Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
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Illustrated Silver Glossary (A - C)

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Acanthus - A Mediterranean plant having large spiny leaves. Stylized designs of its leaf have been popular in silver work since the classical era.
Alloy - A mixture of two or more metals accomplished in a molten state. Alloys are formulated to increase desired properties. Fine silver (.999) is too soft and subject to wear to be of utility, it is alloyed with small amounts copper and other metals too increase its hardness and durability.

Alpacca - The trade name of a white colored alloy of roughly 60% copper, 20% nickel, 20% zinc, and 5% tin, and it contains no silver. Its white color and durable nature make it an excellent base metal for silverplating, now its primary use. Alpacca was first formulated in Germany in the 19th century by the chemists Henninger and Geitner. Sometimes spelled Alpaca and also known as German Silver or Nickel Silver.
Andiron - Supports for log burning, known to have been made in silver, also called Fire-Dogs.
(submitted by - Trev)
Annealing - The process of heating silver between sessions of hammering, pressing or rolling. The compression makes the silver brittle and the heating restores its molecular structure to its prestressed state.
Apostle Spoon - A traditional figural form, apostle spoons came in sets of thirteen, Christ as Master and the Twelve Apostles. More often they were given singly as Christening gifts. Earliest hallmarked example dates to 1478. Each figure can be identified by the attribute held in his right hand.
  • Christ, blessing with right hand, a cross in the left.
  • St. Andrew, saltire or X shaped cross.
  • St. Bartholomew, butcher or flaying knife.
  • St. James the Greater, pilgrim's staff.
  • St. James the Lesser, fuller's bat or club.
  • St. John, chalice or cup.
  • St. Jude, carpenters square or cross.
  • St. Matthew, money bag or axe.
  • St. Peter, key or fish.
  • St. Philip, staff with a cross on the end.
  • St. Simon, saw.
  • St. Thomas, spear.
  • Judas Iscariot is usually replaced by St. Paul (sword), St. Matthias (halberd) or St. Mark (lion). (submitted by - Patrick)
Applique - Term to describe a decoration made separately, then added to the body of an object, such as the medallion illustrated at left.
see; Mounts
Apprentice - In the time of the guilds, apprentices were young men in training. Apprenticeships usually commenced around the age of 12 to 14 and the trainees worked for the same master for several years (usually 7) while learning the trade. The guilds were closed communities and not everyone was eligible to become a trainee, it was not a paid position, moreover, the apprentice's family usually paid the master a substantial sum for the training. see; Journeyman
(submitted by - Doos)
Argyle - A gravy server consisting of an interior well for holding gravy and a hollow outer casing for holding hot water to keep the gravy warmed. The handles are often side mounted and the spout is generally low on the body. Its design was inspired by John Campbell, the fifth Duke of Argyll (Argyle is the archaic spelling) in the late 18th century.
Armorial - A type of decoration depicting the owning family's crest, coat-of- arms, or motto.
Assay - The process of testing for silver purity. A small sample of metal is removed from the object and subjected to various chemical processes. The standard marks struck on a piece at the assay office are a guarantee of their particular standard for silver purity. Illustrated is a zigzag test line left by a graver after removal of silver for assay testing.
Baleen - Horny, tooth-like plates growing from the upper jaws of certain whales, allowing them to strain food from ocean water. Usually dark in colour, the material is strong and flexible. Illustrated is the end of a toddy ladle handle, baleen's primary use in silver.
(submitted by - JLDoggett)
Baluster - A 3-dimensional turned object of alternating concave and convex forms, resembling the shape of a classical vase. The form was often used for pillars and legs on silverware as well as for the outer shapes of holloware.
(submitted by - Doos)
Baroque - A period in western architecture from ca. 1600 to the middle of the eighteenth century, known for its abundance of decoration. Illustrated are a pair of Baroque style pricket candlesticks.
(submitted by - Myriam)
Base Metal - Any combination of alloys of non-precious metals used as the base for precious metal plating.
Beading - Linear ornamentation formed by adjacent spheres.
Berry Spoon1 - In America, a large ovoid bowl serving spoon. The form originating in the Victorian era and the bowl is often worked with embossed decoration.
Berry Spoon2 - In Britain, the popular name given to an older spoon that has been later embossed from the underside of the bowl with fruit, berries and flowers etc. A Victorian practice performed on the plainer Georgian spoon thus ruining the spoon by altering its original state.
(submitted by - Trev)
Bezel - A solid or pierced metal band soldered on edge to a backing and bent inward to secure a stone cut en cabochon.
(submitted by - JLDoggett)
Biggin - An English form of coffee percolator invented by George Biggin in the late 18th Century, the original design had short elongated lip, rather than a long spout. Biggins are often accompanied by a stand with a spirit burner.
(submitted by - Trev)
Black Jack - A stiff leather drinking vessel, usually tankard form, with a single handle usually with a silver rim, base and sometimes an escutcheon on the side.
(submitted by - Trev)
Bleeding - Term used when the silver plating on Sheffield Plate wears through to expose the copper beneath.
(submitted by - Trev)
Bleeding Bowl1 - A British term for what is known in America as a porringer.
see; Porringer
Bleeding Bowl2 - A piece of obsolete medical equipment, once used to measure the amount of blood lanced from a patient, this treatment mistakenly undertaken to relieve fevers and "cure" other ailments.
(submitted by - JLDoggett)
Bobeche - Broad brimmed cup or collar, placed within a candle socket to collect the flow of wax drippings.
Bodkin1 - Type of hairpin for fastening the hair into a knot.
(submitted by - Trev)
Bodkin2 - Blunt needle for threading ribbon.
(submitted by - Trev)
Bolster - The raised junction of the knife blade and tang.
(submitted by - Trev)
Bottle Ticket - A small silver plaque hung around the neck of a bottle to identify the contents. First produced in the second quarter of the 18th century. After paper labels were introduced in the mid 19th century few were made. Later known as wine labels, liqueur labels and decanter labels.
(submitted by - Patrick)
Brazier1 - Pipe lighter. A footed or pedestaled pan or bowl fitted with one or, more often, two handles. The pan was intended to hold red hot embers and the handles allowed for safe passage from user to user. Each smoker would then use a small pair of tongs and an ember for the lighting his pipe.
Brazier2 - Device used under a plate to keep food warm at the dining table. Pierced sides alowed air to pass over the hot embers that were held within. Later ones were fitted with spirit burners. By the mid-18th century it had been replaced by the dish cross. Also known as a chafing dish.
(submitted by - Patrick)
Bright Cut - A type of engraved decoration produced by short deeply angled cuts of the graver to produce highly reflective lines.
Bright Finish - A highly polished and reflective finish.
Britannia Metal - An alloy of tin, copper and antimony. Similar to in look and feel to pewter, but much harder. Used primarily as a base metal to be silverplated. (Not to be confused with Britannia Standard) see; Electroplate
Britannia Standard - A higher standard of silver than Sterling (92.5%), the Britannia standard (95.8% silver) , was made compulsory in England to protect the new coinage from being melted down by silversmiths for raw material. Britannia was required as of 1697, but the Sterling standard was restored in 1720. Brittania, and its corresponding standard mark, are still sometimes used in Britain.
Buffet - The formal display of the silver of the house, usually on a dresser or sideboard. In past centuries, a way to show one's wealth and social standing.
(submitted by - Trev)
Burin - Engraving tool, an alternative name for a graver.
(submitted by - Trev)
Caddy - An English term deriving from the Malay word "kati", meaning a weight of slightly less than 1.25 pounds. Tea was originally sold in boxes containing this amount. In the late 18th century the term was transfered from the quantity to the container.
(submitted by - Patrick)
Candle Douter - Similar to the candle snuffer, but with a flat blade to extinguish the flame while leaving the wick intact.
(submitted by - Trev)
Cann - An early American term for a mug, usually pyriform in shape.
Cantharus - An ancient form of drinking cup with handles, often as depicted as being used by Bacchus.
(submitted by - Trev)
Carchesium - An ancient form of drinking cup with a shallow foot and wider than it is deep and with handles higher than the edge, said to be one of the oldest forms of goblets.
(submitted by - Trev)
Cartouche - A blank area encircled by ornamentation that is reserved for engraving. Sometimes referred to as the reserve.
Caryatid - A sculpted female figure used as a support column, popular in the early 1800s.
(submitted by - Trev)
Caster - Container with perforated domed top for sprinkling sugar or spices, they come in a variety of styles but are usualy cylindrical or octagonal on a spreading rim foot.
(submitted by - Trev)
Casting - The technique of creating an object by filling a mould of desired form with molten metal.

A - C          C - E          E - K          L - R          S - W
Related Pages at
American Silver Marks
British Hallmarks
Austrian Hallmarks
Dutch Hallmarks
Finnish Hallmarks & Makers
French Hallmarks & Makers
German Hallmarks
Italian Marks from 1872
Swedish Hallmarks
Danish Makers
Norwegian Makers
David-Andersen Marks
Georg Jensen Marks
Yogya Silver
Mexican Marks & Makers
Chinese Export Marks
Silverplate Trademarks

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