ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
ASSOCIATION OF SMALL COLLECTORS OF ANTIQUE SILVER
ASCAS
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by Dr. David N. Nikogosyan, Bonn, Germany
 
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MARKS OF FRENCH SILVER-PLATED CUTLERY IN THE XIXth CENTURY.
CHRISTOFLE , VEUVE CHARLES HALPHEN, GOMBAULT-DESCLERCS
& MANUFACTURE DE L'ALFÉNIDE

 

Christofle silver-plated cutlery.

So far I was not interested by the marks of silver-plated cutlery. However, the early pieces of Christofle cutlery seem to be remarkable. First of all, they are excellently designed. Second, they are convenient, beautiful and robust. Third, they are self-documented, as every piece is marked by its year of production. And, fourth, they are world-wide spread. It should be reminded that around 1844 the Christofle company pioneered the mass production of silver-plated cutlery and continued until at least 1930. As a result nowadays you can find Christofle cutlery from the XIXth century practically everywhere on the globe, in any antiques shop or on any flea market. In addition, many other French and foreign jewellery firms, producing silver-plated cutlery, copied the pieces of Christofle cutlery. I can easily mention a dozen of European jewellery firms, issuing silver-plated cutlery "à la Christofle cutlery", amongst them the French firms Ercuis, Halphen, Desclercs, Frenais, the German companies WMF, August Wellner Soehne, Bohrmann, Hartmann, Henniger, the Austro-Hungarian factories Arthur Krupp Berndorf, Herrmann, the Russian foundries (situated in Warsaw) Fraget and Norblin and many others.

In this paper I will describe the marks used by Christofle and his partner companies Halphen, Gombault-Desclercs and Manufacture de L'Alfenide on spoons and forks during the XIXth century. Some of the marks are published for the first time. I had to omit the cutlery marks used on the knives as such pieces are rather rare and absent in my collection.

In Figure 1 one can see one of most successful (and popular) models from Christofle cutlery. It is a so-called "Filet" (or "Chinon") model. In Germany this model was known as "Augsburger Faden" and in England as "Fiddle & Thread". It should be noted that the same design was used in France well before the Christofle epoch, however, at that time it was produced from sterling silver and of course in much smaller quantities.
 'Filet' (or 'Chinon') model of Christofle cutlery
 'Filet' (or 'Chinon') model of Christofle cutlery
 'Filet' (or 'Chinon') model of Christofle cutlery
Fig.1. "Filet" (or "Chinon") model of Christofle cutlery. Above: a picture from the Manufacture
de L'Alfénide catalogue, 1891, below: photos of the items from my collection.
The history of the Christofle jewellery firm is well documented [1,2]. Much less information is available on its partners Charles Halphen, Gombault-Desclercs and Manufacture de L'Alfénide.

Gombault-Desclercs, Charles Halphen and Manufacture de L'Alfénide firms.

From the technological point of view, all history of silver-plating is related to the research & development of a suitable base metal for silver deposition. In the beginning of the XIXth century it was the permanent search for a cheap silver-like base metal for silver deposition, the use of which would not change significantly the appearance of the product after the wearing away of the thin external silver layer. Such metal (nickel-copper-zinc alloy) was found in the twenties/thirties years of the XIXth century simultaneously in a number of European countries, with each inventor proposing its own slightly different composition of the alloy. The names of the alloys were also different (Argentan, Neusilber, Alpacca, etc.). The first patent for silver-like metal was given in France on 22nd of June 1827 to Maillot and Chorier for their alloy Maillechort (25% nickel, 50% copper and 25% zinc), invented as early as 1819.

Gombault, one of the oldest (and nearly forgotten!) French silver plate companies, was founded in 1826 [3]. This foundry pioneered the production of the so-called Gombault metal (a base metal for silver plating, i.e, a kind of nickel silver), which is a nickel-copper alloy with small additions of zinc, iron and tin [3]. Its mark for such unsilvered products, the inscription "GOMBAULT", was in use until 1931.

Some successful Gombault products, made from "highly-polished silver-like metal", included coffee-pots (cafetières), hot chocolade pots (chocolatières) and punch bowls (bols à punch). But especially popular were the flat spoons with numerous holes (cuillers à absinthe), used during the absinthe consumption for the so-called "fire ritual". First, the sugar cube saturated with absinthe was put on the spoon above the glass containing the absinthe drink. After that, the sugar cube was set on fire and started to melt into the absinthe, thus improving the bitter taste of the drink.

The Gombault firm also produced silver-plated tableware, but only in cooperation with other French silversmith companies. Its common partner for silver plating was the Desclercs company. Therefore, these two companies are often mentioned together as one entity, the so-called Maison Gombault-Desclercs (Gombault-Desclercs holding). For marking of such joint production both marks of Gombault (for marking the base metal) and Desclercs (for marking the silver deposition) were used. In 1866, the Gombault-Desclercs company became bankrupt and was absorbed by the Halphen firm. Later, being a part of the Veuve Charles Halphen (Widow of Charles Halphen) company, it still continued to use its own mark.

The Paris jewellery firm Halphen was created in 1850 by two brothers, Maurice and Charles Halphen [4]. After three years, Maurice Halphen left the business, and the firm was renamed as C. Halphen et Cie (Charles Halpen and Co.) with Charles Christofle being a principal shareholder. The main product of this enterprise was the silver-plated cutlery. As a base metal for silver-plating, home-made Alfénide metal, a copper-zinc-nickel-iron alloy (with component relative compositions of 59:30:10:1, respectively) was used. Clearly, the alloy name was derived from the name of the company owner. The Christofle firm was vitally interested in such cooperation as, up to 1878, it could not manufacture any silver-like metal for subsequent silvering and was forced to use brass as a base metal in most of its products.

Besides, since 1853, a new industrial process allowing the fabrication of huge series of cutlery pieces before the silvering, invented by Français Levallois, was applied on the Charles Haplhen foundry [1]. On the opposite, the Christofle's cutlery was made one by one. Since this new production method required a heavy financial investment, Christofle signed a special cooperation agreement with Halphen. According to this contract, Halphen and Christofle used the following production scheme: first Christofle designed the future objects, then Halphen mass-produced them from the Alfénide metal, after that the objects were silver-plated by Christofle, using the galvanic deposition of precious metal. The final product bore the Christofle mark of silvering, the inscription CHRISTOFLE, the box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, indicating the base metal, and the box with the year of production. There was no mention of the Halphen company.

At the beginning the Halphen firm was rather successful. In 1866, Halphen bought the Maison Desclercs-Gombault. It is unknown when he died. Since around 1877 his firm was guided by the Veuve Charles Halphen (the widow of Charles Halphen, her exact name is also unknown). The name of Charles Halphen foundry was changed to "Couverts Alfénide, Orfévrerie Christofle et Veuve Charles Halphen" (Fig.2).
Fragment of an advertisement of the Veuve Charles Halphen Factory (before 1878)
Fig.2. Fragment of an advertisement of the Veuve Charles Halphen Factory (before 1878).
On 17 March 1877, the Veuve Charles Halphen registered the famous "tête de bouc" (goat head) mark with the initials of her husband [5] and her factory, situated at 4, rue d'Hauteville, Paris, started its own production of the silver-plated hollowware of rather elaborated design. Over the next eleven years about 90,000 "large" hollowware items were to be manufactured, which corresponds to the mean productivity of 8,000 items per year. For comparison, the mean productivity of Christofle in the same time was about 6 times larger.

Meanwhile, in 1877, Christofle bought the bankrupt firm "Couverts de Méry", which produced its own base metal "Blanc Méry" (White Méry, named from Méry-sur-Oise, the place situated in the Seine-et-Oise region of France) with subsequent silver-plating, and hired the former boss of "Couverts de Méry", the talented jeweller and experienced manager Félix Chéron (Fig.3).
Fragment of an advertisement of the Couverts de Méry company
Fig.3. Fragment of an advertisement of the Couverts de Méry company.
In 1878, Christofle opened a new giant factory in Saint-Denis near Paris (Usine de Saint-Denis) [1], which extracted nickel metal from the nickel ore brought from New Caledonia (Nouvelle Calédonie). This allowed Christofle to produce its own base metal for silver plating, called "Metal Blanc" (White Metal). The latter circumstance explains why, in the same year, Christofle broke its relations with Veuve Charles Halphen: there was no need for Alfénide after the development of its own silver-like metal. Meanwhile, the firm of Veuve Charles Halphen was transformed to "Société Anonyme des Couverts Alfénide" (sometimes before 1886) and corresponding shares were issued (Fig.4). However, such transformation did not save the company from bankruptcy.
Share No.2203 issued by the Société Anonyme des Couverts Alfénide on 6t h February 1886
Share No.2203 Société Anonyme des Couverts Alfénide: coupons for the year 1908
Fig.4. Share No.2203 issued by the Société Anonyme des Couverts Alfénide on
6th February 1886 (above) and corresponding coupons for the year 1908 (below).
In 1888 Christofle bought the Halphen and Gombault-Desclercs companies. However, rather than integrating this acquisition, Christofle allowed it to continue as a separate entity. They were joined with the remains of "Couverts de Méry" firm under the new name "Manufacture de l'Alfénide" and with the new boss, the afore-mentioned Félix Chéron. This information is taken from the catalogue of Manufacture de L'Alfénide, issued in 1891 [7]. Though the name of Desclercs company is mentioned on the title list, no products of this firm are described in this catalogue. It follows that to that time the Desclercs company terminated fully its production.

Being inside the new firm, both Halphen and Gombault companies kept their own marks. However, under the patronage of Félix Chéron the Halphen's goat mark was slightly modified (the initials "C" and "H" for Charles Halphen were removed, and a part of the mark have been lined, see below) and used both for hollow ware and cutlery. What was even more unexpected was that the silver-plated hollow ware products made by "Manufacture de l'Alfénide" continued the original numbering introduced by Veuve Charles Halphen in 1877. Such ordinal numeration was kept going until 1931, the year of major restructuring inside the Christofle firm [2]. This finding allows the dating of each numerated silver-plated hollow ware item made by Veuve Charles Halphen, Gombault or Manufacture de l'Alfénide [8].

At the beginning of the XXth century Manufacture de L'Alfenide became extremely fashionable due to the appearance of new Art Nouveau products under the brand GALLIA. This brand inherited the above-mentioned Halphen's goat mark and used it until 1931 [8, 9].


Christofle cutlery marks used in the period c.1844-c.1859 (silver-plated brass).

All the silver-plated spoons and forks, issued between c.1844 and c.1859, possess three obligatory marks, set along the central part of the cutlery item (Fig.5).
Disposition of marks on silver-plated Christofle cutlery produced between c.1844 and c.1859
Fig.5. Disposition of marks on silver-plated Christofle cutlery produced between c.1844 and c.1859.
Let us describe these marks, starting from the one placed further from the handle:

1) The "CC" oval mark (Fig.6). It contains four stars, two capital "C" letters (initials for "Charles Christofle"), between them a balance and a bee in the center above two palm-like branches. All mentioned elements are also characteristic for Christofle hollow ware products [2]. In the case of cutlery the oval mark contains in addition a two-digit number (between the two plates of the balance), referring to the amount of silver (in grams), used for the production of two dozen pieces of cutlery. For the above-mentioned period, Christofle used 72 grams of silver for the silvering of twenty four spoons (or twenty four forks). It should be emphasized that this amount refers only to standard serving forks and spoons, having 20.6-21.9 cm in length. Smaller pieces of cutlery (dessert forks and spoons and coffee spoons) needed less silver. The mean size of the oval is 2.1 mm x 3.6 mm (for nine different pieces of cutlery);
The oval 'CC' mark used on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859
Fig.6. The oval "CC" mark used on silver-plated Christofle cutlery
between c.1844 and c.1859. The two-digit number (72) corresponds to
the amount of silver used for the production of two dozen of cutlery pieces.
2) The year of production (two last digits) was put in a lozenge-shaped box (Fig.7). The mean size of the box (two diagonals) is 2.1 mm x 3.4 mm (for eleven different pieces of cutlery);
The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859
The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859
Fig.7. The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859.
3) The inscription CHRISTOFLE in a rectangular cartouche with the rounded corners (Fig.8). The mean length of the inscription is 3.3 mm (for 8 different pieces of cutlery).
The inscription CHRISTOFLE in a rectangular cartouche with rounded corners
Fig.8. The inscription CHRISTOFLE in a rectangular
cartouche with rounded corners.
Recently, I was lucky to discover an additional mark set on two forks, issued in 1847 (Fig.9). It is an oval with the profile of a man head.
Disposition of an additional mark
Fig. 9. Disposition of an additional mark.
Comparing this profile (Fig.10) with an early photo (daguerreotype) of Christofle, taken in 1851-1852, one can note an undoubted likeness. So this profile could represent the 42-year old Charles Christofle! To confirm this hypothesis, as well as to find the reason why this profile was put on Christofle cutlery in 1847, more research is necessary.
A profile put inside the oval mark photograph of Christofle
Fig.10. A profile put inside the oval mark (left) and the photograph of Christofle (right).
It should be kept in mind that, before 1855, all silver-plated cutlery, produced by Christofle, used brass as base metal for silvering. In 1855 Christofle signed an agreement with Halphen and started to produce cutlery made from the silver-plated Alfénide metal. As a result the number of cutlery made from silver-plated brass decreased drastically. Though the 1862 Christofle Catalogue [6] still mentions the mark for silver-plated brass, I never met any cutlery pieces marked in such way after 1859. Probably, they were produced in small quantities or did not exist at all.

Christofle cutlery marks used in the period c.1855-1878 (silver-plated Alfénide).

According to new laws imposed by the French government, the marks for silver-plated ware had to be changed. Therefore, all the Christofle marks for silver-plated Alfénide cutlery could be divided into two groups, before and after 1862.

Marks used before 1862.

The silver-plated spoons and forks, issued by Christofle between c.1855 and c.1862, possess three obligatory marks. We will describe these marks, starting from the one most distant from the handle:

1) The lozenge-shaped box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, on two lines (Fig.11), was used for the designation of the silver-like base metal. The mean size of the box (two diagonals) is 1.6 mm x 4.3 mm (for three different pieces of cutlery);
The lozenge-shaped box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE
Fig.11. The lozenge-shaped box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE.
2) The "CC" oval mark (Fig.12) corresponds to the one used before c.1855 (see above). For the period between c.1855 and 1862, Christofle used again 72 grams of silver for the silvering of twenty four standard spoons (or twenty four forks). The length of three spoons at my disposal varies between 21.5 cm and 21.7 cm. The mean size of the oval is 2.0 mm x 3.6 mm (for three different pieces of cutlery);
The oval 'CC' mark used on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1855 and c.1862
Fig.12. The oval "CC" mark used on silver-plated Christofle cutlery
between c.1855 and c.1862. The two-digit number (72) corresponds to
the amount of silver used for the production of two dozen of cutlery pieces.
3) For the time period c.1855-1859, the information about the production year (two last digits) was set in a lozenge-shaped box as above (Fig.13, left). The size of the box (two diagonals) is 1.9 mm x 3.6 mm (for one piece of cutlery in my possession). Starting from 1860, Christofle used the rectangular box for this purpose (Fig.13, right) with size of 1.7 mm x 2.1 mm (for two pieces of cutlery at my disposal).
The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1855 and c.1862 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1855 and c.1862
Fig.13. The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1855 and c.1862.

Marks used after 1862.

From 1862, according to the new laws, some changes in marks of silver-plated cutlery were incorporated. We will describe these new marks, starting from the one most distant from the handle:

1) The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, on two lines, was used for the designation of the silver-like base metal (Fig.14). The size of the box varies between 1.7 mm x 2.1 mm and 2.2 mm x 2.6 mm (for ten different pieces of cutlery);
The box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used between 1862 and 1877 The box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used between 1862 and 1877
Fig.14. The box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used between 1862 and 1877. Note
two versions of writing the fourth letter in the inscription, the second one is rarer.
2) The "CC" oval mark is now set in a square box (Fig.15). The bee image disappears (cf. Figs.6,12), instead a rosette image was used. This correlates with my earlier findings on marks of Christofle hollow ware [2]. For the period between 1862 and 1868, Christofle used 80 grams of silver for the silvering of twenty four spoons (or twenty four forks). Since 1868, the amount of silver used for the silvering of two dozen of pieces was raised up to 84 grams. Again we mean the silvering of standard serving spoons or forks. The length of 15 forks and spoons (which are at my disposal) varies between 20.8 cm and 21.5 cm. The mean size of the oval is 1.5 mm x 2.6 mm (for fourteen different pieces of cutlery), while the mean size of the rectangular box is 2.4 mm x 2.6 mm (for twelve different pieces of cutlery);
The 'CC' oval mark in a square box, used between 1862 and 1877 The 'CC' oval mark in a square box, used between 1862 and 1877
Fig.15. The "CC" oval mark in a square box, used between 1862 and 1877.
The two-digit numbers, 80 (1862-1868) or 84 (1868-1877), correspond to
the amount of silver used for the silvering of two dozen of cutlery pieces.
3) The information about the production year (two last digits) is placed in a rectangular box (Fig.16). The size of this box varies between 1.3 mm x 1.5 mm and 1.9 mm x 2.2 mm. The mean size of the rectangular box with two last digits of the production year is 1.6 mm x 1.8 mm (for fifteen different pieces of cutlery);
The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859
The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between c.1844 and c.1859
Fig.16. The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1862 and 1877.
4) Finally, since 1865, Christofle adds to the cutlery marks of the products, made in a collaboration with Halphen, the inscription CHRISTOFLE in a cartouche (Fig.17). This cartouche was of two types: rectangular with rounded corners (before 1874) or purely rectangular (in the period 1874-1877). It should be emphasized that previously (until c.1860) such inscription was used for marking the Christofle cutlery made from silver-plated brass (see above). The appearance of such inscription on silver-plated Alfénide cutlery probably justifies that to that moment due to low demand Christofle stopped the production of cutlery made from silver-plated brass. The length of the inscription CHRISTOFLE rises slowly from 4.5 x 4.6 mm (in 1865) to 5.2 x 5.3 mm (in 1868-1873) and further to 7.1 x 7.5 mm (in 1874-1877).
The inscription CHRISTOFLE in rectangular cartouche with rounded corners used in the period 1862-1874
The inscription CHRISTOFLE in rectangular cartouche used in the period 1874-1877
Fig.17. The inscription CHRISTOFLE in rectangular cartouche with rounded corners used
in the period 1862-1874 (above) and in rectangular one used in the period 1874-1877 (below).

Christofle cutlery marks used in the period 1878-1899 (silver-plated metal blanc).

Since 1878, Christofle produces the silver-plated cutlery, using its own silver-like metal, called "Métal Blanc" (white metal). The designation for a base metal is absent. The other marks are similar to those used just before 1878. We will describe them, starting from the one most distant from the handle:

1) The "CC" oval mark in the square box (Fig.18) is similar to the one used before 1878. The amount of silver used for the silvering of two dozen of pieces is 84 grams. The length of 3 forks and spoons (in my possession) varies between 20.8 cm and 21.3 cm. The size of the oval is about 1.5 mm x 2.6 mm, while the size of the rectangular box is around 2.5 mm x 2.6 mm;
The 'CC' oval mark in a square box, used between 1878 and 1899
Fig.18. The "CC" oval mark in a square
box, used between 1878 and 1899.
2) The information about the production year (two last digits) is placed in a rectangular box (Fig.19). The size of this box varies between 1.4 mm x 1.8 mm and 1.8 mm x 2.0 mm;
The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1878 and 1899 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1878 and 1899 The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1878 and 1899
Fig.19. The production year marking on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1878 and 1899.
3) Finally, we will mention the inscription CHRISTOFLE in rectangular cartouche (Fig.20). The length of this inscription is 6.0-6.1 mm.
The inscription CHRISTOFLE in rectangular cartouche used on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1878 and 1899
Fig.20. The inscription CHRISTOFLE in rectangular cartouche used on silver-plated Christofle cutlery between 1878 and 1899.

Halphen cutlery marks used in the period 1877-1888.

After Christofle had broken its relations with Halphen company, which was guided by Charles Halphen's widow, the latter started to produce high-quality silver-plated cutlery under their own marks. The structure and disposition of these marks follow the structure and disposition of the ones used during the Christofle/Halphen cooperation in c.1855-1877. We will describe them, starting from the one most distant from the handle:

1) The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE in two lines (Fig.21) was used for the designation of the base metal. The mean size of the box is 1.7 mm x 2.2 mm (for seven different pieces of cutlery);
The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used by Halphen company between 1877 and 1888 The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used by Halphen company between 1877 and 1888
Fig.21. The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used by
Halphen company between 1877 and 1888. Note two versions of
writing the fourth letter in the inscription, the second one is rarer.
2) The famous goat's mark of Halphen (Fig.22) represents a goat's head in the rhombus with the initials "C" and "H" (Charles Halphen) from the left and right sides and number 84 under the head. The number 84 means that the amount of silver used for the silvering of two dozen pieces is 84 grams. The length of 7 forks and spoons (at my disposal) varies between 20.8 cm and 21.5 cm. The rhombus is placed inside the rectangular box. The mean size of the rectangular box is 2.1 mm x 2.5 mm (for six different pieces of cutlery);
The famous Halphen goat's mark used between 1877 and 1888
Fig.22. The famous Halphen goat's
mark used between 1877 and 1888.
3) The information about the production year (two last digits) is placed in a rectangular box (Fig.23). The mean size of the rectangular box with two last digits of the production year is 1.5 mm x 2.0 mm (for seven different pieces of cutlery);
The production year marking on silver-plated Halphen cutlery between 1877 and 1888 The production year marking on silver-plated Halphen cutlery between 1877 and 1888 The production year marking on silver-plated Halphen cutlery between 1877 and 1888
Fig.23. The production year marking on silver-plated Halphen cutlery between 1877 and 1888.
4) Finally, we will consider the inscription HALPHEN in rectangular cartouche (Fig.24). The length of this inscription is 6.4-7.0 mm.
The inscription HALPHEN in rectangular cartouche used on silver-plated HALPHEN cutlery between 1877 and 1888
Fig.24. The inscription HALPHEN in rectangular cartouche used on silver-plated
HALPHEN cutlery between 1877 and 1888.

Gombault-Desclercs cutlery marks used in the period 1877-1888.

Simultaneously with the cutlery issued by Veuve Charles Halphen company, the Gombault-Desclercs division of the same company produced silver-plated cutlery with their own marks. Contrary to all previously described marks, these marks were put on the oval part of a spoon or on the pronged part of a fork (Fig.25). Interestingly, Christofle started to use similar marking on his cutlery much later (after 1931).
Disposition of Gombault-Desclercs marks on a fork
Fig.25. Disposition of Gombault-Desclercs marks on a fork.
There were only two marks on Gombault-Desclercs cutlery:

1) The inscription GOMBAULT in rectangular cartouche (Fig.26) indicates a base metal. The length of the inscription varies between 4.7 mm and 4.9 mm;
The inscription GOMBAULT in a purely rectangular cartouche
Fig.26. The inscription GOMBAULT in a purely rectangular cartouche.
2) The Desclercs mark for silver-plating (Fig.27) consists of a kind of caduceus (Rod of Hermes) between the two initials "D" and "L" , placed in rectangular box, the size of the latter varies between 2.1 mm x 2.2 mm and 2.2 mm x 2.2 mm. On this mark there is also the number 72, which refers to the amount of silver used for the silvering of two dozen pieces. The length of 4 forks and spoons (at my disposal) varies between 20.8 cm and 21.5 cm. To the best of my knowledge, this mark was never published before.
The Desclercs mark for silver-plating used between 1877 and 1888
Fig.27. The Desclercs mark for silver-plating
used between 1877 and 1888.

Manufacture de L'Alfenide cutlery marks used in the period 1888-1931.

Manufacture de L'Alfenide was a branch of the Christofle firm. However, Christofle tried to hide this fact, and, hence, there is no mentioning of Christofle on the marks of cutlery used by the Manufacture de L'Alfénide. Opposite, these marks are similar to those used by Veuve Charles Halphen with some insignificant changes. We will describe them, starting from the one most distant from the handle:

1) The rectangular box with the designation of the base metal ALFÉNIDE in two lines (Fig.28), is identical to that used by Veuve Charles Halphen (Fig.21). The mean size of the box is 1.8 mm x 2.1 mm (for five different pieces of cutlery);
The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE, used by Manufacture de L'Alfénide between 1888 and 1931
Fig.28. The rectangular box with the inscription ALFÉNIDE,
used by Manufacture de L'Alfénide between 1888 and 1931.
2) The Halphen goat's mark was slightly transformed (Fig.29). The initials "C" and "H" have been eliminated, instead of them from the left and right sides the digits "8" and "4" were set. The resulting number 84 meant that for the silvering of twenty four spoons (or forks) 84 grams of silver was needed. The length of 5 forks and spoons (at my disposal) varies between 21.1 cm and 21.8 cm. The rhombus with goat's head is placed inside the rectangular box, which is lined unlike the Halphen's goat mark (cf. Fig.22). The mean size of the rectangular box is 2.1 mm x 2.3 mm (for five different pieces of cutlery);
The goat's mark used by Manufacture de L'Alfénide between 1888 and 1931
Fig.29. The goat's mark used by Manufacture
de L'Alfénide between 1888 and 1931.
3) The information about the production year is absent. The inscription HALPHEN is given as before in rectangular cartouche (Fig.30). The length of this inscription is 5.8 - 5.9 mm.
The inscription HALPHEN used by Manufacture de L'Alfénide between 1888 and 1931
Fig.30. The inscription HALPHEN used by Manufacture de L'Alfénide between 1888 and 1931.
From the discussed material it follows that despite rather complicated relations between Christofle and its partners, the marks of silver-plated cutlery of these five companies are related to each other and should be considered together. I believe that such studies will allow us to understand better the marking of other French silversmith companies in the XIX century and thus could be useful for future research in this area of art history.

The author is grateful to his wife Danielle for her continuous support.

 

LITERATURE

[1] Marc de Ferrière, Christofle: 150 ans d'Art et de Rève. Dossier de l'Art, No.2, pp.3-73 (1991), in French.

[2] David N. Nikogosyan, Christofle: History and Marks, Silver Magazine, vol.44, No.1, pp.28-35 (2012).

[3] Auguste Luchet, Le Surtout de la Reine Isabelle, Le Monde Illustré, vol.12, No.606, p.331 (1868), in French.

[4] David Allan, French Silver Cutlery of XIXth Century, Editions Faton, Dijon, 2007, pp.1-430.

[5] Data base of French Ministery of Culture, devoted to registered trade marks of French Jewellery firms, http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/marque_fr

[6] Charles Christofle & Co., Orfévrerie Argentée et D'Argent, Paris, 1862, in French.

[7] Manufacture de L'Alfénide, Tarif Général, Paris, 1891.

[8] David N. Nikogosyan, Gallia and its Predecessors: History and Marks, Silver Magazine, vol.45, No.5, pp.32-40 (2013).

[9] David N. Nikogosyan: Marks of European Silver Plate: VII. Gallia, Alfenide/Christofle, France (2010), http://www.ascasonline.org/windowOTTOB77.html

 
Dr. David N. Nikogosyan
Bonn, Germany
- 2014 -