Small Spoon Crab Guarantee & Butterfly Mark?

PHOTOS REQUIRED - marks + item
Essexboy Fisher
Posts: 140
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:17 pm

Small Spoon Crab Guarantee & Butterfly Mark?

Postby Essexboy Fisher » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:10 pm

Hello back to France. I just bought this very small spoon that I assume is a condiment spoon. If English, I would have called it a salt spoon but I am hoping for the forum to tell me a lot more about French hallmarking with this mini item. It is 9 centimetres long and the 5 hallmarks it carries is definitely a bigger number than its grams of silver and it is shown below.


The rear of the spoons stem has 3 marks and the obvious maker’s lozenge mark is in the middle. It appears to be “AL” under a triangle and also above a triangle.


I did not find anything on “our” site for a maker but “” offered “Alfred Lambert” working at the end of the 19th century. A mark was not illustrated but “AL” featuring a triangle was described.
Needing more dating I looked to the other 2 marks on the rear of the spoon stem.
Furthest away from the maker’s mark and near bowl, I think we have the “crab” guarantee mark, apparently used from 1838 onwards.
I read from another post this mark guarantees a minimum standard of 800 parts of silver.


The third mark, just near the makers mark was totally unfamiliar to me, but it definitely looked like a butterfly wing and body.From the forum I found, I think, a salient post.


From the forum I found, I think, a salient post.


This is about “Departments” and on the last chart shown there is an illustration of my half butterfly. Apparently there were extra marks to show where, in a Department, items were marked. It seems my little spoon was hallmarked in the “North” part of whichever Department it was marked in. We have a discrepancy here now though, as the chart with the illustrations states used 1819 – 1838. The topic shown below has an explanation for the discrepancy in the dates of the 2 official marks suggesting this could happen with items marked at regulation “change over” periods. I do not seem to be able to decipher the Department number I think I am supposed to be able to see between the crab’s rear legs.

The last 2 marks are on the front of the spoons stem.


I believe they a “bigorne” marks but they are of 2 distinct styles, a simple style is on the finial “backing” the butterfly mark and low down in the stem is the complex styled mark “backing” the crab mark.
Can the forum put me right if my thinking is incorrect and fill in the information I am lacking.


Posts: 695
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:05 am

Re: Small Spoon Crab Guarantee & Butterfly Mark?

Postby blakstone » Thu Apr 11, 2019 3:23 pm

Your interpretation is exactly right in nearly every respect. The butterfly is indeed a divisional punch for small silver items in use 1819-1838 and the crab mark is a post-1838 re-assay mark. And, yes, the two marks did use different bigornes, the 1819-1838 ones being less intricate and detailed than the post-1838 ones.

The crab mark would not have had a departmental number but rather a distinctive cypher called a “different”, and, from 1961 to 1994, the absence of such a cypher indicated the Paris office. So it is entirely possible that your spoon was re-marked in Paris during that time. (The orientation of the insects in the bigorne can reveal whether the crab is Parisian or Provincial – side view in Paris and bird’s-eye view in the provinces – but this can often be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to discern.)

Similarly, the butterfly should have a letter or number stamped on it to identify the specific office. This was not the same departmental number used in the larger marks, but specific to the division. I think I can make out the number “8”, but the photo is not of high enough resolution to be sure. (Even so, these again can be very difficult to discern.)

That said, the divisional signs, offices, departments and of the North division were:

E Arras (Pas-de-Calais)
T Beauvais (Oise)
X Chartres (Eure-et-Loire)
D Dunkerque (Nord)
V Evreux (Eure)
M Laon (Aisne)
N Le Havre (Seine-Inferieure)
A Lille (Nord)
T Melun (Seine-et-Marne)
8 Rouen (Seine-Inferieure)
H Saint-Omer (Pas-de-Calais)
C Valenciennes (Nord)
Y Versailles (Seine-et-Oise)

The largest silver producers of these were the departments of Nord and Seine-Inferieure (called Seine-Maritime after 1955), but unfortunately neither Messiant & Pfister’s Repertoires des Poincons du Nord au XIX Siecle or Cassan’s Orfevres de la Normandie (which cover these departements, respectively) record this particular maker’s mark. So, barring that your mark is an unrecorded one from these places (which is entirely possible – Cassan in particular seems to have only the earliest of 19th century marks), it is from one of the other North division departments (for which I unfortunately know of no reference for the period.)

Hope this helps!

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