|by Sara L.
(click on photos to enlarge image)
THE STORY OF A WELL TRAVELLED HAIRBRUSH
Once upon a time, back in 1911 in fact, when the
days of Art Nouveau were lazily drifting towards the
more upbeat days of Art Deco... The brilliant
silversmiths Levi and Salaman made a beautiful matching
hairbrush and mirror set, in their workshops in
Both hairbrush and mirror were made in a wonderful
design, almost magical in fact. At the top of both
hairbrush and mirror there was an elaborate cartouche in
extravagant 3-dimensional relief, all surrounded with
furled and unfurled scrolls. Fanciful faces, reminiscent
of the legendary "Green Man" or "Foliate Man", as he is
known by pagans, were hidden everywhere in the pattern.
There were two at the top; profile faces, like
half-moons, smiling, either side of a bird, which could
be a raven or a crow.
Typically of Levi and Salaman, it was not just any old
view of a bird, but he was seen from the back, looking
sideways. He was perched on top of the cartouche, in a
sweeping pattern of leaves. Lower down, the cartouche
blossoms into burgeoning leaf shapes, with large
poppy-like buds, standing upright like elaborate lamps.
At the bottom of the cartouche frame is a
well-defined foliate manís face seen from the front,
with big swags of draped material coming out of his
mouth. These form the cheekbones of a large,
cleverly-hidden face which was like the face of the
whole personality of the brush. It is the concealed face
of a cat, smiling gently with its eyes closed. Above the
closed eyes, two flowers formed the inner parts of its
pointed ears. Another flower, pointing down, formed the
Two foliate men comprised the two curves of the catís
Lower down again, on the handle, a baby bird stood,
with its wings arched up... then at the bottom of the
handle - another foliate man's face - this was truly a
work of art from top to bottom.
There are five Foliate Man faces plus one hidden cat's
If you look closely at the picture you will see that a
bird is inside the cat's open (smiling) mouth.
This hairbrush was first owned by a wealthy or
middle-class lady with the initials E.E.H., which can
clearly be seen from the monogram in the cartouche on
It might have stood for Emily Elkington-Hanley, or Elizabeth Edith
Harrington, or some such affluent-sounding name. She
obviously loved the brush very much because she took
good care of it.
It is in excellent condition with only a small crack at
the top of the handle. The matching mirror did not fare
so well (which is why I did not carry on bidding after
my first bid for the mirror, but concentrated on the
The mirror has dents around the frame and the glass
appears to have been replaced. Someone else on eBay bid
only for the mirror? perhaps they prefer mirrors to
I was lucky enough to get the brush, for an amazingly
low price, considering the age and workmanship in this
wonderful antique, and the fact that it is in such good
condition for its age.
I recently wrote to the person I bought this from, who
co-manages an eBay shop called Booksinn - the shop that
sold the brush to me.
They are based in Israel. I asked how they came to buy
such a wonderful brush and take it all the way to Israel
A nice lady called Sylvia answered. This is what she
told me in her reply message:
Thank you so much for your interesting letter. Firstly,
from your feedback we realized how truly happy you were
with your purchase and believe me that gave us a
tremendous amount of pleasure.
As to your enquiry, all I can tell you about this
beautiful brush is the following.
My family and I lived in England. My mother was born in
London and I was born outside London. My late Father
came to England in 1933 as a very young man. he studied,
married and many years later went into the antique
business in a very small way. One of his favourite "hunting
grounds was a small shop in Richmond, owned by a very
famous British Actor whose name has slipped my memory
for the moment.
He was the star of a very popular comedy TV series where
he played the part of a barrister who always referred to
his wife as the one who must be obeyed"! ..
Anyway, to return to "our brush". I think that my father
bought that brush and matching mirror in that shop in
My husband and I moved to Israel in 1972, together with
our children, and my parents followed one year later. My
Father passed away in 1988 and left me with his
collection of which I only started to dispose in 2006.
Well, I wish you luck in all your future dealings and
would ask if it would be possible for us to receive a
copy of the article.
With Many thanks,
So here you have the history of a very well-travelled
First it belonged to a Mrs. E.E.H., then it belonged to
Sylviaís father, as part of his antique collection for a
while. Then Sylvia and her husband moved to Israel in
1972 and the Levi and Salaman hairbrush followed a year
later in 1973, when her father went to Israel to live
Now, in 2007, the hairbrush has flown all the way back
to England from Israel to be part of my collection, and
the matching mirror has goneÖ elsewhere, to another eBay
But that is another story...
Picture of brush courtesy of Booksinn.net and eBay.co.uk
LEVI & SALAMAN History
Phineas Harris Levi, from Exeter, moved to
Birmingham in 1866. He worked for a relative at first,
for four years. Being ambitious and energetic, he
founded the original company Levi & Salaman in 1870;
entering into business with Joseph Wolff Salaman. They
opened a modest workshop in Northampton Street and
remained there for a few years, making gilt jewellery,
which was in high demand at the time.
Soon there was so much demand that they had to move to a
larger, grander premises in Upper Hockley Street.
It was there that they began a very successful venture
in manufacturing silver jewellery, which soon
overshadowed the popularity of gilt costume jewellery.
During his early years at Hockley Street, Mr. Levi came
into contact with a small company in Barr Street, which
manufactured flatware in a white metal called Potosi
Silver. This type of silver had such a whiteness of
colour, that it strongly resembled real silver. Levi
very quickly purchased it, seeing a great business
opportunity for his business if it was worked with
The growth of this business was on such a scale that, in
1885, an impressive works of several large buildings was
completed in Newhall street, known as Potosi Works. This
establishment had worldwide connections.
It also introduced a range of silver plated items of
Marks were entered on behalf of Levi & Salaman at the
London Assay Office by P.H. Levi, from their 143 Newhall
St. premises in Birmingham, also for their London
offices at 123 & 124 Newgate Street, EC.
They are listed there in 1897 as manufacturing
silversmiths. Soon after this, the London showrooms
moved to 2 Hamsell Street, EC.
After P.H. Levi died in 1910, Levi & Salaman was
converted to a limited liability company as Levi &
Salaman Ltd. The first directors were Joseph Wolff
Salaman, Clive Joseph Levi and Lewis Henry Salaman,
along with Edith Jacob, who was the secretary. In 1912
their trade names were: Levi & Salaman, "Levisalm", The
Potosi Silver Co. and "Potosi".
From the 1st of January 1921, Levi & Salaman and The
Potosi Silver Company, their subsidiary, were
amalgamated with Barker Brothers (Silversmiths) Ltd.
This new business continued under the style of Barker
Brothers (Silversmiths) Ltd. at a premises at
Constitution Hill, Birmingham, and on the first floor at
292 High Holborn, London EC1. At this time J.W. Salaman
retired and C.J. Levi joined the board of Barker
Brothers (Silversmiths) Ltd, as joint managing director
with Frank E. Barker.
Over the course of their illustrious career, Levi and
Salaman and the Potosi Silver Co made many beautiful
items and achieved a great deal of success. They are
noted to have exhibited at the Barcelona Exhibition of
1888, when their agents were Polli y Guglielmi, of Calle
Barbara in Barcelona.
They also exhibited at the Jewellers' Exhibition of
1913, where they showed an impressive selection of
souvenir spoons, enamelled manicure sets and some fine
electroplated Georgian style objects including a Peter
Pan child's set and "Rosen" pattern spoons.
The firms made a similar display at the Jewellers'
Exhibition of 1914, including silver-mounted
tortoiseshell work, enamelled goods, toilet articles and
all kinds of novelties in solid silver and electroplate.
The following year, at the British Industries Fair, they
exhibited again, and one item in particular was of great
historical interest. It was a momento of the war - one
of their "Potosi" silver spoons, which had saved the
life of a soldier by deflecting a bullet which otherwise
would have wounded him. This caught the interest to H.M.
the Queen, when she attended the exhibition on its
History in brief:
* 1870-1910 - known as Levi & Salaman
* 1910-1920 - were Levi & Salaman Ltd. & proprietors of
the Potosi Silver Co. from 1828)
* 1921 - Amalgamated with Barker Brothers (Silversmiths)
Ltd. on 1st of January 1921
Sara L. Russell - 2007 -
former editor / founder of Poetry Life & Times, Sussex,