3 ppt 1.0 ppt

solder 617.4 ppt 279.8 ppt 5.0 ppt 3.2 ppt 94.6 ppt



button 6 silver copper lead gold zinc

front plate 911.2 ppt 79.2 ppt 5.6 ppt 0.2 ppt 3.8 ppt

loop 934.6 ppt 62.0 ppt 2.3 ppt ------- 1.1 ppt

solder 880.7 ppt 62.0 ppt 6.2 ppt 2.9 ppt 48.2 ppt



I will contact you as soon as I have completed the other tests

Jag
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Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby Jag » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:27 pm

Interesting data, though its significance isn't clear to me. Hopefully someone can interpret it once its all in. Can I ask how much the compositional analysis costs at Goldsmiths? And they advertise they do "antique silver dating" too - is that different from the compositional analysis you're having done?

steve7408
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Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:28 pm

Jag,

The data here is significant, awkward to explain in a few lines, I would suggest if you Google Handheld xrf for art and archaeology there is a breakdown as what to expect with period pieces, I have the book which shows more data as some pages are missing from the Google section, but it does give you a good insight to silver, when you go on the site scroll upwards to the beginning of the section and read, quite fascinating.
As for the dating section, I believe that the Goldsmith assay office date the silver from the assay results they find, different periods of time have different contents especially gold and lead.

Just found the link:- https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=htH ... es&f=false

Hope this helps

Regards

Steve

steve7408
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Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:30 pm

Jag,

sorry missed the bit you first asked about, I am charged £12.50 per button, roughly $19.00 I suppose per button.

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Fri Mar 06, 2015 6:26 pm

Have now received all the assay results today, these assay results prove they are not English in manufacture, extremely consistent with American antique silver assay results which had XRF carried out on them. The buttons that have no gold in them could easily be from melted down silver Spanish coins that came from Potosi mine in Bolivia, this mine produced vast amounts of silver. The silver from this mine had extremely low gold content, as mentioned before the assay results are so diverse for each button that the silversmith never melted down all the silver in one go, a provincial silversmith who had trouble getting the quantities right, inexperienced would be a good answer.

I wrote to the side of the print outs the size of the buttons from the set, have listed them again here, ignore button 4 as this belongs too the Dutch silver buttons as proved by Oel.

Large buttons are:- 1,2,3,5,8,10
Small buttons are:- 6,7,9,11,12,13

Note Button 5 should read 617.4ppt silver content, the typist made an error here

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Jag
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Location: Boston, USA

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby Jag » Fri Mar 27, 2015 7:49 pm

Thanks for the reference, it was very interesting. Unfortunately Table 7.5 (which is I assume the one you are using) is blanked out in the online version of the paper.

But I did read the pages that are there, and it seems to me that when it comes to American silver, that the silver content will typically not be that useful for dating purposes. The reference says "Spanish coins remained the dominant source of silver for American silversmiths into the late 1860's" "To commission a silver object, a person in colonial America would save their coins and any scrap/outmoded plate".

This indicates that any object could be a mix or solely made of silver that was mined/fashioned anywhere from the present time to far in the past. So in 1830, an object could be made of silver coins or old spoons made in 1830, made in 1800, made in 1750, etc., or a mix of all of the above.

Then "silver made before electrolytic refining reproducibly contained trace amounts of lead and gold ... the conservative conclusion is that American silver alloys free of lead and gold impurities date after 1890 (although possibly the second half of the 19th century) ... any wares made from recycled silver that had been won prior to electrolytic refining would, of course, have the trace impurities expected for an earlier ware"

So it seems that the only firm conclusion to be drawn is that any silver object that is free of gold would be from 1890 (or possibly 1850's) at the earliest.

steve7408
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Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sat Mar 28, 2015 8:44 am

Jag,

Regarding your last sentence, that is a good rule of thumb to use, be suspicious of antique silver with (no gold) in? However, you cannot rule it out just on this finding. The tests carried out on these items were ppt, as I mentioned before, Spanish coins/cobs from the mine of Potosi in Bolivia have extremely low gold content, this is not through special cupellation, it is just the ore occurs naturally like this, traces of gold have been found in the ppm range.

When you look at this set of 12 buttons you will note: All made by the same silversmith, all engraved in a style used before 1730, some say 1750's is the latest, the majority so far go with 1730's as a better rule of thumb, lastly they all have been made a little naively and still showing the hammer marks. So how can the readings of the assay differ so much from one button to another, yet they are all made at the same time? It's my firm belief that coins and maybe some old plate was melted down in a piecemeal fashion, not from the silversmith melting all the same silver at once to form an ingot which he would then flatten. It does not make sense to do this work in a piecemeal fashion unless: the silversmith was just starting out and did not have a workshop with all the necessary equipment, easier to do a bit at a time if you don't have the proper tools/furnace.

Here's a link to a book showing the engraved cyphers, book was printed in 1750, it is a look back on engraved cyphers for the curious. It should open on the RH/HR mirrored cypher top right corner, if you scroll to the front of the book it has a lovely description of the contents.

https://archive.org/stream/newbookofcyp ... 3/mode/2up

Here's another book by Jack Ogden, very well written. When you open this link, close the small box and then you can read the piece

http://www.academia.edu/5200305/Age_and ... goldsmiths

Thought I would also mention that one of the buttons to the front under close scrutiny has cracks in the silver, when the engraver carried out his work he actually lifted off some of the silver flakes, this revealed deeper cracks. Silversmith not annealing the silver properly between hammering?

Look forward to your next reply Jag

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sat Mar 28, 2015 8:56 am

Jag,

You wrote:- But I did read the pages that are there, and it seems to me that when it comes to American silver, that the silver content will typically not be that useful for dating purposes. The reference says "Spanish coins remained the dominant source of silver for American silversmiths into the late 1860's" "To commission a silver object, a person in colonial America would save their coins and any scrap/outmoded plate".

That's not true really, the more pieces that are analysed the more you get a understanding of what the silversmith's used, especially when looking at trace elements, also looking at the solder used which changed over time.

One thing it does show about these buttons is:- There are 7 buttons which fall below the minimum standard for English silver of 925 which is a no no, American silver deviates roughly between 900 up to 960 in the early days

Regards,

Steve

steve7408
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:26 pm

Re: 12 American Colonial Silver Buttons

Postby steve7408 » Sat Mar 28, 2015 10:06 am

Jag,

Thought I would post this link regarding Potosi silver, knew I had it somewhere on my computer.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KYx ... er&f=false

Steve


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