of Small Collectors
of Antique Silver         newsletter # 8 December 2004

Two replies to Richard McDanel's question on November newsletter

Bill Kime writes:
caviar bowl ....sugar bowl ... covered cup ...
With reference to Richard McDanel's question about the marks on a sauce boat and a tureen, featured in the ASCAS newsletter #7, November, 2004, I've seen similar marks on silver plated wares here in Canada on several occasions... always assuming that they were of mid-20th century English origin... the objects are usually characterized by particularly heavy casting of white metal in quite elaborate and flamboyant styles, sometimes with fanciful armorials, as evidenced by the two objects photographed by Mr. McDaniel.
Though the marks on the two pieces appear to be different, both include the letters EP in almost identical old English script and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that they were made by the same manufacturer, though perhaps for different suppliers or retailers.
In general, any representation at all of the letters EP as part of a set of 'hallmarks' first should be considered as a probable indicator of silver-plate marks... that's a reliable 99% rule, and one to remember (though it's always worth keeping an eye open for that stray piece of 18th century Scottish silver assayed by Edward Penman!).
caviar bowl ....sugar bowl ... covered cup ...
Many plate marks of this type were somewhat disguised as hallmarks and intended to confuse the layman to some extent... some will even include a tantalizing lion or a crown, just to make it all the more exciting... so, it's important to remind yourself that the assaying of silver and the application of silver hallmarks, particularly in England, but in some other countries as well, was quite methodical and was regulated by law (as always, it's all about taxes!).
If the marks don't seem to add up, then they probably don't add up and it's time to review them with a more critical eye. In fairness to the manufacturers, however, their intention really wasn't to deceive anyone... it was more to avoid making it obvious at a glance that an object was silver-plated, as opposed to being made of solid silver, whilst the object was in use... essentially, to thwart the curiosity of those guests who might slyly turn over their spoons to see what their hosts were made of!
English silver-plate marks of the 'pseudo-hallmark' style actually originate with the earliest old Sheffield plate of the 18th century, but it isn't until the latter part of the 19th century, well after the establishment of electro-plating technology, that we begin to see the appearance of the letters EP, either singly or together, in multi-punch marks.
These marks might typically include manufacturers initials, perhaps a quality guarantee (A1 is commonly seen), a reference to the base metal employed (as in EPNS, EPBM or EPC... for electro-plated nickel-silver, Britannia metal or copper respectively), sometimes with other brand-associated devices as well, all arranged in such a way as to appear like a set of silver hallmarks at a glance.
It can be very confusing. I'm sorry that this turns out to be not much of an answer to Mr. McDaniel's question...
I can't suggest who might have made these two articles and I'm afraid I don't know of a good reference book to recommend for tracing plater's marks... I rather doubt that one exists... the incentive for putting such a thing together might be rather low and the task a formidable one. I'd like to hear of one though.
Kind regards,
Bill Kime

Hymie Dinerstein writes:

Regarding the marks on the sauceboat and sauce tureen, these purport to be the silverplate marks for Elkington and Co, the great inventors of electroplating.
But I have my doubts. If these pieces are quite heavy and are in perfect condition, then I suspect that they are 1960's copies produced in the Far East in an Antimony based cast Metal called Mazack. This was a very poor product but looked beautiful when plated. Unfortunately, the English silver platers did not like replating it and if it was dropped and a foot broke off, or something was damaged, it could not be properly repaired (It could be "cobbled together). It was inferior to Brittania Metal which in itself was considered the " POOR MANS" Electroplate.

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