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by Prof. David N. Nikogosyan, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
 
(click on photos to enlarge image)

MARKS OF EUROPEAN SILVER PLATE:
VII. GALLIA, ALFENIDE/CHRISTOFLE, FRANCE

Being a keen collector of silver-plated articles made by the famous French foundry Christofle, I ignored the items made from Gallia metal until the day I purchased, at an Internet auction, a marvellous Art Nouveau piece, probably a butter container, consisting of the base and its cover. The glass inset was missing, but I put instead a black cardboard band inside the base that allowed me to assemble the piece and to enjoy its beauty.

A silver-plated butter dish made from Gallia metal between 1900 and 1908.
Model 4369

The literature information about Gallia is scarce and often misleading. As an example, I can mention the article "Christofle: Marks & History" on the famous web page "Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Makers' Marks", where the marks for Christofle silver-plated Alpacca-based hollow ware, silver-plated Alpacca-based cutlery and silver-plated Gallia-based items are mixed together and their dating is often incorrect. It should be noted that Christofle used for the Alpacca alloy its own trade mark Métal Blanc (White Metal). The author of the above-mentioned article (under the pen-name "2209patrick") wrote that in November 2007 he contacted the curator of the Musée (Museum) Bouilhet-Christofle in Paris about the precise dating of some marks and is still waiting for an answer. This Museum was closed in November 2008 and that probably was the reason why this web page was never updated.

The first Gallia products were proposed at the end of the XIX. century by Manufacture de l’Alfénide (Alfenide Foundry, where Alfenide is another trade mark for Alpacca), which had belonged to Christofle since 1888. However, rather than integrating this acquisition, Christofle allowed it to continue trading under its own brand as a separate entity. An experienced French goldsmith, Félix Chéron, was invited to manage the Alfenide factory. Later he was commissioned to create a new line of cheap tin-based silver-plated products. The idea was that such a new enterprise was rather risky for Christofle, who at that time dominated on the French market of luxury silver-plated products, and it was decided to introduce the new product under the name of Alfenide. Therefore, on all newly-produced Gallia items the Alfenide mark for silver-plating, a profile of a goat inside a rhombus in a square box, was used. However, once the production proved to be successful, the Alfenide mark on Gallia objects disappeared and instead the Christofle mark for silver-plating was used.

A mark for silver-plating, taken from the cover of the catalogue,
issued by Manufacture de l'Alfénide in 1891. Interestingly, the
design of this mark for silver-plating was used later by WMF
for the construction of its famous "ostrich" mark.

Gallia is the brand name of the copper-tin alloy, which had been patented by Félix Chéron as early as in 1896. The exact chemical content of this alloy is unknown, but it probably contained also antimony and bismuth. The items made of this alloy could be produced directly by casting and used for the creation of more sophisticated relief or more sculptural forms than those based on Alpacca. Using electroplating, it was possible to cover this alloy with silver; however, the quality of a silver coating put on Gallia was lower than that put on Alpacca (Métal Blanc). Félix Chéron immediately used this newly invented alloy for the production of a small series of highly decorative items, often made by distinguished artists and designers. The main purpose of the Gallia line was to satisfy the market with cheaper products and simultaneously to follow the current art tendencies. It is remarkable that nowadays on the world antiques market these "cheap" silver plate items are sold at 3-10 times higher prices than "luxury" Christofle products of the same period. The production continued for seventy years, though the artistic quality of the Gallia items had declined significantly by 1940.

In 1902, Félix Chéron retired and the position at the head of Alfénide/Gallia was filled by Henri Harleux, an engineer from the Ecole Centrale de Paris. He continued the policy of Gallia brand development. In 1916, under a major reorganization of Christofle, Harleux established a workshop for Gallia production in the Christofle factory at Saint-Denis, north of Paris. This was an independent unit under Harleux's direction, which did not have to report to the Saint-Denis management. This unit survived until 1933, when Gallia totally lost its autonomy inside Christofle.

It should be noted, that the name of Gallia alloy looks similar to the old Latin name of the France province in the Roman Empire (Gallia or Gaulle in French). According to the information found on the Internet, the name GALLIA can mean simply the abbreviation of "GALvanoplastie alLIAge" (electroplating alloy). In any case, the marks for Gallia metal items used in the first twenty five years of production were based on the profile of the famous "coq gaullois" (Gallic cock).
As it is well known, each silver-plated Alpacca-based hollowware Christofle item, produced in 1863-1928, had its own ordinal number, running from 1 up to 3000000. On the contrary, the silver-plated products, based on Gallia metal, had no ordinal number, but instead during 1900-1935 were obligatorily marked by the model number. From the beginning, these model numbers were running from about 4100 until about 6100 (I have in my collection pieces with model numbers from 4113 to 6098). Later, at the end of the twenties a new numeration was started, from about 0100 to at least 0462. So, if you come across a Gallia item with the model number say 1200 or 12000, you can be sure that it is a fake! After 1935, the model number mark was not obligatory any more and soon it disappeared completely.

   Some Gallia items from my collection:
   first row: (left) a creamer, model 4204, made in 1900-1908; (right) a dish, model 4724, made in 1900-1908;
   second row: (left) an Art Nouveau flower vase, model 5740, made in 1916-1921; (right) an Art Deco trophy vase,
   standing on a marble basement, model 5451, made c.1928;
   third row: (left) a fruit-dish, model 5791, made in 1921-1930; (right) a salt cellar, model 5988, made in 1930-1935.

I have in my collection about three dozen of silver-plated Gallia items, I am presenting their marks below. Though some Gallia silver plate marks were described earlier (see the references given below), I am happy to present here a full and systematized description that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been done before.


Marks for items with "GALLIA METAL" inscription (c.1900-1908)
MARK

 
COMMENT

 
1













 
The first Gallia mark (c.1900-1908)




coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside Alfenide mark for silver plating (head of a goat (tête de bouc) in a rhombus)










 
The first Gallia mark consists of three parts:
1) The mark for Gallia base metal which looks like a coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside, the size of the "coat of arms" is 3.4 mm (along the vertical axis of symmetry) by 2.9 mm (along the horizontal axis drawn through the "fat" lower part);
2) The inscription "GALLIA METAL" placed to the left and and to the right of the "coat of arms", sometimes below it. The word GALLIA is given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 8.0 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 6.5-7.0;
3) The Alfenide mark for silver-plating, which is the head of a goat (tête de bouc) in a rhombus, placed in a hatched square, the size of the latter is 2.5 x 2.5 mm. Very rare.
2
























 
The second Gallia mark (c.1900-1908)
















coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside and the inscription below GALLIA METAL Alfenide mark for silver plating (head of a goat (tête de bouc) in a rhombus)








 
The second Gallia mark consists of three parts:
1) The mark for Gallia base metal which looks like a coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside and the inscription below "GALLIA METAL", the size of the "coat of arms" is 4.8 mm (along the vertical axis of symmetry) by 4.3 mm (along the horizontal axis drawn through the "fat" lower part);
2) The Alfenide mark for silver-plating, which is the head of a goat (tête de bouc), in a rhombus placed in a hatched square, the size of the latter is 2.6 x 2.6 mm;
3) The model number which could be any number between 4100 and 6100.
Rare.













 
3






















 
The third Gallia mark (c.1900-1908)
















coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside and the inscription below GALLIA METAL Alfenide mark for silver plating (head of a goat (tête de bouc) in a rhombus)

 

 

 

 

The third Gallia mark is similar to the second one but displays a better-drawn cock profile. The size of the "coat of arms" is 3.5-4.6 mm (along the vertical axis of symmetry) by 3.2-4.3 mm (along the horizontal axis drawn through the "fat" lower part). The size of the mark for silver-plating with the goat head is 2.5 x 2.5 mm.

Note: Sometimes the Gallia metal mark No.3 alone was used to designate the items made from pure Gallia metal (without the goat rhombus).

Very rarely, the Gallia metal mark is combined with the next mark for silver plating (tête de chat, see below). It means that the silver-plating was made much later than the casting.








 

 


 
Marks for the items with "ORFEVRERIE GALLIA" inscription (1908-c.1921)
MARK

 
COMMENT

 
4























 
Gallia mark with 'ORFÈVRERIE GALLIA' inscription (1908-c.1920)
















coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside Alfenide mark for silver plating (head of a goat (tête de bouc) in a rhombus)







 
The difference between this Gallia mark and the previous one (No.3) is the use of the inscription "ORFÈVRERIE GALLIA" (i.e. Gallia silversmith foundry) instead of "GALLIA METAL". The size of the "coat of arms" is 3.5-4.3 mm (along the vertical axis of symmetry) by 3.1-4.1 mm (along the horizontal axis drawn through the "fat" lower part). The size of the mark for silver-plating with a goat head is 2.5 x 2.5 mm. A model number is also present. This mark was used between 1908 and 1921.














 
5
























 
Gallia mark for silver plating, with cat head (tête de chat)- 1908-c.1920
















coat of arms with a Gallic cock inside mark cat head (tête de chat) mark








 
The next modification of the Gallia mark contains a new mark for silver-plating (probably, for use in the Saint-Denis division of Alfenide). Instead of the goat head, a cat head (tête de chat) is used. In addition, inside the new marks there are two capital "C" letters, an abbreviation for Charles Christofle. The size of the "coat of arms" is 3.4 mm (along the vertical axis of symmetry) by 3.0 mm (along the horizontal axis drawn through the "fat" lower part). The size of the mark for silver-plating with a cat head is 2.6 x 2.7 mm. This mark was in use from 1916 until around 1921.















 

 
Marks for the items with "O.GALLIA" inscription (c.1921-1935)
MARK

 
COMMENT

 
6














 
Gallia mark used in c.1921-1930


Gallia mark used in c.1921-1930 with 'O.GALLIA' inscription





cat head (tête de chat) mark





 
The next Gallia mark used in c.1921-c.1930 contains instead of the "coat of arms" with the inscription "ORFÈVRERIE GALLIA" a simple inscription "O.GALLIA". The word GALLIA is given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 3.9-4.3 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 5.1-5.2. The size of the mark for silver-plating with a cat head is now of a smaller size, somewhere between 1.7 x 1.7 mm and 2.0 x 2.0 mm.

Note: Sometimes the Gallia metal mark No.6 alone was used to designate the items made from pure Gallia metal (without the cat head mark).


 
7














 
Gallia mark used in c.1921-c.1930


'O.GALLIA' inscription




Alfenide mark for silver plating





 
The next Gallia mark used in c.1921-c.1930 contains an inscription "O.GALLIA" together with Alfenide mark for silver-plating. This mark was probably used for the remaining part of Gallia production on rue des Marais in Paris. The word GALLIA is given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 3.9-4.3 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 3.9-4.3. The size of the mark for silver-plating with a goat head is now of a smaller size, somewhere between 1.6 x 1.6 mm and 1.7 x 1.7 mm. Rare.





 
8





















 
Gallia mark used in c.1930-1935









'O.GALLIA' inscription




'intermediate' Christofle mark for silver-plating





 
The next Gallia mark used in c.1930-1935 contains an inscription "O.GALLIA" together with "intermediate" Christofle mark for silver-plating, see my last article on ascasonline.org. The word GALLIA is given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 4.3 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 4.4-5.3. The size of the rectangular mark for silver-plating is between 1.4 x 1.6 mm and 1.6 x 1.7 mm while the oval size varies between 1.1 x 1.5 mm and 1.2 x 1.7 mm.














 
9








 
Gallia mark used in c.1930-1935



'O.GALLIA' inscription




 
This Gallia mark, probably issued in c.1930-1935, had no silver-plating indication. The length of the word GALLIA is 4.2 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 4.9. Rare.





 

 
Marks for the items with "GALLIA" and "COLLECTION GALLIA" inscriptions (1935-c.1975)
10






















 
Gallia mark used in 1935-c.1975




'GALLIA' inscription





the 'knight' chess figure in a square box between two letters 'O' and 'C'












 
This mark, issued from 1935, uses for the designation of Gallia base metal a simple inscription "GALLIA". However to indicate the silver-plating, a new mark was introduced, namely, the "knight" chess figure in a square box between two letters "O" and "C" (which is the abbreviation of the two words "ORFÈVRERIE CHRISTOFLE"). Since 1935, all Gallia marks bear this obligatory sign. Hence the disappearance of the "O" letter before the word "GALLIA" (cf. "O.GALLIA" inscription in marks No.6-9) is clear: from now on there is only one silversmith foundry. The word GALLIA is given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 4.6 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 5.3. The size of the mark for silver plating with a "knight" chess figure is about 1.6 x 1.9 mm.

Note: Sometimes this new Christofle mark for silver-plating (with a "knight" chess figure) is combined with the older "O.GALLIA" inscription (marks Nos.6-9) or even with the "coat of arms" bearing the cock image and the "ORFÈVRERIE GALLIA" inscription. All these cases refer to late silver-plating compared to the casting of the items. Such marks are very rare.
11



































 
Gallia mark used in 1935-c.1975

















'GALLIA' inscription with Gallic cock










the 'knight' chess figure in a square box between two letters 'O' and 'C'








 
This Gallia mark again returns to a Gallic cock image given together with separate inscription "GALLIA". The word GALLIA is given in "sans serif" font. The size of a rectangle with a cock profile is 1.7 x 2.5 mm. The length of the word GALLIA is 4.9 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 4.4-5.1. Again, as in mark No.9, a mark with a "knight" chess figure between two letters "O" and "C" in a square box is used to indicate the silver-plating. The size of the mark for silver plating with a "knight" chess figure is between 1.8 x 1.8 mm and 1.9 x 2.0 mm.





























 
12






















































 
Gallia mark used in 1935-c.1975


























'GALLIA' inscription with Gallic cock










'FRANCE' inscription




the 'knight' chess figure in a square box between two letters 'O' and 'C'








'PROD.CHRISTOFLE' inscription





 
Contrary to mark No.11, the box for a cock image is joined to the box for the GALLIA inscription (no boundary!) and the word GALLIA is given in "serif" font. All other inscriptions: "FRANCE" and "PROD. CHRISTOFLE" (which means Production Christofle in both France and English) are given in "sans serif" font. The size of a rectangle with the cock profile is 1.8 x 2.0 mm. The length of the word GALLIA inside this inscription is 4.9 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 5.2. Again, as in previous marks Nos.10-11, a mark with a "knight" chess figure between two letters "O" and "C" in a square box is used to indicate the silver-plating. The size of the mark for silver-plating with a "knight" chess figure is 2.1 x 2.1 mm.















































 
13























 
'GALLIA' inscription






FRANCE' inscription




the 'knight' chess figure in a square box between two letters 'O' and 'C'


the number '5'





'PROD.CHRISTOFLE' inscription
A version of the previous mark without the cock image. The word GALLIA is given in "serif" font. All other inscriptions: "FRANCE" and "PROD. CHRISTOFLE" (which means Production Christofle in both France and English) are given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 4.5-4.8 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 5.0-5.7.
The size of the mark for silver-plating with a "knight" chess figure is around 2.0 x 2.2 mm. Sometimes the designation of the silver content (the amount of silver used for plating in grams, the so-called marque de grammage, given in square box/boxes) is used.

Note: Some pieces, issued in Italy, bear the inscription "ITALY" instead of "FRANCE".











 
14










































 
Gallia mark used in 1935-c.1975





















CHRISTOFLE FRANCE inscription







the 'knight' chess figure in a square box between two letters 'O' and 'C'








'COLLECTION GALLIA' inscription
The next Gallia mark uses the inscription "COLLECTION GALLIA", given in "sans serif" font, while the words "CHRISTOFLE" and "FRANCE" are given in "serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 4.4 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 4.4. The size of the mark for silver-plating with a "knight" chess figure is 2.2 x 2.2 mm.











































 
15










































 
Gallia mark used in 1935-c.1975






















CHRISTOFLE FRANCE inscription







the 'knight' chess figure in a square box between two letters 'O' and 'C'









'COLLECTION GALLIA' inscription
Contrary to the previous Gallia mark, the mark No.15 uses the inscription "COLL. GALLIA" (which means Collection Gallia), given in "serif" font and the words "CHRISTOFLE" and "FRANCE", given in "sans serif" font. The length of the word GALLIA is 2.7 mm, the ratio of the length of GALLIA word to its height is 4.3. The size of the mark for silver-plating with a "knight" chess figure is 2.2 x 2.2 mm.









































 
I am indebted to Professor Marc de Ferrière le Vayer for giving me the opportunity to study his unpublished paper on the Gallia brand history and for numerous discussions that followed. I also would like to thank Giorgio Busetto for his continuous cooperation and Jayne Dye for her careful reading of my manuscript.
LITERATURE
1. Tarif Général, Manufacture de L'Alfénide, F. Chéron & Cie, Paris, 1891. [In French].
2. Tarif Special Orfévrerie Argentée & Dorée en "Gallia Metal" Etain Durci, Marque & Modéles Déposés, Manufacture de L'Alfénide, 66, rue des Marais, Paris, 1900, pp.1-24. [In French].
3. Orfèvrerie Gallia, Manufacture de L'Alfénide, 66, rue des Marais, Paris, circa 1910, pp.1-62. [In French].
4. Orfévrerie Gallia, Catalogue Général, 1929, pp.1-79. [In French]
5. Marc de Ferrière, Christofle: 150 ans d'Art et de Rève. Dossier de l'Art, No.2, pp.3-73 (1991), [in French].
6. Marc de Ferrière le Vayer, Histoire de L’Orfévrerie Gallia. [In French]
7. Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Makers' Marks, http://www.925-1000.com/a_christofle.html
8. David N. Nikogosyan, An unknown mark for silver-plated hollow ware used by Christofle in 1930-1935, http://www.ascasonline.org/articologiugni130.html
Prof. David N. Nikogosyan,
University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
- 2010 -