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Irish Georgian Silver - Bright Cut Patterns

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Antique Irish Bright-Cut Sterling Silver
Bright-cut engraving hit England in about 1780 and was in fashion for about 30 years.  It can be readily found on antique Georgian sterling silver spoons and sugar tongs of that time. Bright-cut decoration is when the pattern is faceted out of the silver so as to reflect light at different angles. Personally, bright-cut designs are one of our favourites, as there is such variety of patterns and they are very pretty to look at. 

Ireland generally followed the English trends and Bright-cut was no exception. As they often did though, the Irish put their own national spin. There are four main patterns that you will find on Irish Bright-cut silver of the time; Star Pattern, Flower Pattern, Bow Pattern and Prince of Wales Plumes Pattern. 

Star PatternThis is the most common and the most recognisable Irish pattern. It is seen in a number of forms, but the most readily found is the far right example shown. 





Flower Pattern
Flowers are a common design feature…

Types of wine/bottle labels - Overview

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Wine labels (also known as bottle tickets), are a popular collecting area.

With my main interest being in antique sterling silver, I have focussed on labels made from the precious metal. They can also be found made from other things such as mother of pearl and porcelain. 


Early collectors, such as Dr N. Penzer suggested 20 categories for labels.

The Wine Label Circle, which is a collecting club for those interested in wine and sauce labels, reclassifies the categories, dividing the types of labels into 23 different categories in their authoritative book, Wine Labels:1730-2003, a worldwide history. 

These categories are helpful for the majority of labels, although there will always be exceptions that will fit in to two or more.

The 23 categories listed are:

EscutcheonsRectanglesScrollsOvalsCrescentsStars and ButtonsSun in SplendourBottle Collars and Neck RingsSingle Letters and Cut-out WordsBacchic RevellersBarrelsAnchorsThe Balloon LabelBuglesCrownsHarpsHeartsGobletsShellsVine and Othe…

What's the rarest? Silver from Scottish Provincial towns.

Antique Scottish Provincial silver is one of the most interesting and confusing areas of silver collecting. There were numerous towns that were producing silver in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There were no regulations governing these towns, so each town (or silversmith) came up with their own marks. These were often related to town symbols or coat of arms.

It is often the question of rarity that wildly affects the value for these pieces of silver. Below is a table of suggested rarity:

Scarce Rare Very Rare Aberdeen Arbroath Cupar Dumfries Ballater Ellon Dundee Banff Fochabers Glasgow (pre-Assay office) Canongate Forres Inverness Elgin Leith Perth Greenock Nairn Iona Peterhead Montrose St. Andrews

Irish Silversmiths - Benjamin Tait (1784-1791)

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Benjamin Tait was based in Dublin. He produced quite a large amount of silversmith in his relatively short career. He worked from around 1784 to 1791. His workshop was near Bride Street, in the inner city of of Dublin.
His most common makers marks have a serrated edge and are clearly recognisable.
He made a number of different pieces, but appears to have specialised in flatware. Below are four examples of his bright-cut pattern sugar tongs. His tongs are often much smaller than other Irish examples, the first three displayed measure between 13.5-14.5cm. The fourth pair are of a more common Irish size and measure just under 17cm.


Australian Silversmiths - Frederick Bassé of Adelaide.

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Not one of the big names of Adelaide silversmithing, I think Frederick Bassé is underrated! His larger pieces show an elegant simplicity. Both a Jeweller and a Silversmith, Bassé produced pieces from the early 1880s until his death in 1913. His firm continued under his widow, trading as F. Bassé and Co until around 1923.




Modern Scottish Provincial Silver - Alexander Richie of Iona

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A nice silver spoon turned up recently on a trip to regional NSW.  The dealer wasn't sure if it was silver, indeed the hallmarks were so small, I couldn't decipher them either.  But what did stand out was the impressive Celtic design to the spoon and the marks I could read that said 'AR' and 'IONA'.  I remembered reading a little somewhere about a silversmith, Alexander Richie, working on the Scottish island.  So I purchased the spoon (along with a few other pieces of silver) for a good price.


It turned out this spoon was indeed silver and had been hallmarked in Glasgow in 1931.

Alexander Richie, along with his wife, Euphemia, began making silverware and jewellery (as well as wood and other metal work) at the end of the nineteenth century.  He sent items from Iona to both Glasgow and Chester to be hallmarked.  Most of his pieces have the Celtic or Viking influence that this spoon shows.

For a great website with further information about Alexander, as well as …

English Colonial Antique Silver - Introduction

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Silver from the Colonies... The British Empire sprung from overseas possessions and trading posts set-up by England from the end of the 16th century.  Although it was in the early 20th century that it was at its peak, it began being referred to as the British Empire in the nineteenth century.  

Although the bulk of sterling silver items were made in the United Kingdom and exported to the colonies, wherever there were significant populations, gold and silversmiths were there working.  Items produced by these local silversmiths are known as 'British Colonial Silver'.  
The most common (and most researched) places that British colonial silver will turn up from are India, Canada, South Africa and Australia.  Each of these have some great reference books available (let me know if you are interested in any of these, as I often have copies for sale).  
Other places where silver was made include New Zealand, the West Indies (Bermuda and Jamaica) and Gibraltar.  Each of these has only…