ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver ASSOCIATION OF SMALL COLLECTORS OF ANTIQUE SILVER
ASCAS
article # 97
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by Jack F. Wilson
 
(click on photos to enlarge image)

ANOINTING SPOON REPLICAS IN SILVER AND SILVER GILT
FROM GREAT BRITAIN
- PART 1

I first encountered these spoons on eBay as I was searching through listings of English sterling silver. I had built a small collection of Georgian pieces once, and although I had stopped collecting, I still window shopped!
One of the first things I discovered about these fascinating replicas is that there is a lot of incorrect information being offered as definitive facts.
 
Spoon made and cased to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VIII, which never took place
Spoon made and cased to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VIII, which never took place.
Photo courtesy of Deakin & Francis Ltd.
I unknowingly passed on some of this chaff in my early days of acquiring knowledge. Fortunately, I became acquainted with a fellow collector named Barry Potter, who lives in Middlesex, England. A true gentleman and scholar, he was able to pass on some expert knowledge in this arcane field of collecting. He also wrote a short article (from which I have borrowed for this article).
Perhaps some of those whom I misinformed will have the opportunity to read this little attempt at sharing somewhat firmer knowledge.
Authorities agree that the oldest silver spoon known to be English in origin is the Coronation Spoon, preserved among the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, and that it most probably has been used in Coronations of British Monarchs since the 12th or early 13th Century.
It is made of silver gilt, and is the only remaining piece of the original Royal Regalia. Some of the other items of the Regalia were disposed off by Charles I, the remainder were sold or melted down at the time of the Commonwealth.
 
profile of spoon, showing how the spline is joined to the bowl Interior of spoon bowl, showing marks, including Deakin & Francis maker?s mark
profile of spoon, showing how the spline is joined to the bowl
Photo courtesy of Deakin & Francis Ltd.
Interior of spoon bowl, showing marks, including Deakin & Francis makerís mark.
Photo courtesy of Deakin & Francis Ltd.
The Anointing Spoon was purchased and returned by the purchaser at The Restoration. The spoon is 10 1/4" long, overall, and weighs 3 oz.,8 dwts, decorated with four freshwater pearls set in the widest part of the attenuated handle, which is decorated with chasing up to its writhen top. Overall the design predates Christianity. The thin bowl, which is joined to the stem by a modified elbow depicting the head of a leopard, has a central ridge, thus allowing two fingers of the anointing archbishop to be dipped into the oil.
It is thought to have been rebuilt for the 1661 coronation, when the spoon was re-gilt, and is decorated with an arabesque pattern. It may be pointed out that, this, probably the most valuable ancient English spoon in existence, does not possess any authenticating marks.
Sterling silver and silver gilt replicas of the Anointing Spoon have been manufactured for at least 134 years. They vary in accuracy of replication as well as in quality. The early spoons (1873-1909) are fairly consistent in both categories. Much of this depends on when and by whom they were made. However, beginning in 1910 some diminution in quality begins to appear in design and production.
British hallmarks are usually London or Birmingham, but examples also exist from Sheffield, Chester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. The locations of the hallmarks vary among the interior of the bowl, its back, or on any face of the handle and can be difficult to locate, as they often are hidden within the intricate design of the bowl or handle.
Published pictures of the original spoon exist in coronation and Crown Jewel books, but pictures of replicas are hard to find. One such can be found of an 1883 spoon, hallmarked in London, in Silver Flatware by Ian Pickford, and several pictures are in Silverware of the World.
I have been unable to discover why the first replicas were made. Their years of production do not necessarily coincide with any major celebration connected with the Monarchy.
Spoon produced by Saunders & Shepherd
Spoon produced by Saunders & Shepherd. Photo courtesy of Saunders Shepherd & Co Ltd.
Detail showing hallmarks.
Detail showing hallmarks. Photo courtesy of Saunders Shepherd & Co Ltd.
There have been some incorrect assertions made regarding their manufacture and distribution.

First incorrect assertion: These spoons were created in the coronation years during the twentieth century as commemoratives of the coronations.
While it is true that they were made in the coronation years, they also were made in practically every year (with some wartime exceptions) since at least 1873, according to the Commemorative Collectors Society in Great Britain.
My first acquisition came in a box with an advertisement for four sizes of spoons. I decided to collect the four spoons for each coronation in the twentieth century (based on faulty information). That meant, I thought, a collection of sixteen spoons. I soon discovered that this was not even a drop in the ocean!
The earliest example in my own collection is dated 1885, sixteen years before the death of Victoria and the accession of Edward VII. Years of production represented in my collection and others I know are as follows: 1873, 1885, 1886, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1923, 1927, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1978, 1995, 1997, and 2004. You will notice the conspicuous break in production periods which coincide with the two World Wars.
There often were some rather fine cases made during the coronation years as commemoratives (I have run across many such boxed sets, including a set of six spoons, made in 1936, for teaspoon use, I assume, with the case marked for the coronation of Edward VIII, which, of course, never took place).
The Anointing Spoon design was also issued in some interesting variations: forks, pickle forks, toast racks, etc. Some of these were cased, or somehow marked, as coronation commemoratives.

Second incorrect assertion: The spoons were made only by English silversmiths.
In fact, I have spoons in my collection hallmarked in six assay cities (Birmingham, Chester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, and Sheffield), and I have and have seen examples from the European Continent (most often Holland) and Canada.
The spoons I have seen from Canada frequently combine the design of the Anointing Spoon with the addition of a specific commemoration in the form of a medal at the end of the spoon handle. Sometimes this takes the form of a profile head of the newly-crowned Sovereign, along with his or her spouse (except for Edward VIII), the Coronation Chair, a crest, or the monarchís cipher.
Variety of replicas made by Saunders & Shepherd
Variety of replicas made by Saunders & Shepherd. Photo courtesy of Saunders Shepherd & Co Ltd

Acknowledgements: Thanks go to my friend, mentor, and fellow collector, Barry Potter of Hayes, Middlesex, England, who provided invaluable and hard-sought material for this article. As a body of information, it is not found anywhere else, and I could not have found all of his sources on my own. His generosity in sharing this information is deeply gratifying. Mr. David Freeman-Valle, General Manager of Saunders Shepherd & Co Ltd., was most generous in his time and efforts in tracking down members of the firm who might have the information I requested and in providing and making some of the photographs. Mr. Tony Shepherd, Chairman of SS&Co, provided invaluable memories of spoon production. Mr. John Coupland, Managing Director of SS&Co, generously shared part of his private collection to be photographed. SS&Co provided photographs of spoons from their museum. Mr. James Deakin of Deakin & Francis, Ltd provided an anecdote and some photographs. I exchanged several emails with Craig Robathan, Proprietor of C. Robathan & Sons Ltd, Birmingham. He very kindly looked into their reco (If you have a request of them, please provide a photograph or drawing of the makerís mark). Thanks are due to those representatives of firms and organizations who responded to my requests for information with sincere regrets. So much valuable information has been destroyed or lost.


Jack F. Wilson - 2008 -
JACK FOWLER WILSON is a retired Episcopal priest living in the southeastern United States in Alabama. His enthusiasm for collecting these spoons comes from an appreciation of fine craftsmanship and British ancestry on both sides of his family.
His fatherís parents emigrated from England, and his motherís family came to these shores from Scotland and Wales.
He can be reached at presterjack1@aol.com