Saturday, July 19, 2014

Modern Scottish Provincial Silver - Alexander Richie of Iona

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.

A Jam Spoon by Alexander Richie of Iona, Scotland

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

Hallmarks and Engraving of Richie Spoon
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.

Celtic/Viking influenced design
For a great website with further information about Alexander, as well as numerous examples of his work, check out

Friday, June 20, 2014

English Colonial Antique Silver - Introduction

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.  

A map showing the British Empire in 1886

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).  

An impressive piece made by Wendt, Australia
(Image: Lawsons Auctioneers)
Other places where silver was made include New Zealand, the West Indies (Bermuda and Jamaica) and Gibraltar.  Each of these has only one main reference, and little further research has been done.  

George II Jamaican silver coffee pot c.1755, sold for £10,000 at Matthew Barton.
A rare piece of Jamaican silver, this coffee pot sold for £10,000 this month
(Image: Matthew Barton Auctions)

There must surely be other pieces out there and research to be done, the West Indies for example had wealthy populations on a number of the islands.  If only time and money were not an object! 

If you have an interest in any of these places, let me know, it would be great to connect. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

How much is it worth? A helpful guide to 'values'

A question often asked is 'How much is this item worth?' or 'What value would you put on this piece?' Indeed the climaxes on Antiques Roadshow are when values are announced, either elating the owner with a high valuer or disappointing others with a low one.  The hard thing when it comes to valuing an item is there is actually a number of values a single item can have.  Here is a list of some different types of values, from lowest to highest:

Wholesale - This is the price a dealer would pay.  This value has to include room for a decent mark-up for the dealer, often 100% (this covers other overheads as well as some profit)

Auction - Auctions are where the dealers and customers meet, often cheaper than retail, there is always the exception when two bidders decide they both want an item!

Retail - often at least triple the wholesale price, this is because only does a dealer need to make a living, they also need to pay for other costs such as utilities, insurance, etc.

Insurance - this figure is how much it would cost to be confident to replace an item.  It is often higher than retail, in order to make sure an item can be replaced.

For example, take a standard English sterling serviette ring, rough values are as follows:
           Wholesale value - $15-$20
           Auction - $20-$40
           Retail - $60-$80
           Insurance - $100

But remember values are always just item is ultimately worth how much someone will pay for it!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Caddy Spoons (Part II) - The Eagle's Wing

The most desired of the Caddy Spoons!

Caddy spoons, originally used for scooping tea out of Tea Caddies, are a popular collecting area in silver.  (For an earlier post about caddy spoons, click here - Caddy Spoons).  Among the rarest and most collectable of the caddy spoons is a stunning one called the Eagle's Wing Caddy Spoon.  The spoon was first made in Birmingham by Joseph Willmore and Matthew Linwood around 1815-40.  It was produced again by George Unite around 1865.  It has also been reproduced a number of times since then in the twentieth century.

This is one of the originals, made by Joseph Willmore.
This was sold by Bonhams in 2005 for £2,400! 

What do you think?  Is it worth all the fuss?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Australian Silversmiths - J.M Wendt (Part II)

A couple years ago, I posted about Adelaide's most prolific silversmith, J.M Wendt.  In that post, I showed pictures of two of his serviette rings.  Following I've posted a number of further examples.  As you can, he produced a variety of different types and used a number of different maker's marks.  These all date from the 1880s-1890s.

A lovely example of the Aesthetic movement. Circe 1880

One modelled on a belt bucket.  These are among the most collectable

Bright-cut engraving of leaves on this one.  And note this is while he had shops in
Adelaide and Broken Hill.  c.1890

An bright-cut pattern.

Plain serviette rings, but what great initialling!

Another example showing influence from the Aesthetic Movement.