ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver



Article # 237 by Katherine Palthey
(click on images to enlarge)

(PART 2)

Enameling techniques have been around since 2000 BC and perhaps even earlier. The technique "cloisonné" is when strips of silver or gold are attached to the metal base to form a network of small raised cells like compartments into which the enamel is poured. The final thickness is built up into layers with several firings to keep the colors separated and the enamel translucent enough. The silversmith then grinds the top level to smooth out the piece and finishes by polishing the object to bring out all the different colors (see PART 1 for the history and difference in enameling methods). Enameling was first applied on gold, then silver, copper, bronze and more recently on steel and iron. Here I offer you two examples of Cloisonné: a silver tribal necklace and a pair of silver open salt cellars by the famous Russian silversmith Gustav Klingert.

Example 1: Antique silver cloisonné necklace

Silver enamel Cloisonné necklace

This antique silver necklace is composed of 10 small cloisonné egg beads finished with a larger bead pendant inlaid with a coral tip. The different beads are cloisonné with blue, green and yellow enamel in alternate patterns. This is typically berber or tribal style and was often presented for a special occasion such as a marriage. In this case, the enamel was fired together and the coral cabochon was added after the firing as it is a natural material and very fragile. Silver pieces like these are all handmade with rudimentary materials, and each bead is slightly different.

Close ups of cloisonné enamel necklace

Entirely created in silver, each bead is individually hallmarked on one end of the loop with two punches. In addition, on the backside we can note a countermark which resembles the French beak-iron countermark. At first glance, these seem like French hallmarks: a lozenge shape for a maker's mark and perhaps the bulldog head hallmark for 800 silver small guarantee in the French regions. This is confusing, because although this necklace is old- I don't believe it dates as far back as to 1830's. Also, the position of the hallmarks on the loops doesn't correspond to any French marking rules. For example, this necklace measures 63 cm and according to French rules the hallmarks should be placed at 9:00 and 12:00 respectively on the hook (when looking at a clock). On this necklace, the hallmarks were punched at the tip between 11:00 and 1:00.

After closer examination, I believe it may be more complicated than this. There are several countries like Algeria and the Netherlands that used the same hallmarking systems as France during specific times. Algeria, for example, has used the French hallmarks since 1859. In 1967 the French Mint engraved and provided the Algerian Government with a series of dies and beak-iron counter dies to better control the quality of silvers. The problem that remained was that the Algerian Government kept on using older hallmark dies at the same time: which leads to confusion and improper identification both for the silver and for the country in which it has been made in.

I believe this necklace may finally be of Algerian origin, as each hallmark in Photo 4 also resembles the Algerian hallmark system. The first hallmark on the left in Photo 4 corresponds to the bulldogs head in Tardy, page 30, used in Algeria since 1859 for small silvers. The second hallmark on the right in the photo of necklace hallmarks resembles the leaves hallmark in Tardy, page 31 - which is part of the Algerian Governments new hallmarking system since 1967. This hallmark of leaves is used on Algerian silver for small guarantees.

Necklace hallmarks: bulldogs head and leaves on tip of bead hooks

(Tardy, page 30). Bulldogs head hallmark: Algerian and French smalls.

(Tardy, page 31). Hallmark Algeria small guarantee since 1967.

When examining the counter mark in the photo below we do see a type of beak-iron which is used for authenticating French silvers and is usually a good sign of proper hallmarking. In this case, I am less certain: although this necklace DOES test for 800 silver, I am not sure what the beak-iron corresponds to. In France they have been in use since 1838 and are placed on the opposite side of the hallmark to avoid fraud. Beak-irons are various insects that are engraved in relief either in bands or other patterns. In France, these beak-irons are shown in profile for Paris and shown as viewed from above for the Regions. Regarding this silver necklace, I can just note that the beak-iron hallmark in the photo below resembles the Staphilin hallmark on the design taken from Ducharne's, for small beak-irons in the regions. I cannot confirm this beak-iron countermark. Perhaps this necklace was previously hallmarked with the bulldogs head then after 1967 the Algerian Government added the leaves hallmark along with the counter beak-iron hallmark. According to Tardy's International hallmark book page 29: Algerian pieces have "many forged hallmarks and much grafting". Any information would be welcome.

Hallmark: Beak-iron Counter mark.

Beak-iron Counter mark: Staphilin
(This design taken from Ducharne's figure 47, Number 16).

Example 2: Antique Cloisonné silver salt cellars

This pair of silver salt cellars in the photo below was created using the enamel cloisonné technique as well. However, the origin of these salts is from Russia, and I felt the contrast in cloisonné techniques would be interesting to share. Russian silver design often followed the French trends, but by the 1880's, Russian silversmiths became extremely popular for their unique style of cloisonné enameling. These silver salts show just how perfect this technique became under Gustav Klingert. Klingert worked with Fabergé before starting his own company and created lovely cloisonné enameled pieces such as these which became his specialty.

Silver cloisonné salt cellars, Klingert 1893.

These salts are fully hallmarked for Gustav Klingert during the Imperial Period in 1893 and are silver gilt (vermeil) inside the cellars. They are three footed bowls and were originally made with matching spoons with the same cloisonné designs and blue and white colors. In the detail below we see how each of the rounded cellars was carefully designed using connecting dot cloisonné cells along the top border. The blue base has filigree scrolled silver wire of which is all soldered to the rounded cellars. The circles on the border were individually filled with white enamel and the scroll base filled with blue enamel and the pieces were then kiln fired. Once fired, these were finely polished to bring out all the detailed scrollwork and beautiful colors.

Close-up of vermeil silver inside bowls.

Close-up of white cloisonné border and silver beaded wire design.

Hallmarks on silver Russian salt cellars: KLINGERT, 84, Eagles heads, AC, 1893.

These silver salts are hallmarked "84, Eagles heads, AC, and 1893": for Russian fineness of 84 Zolotnik (.875) which is the most commonly used fineness; the two headed eagle for Moscow and the AC for the Assayer Master Aleksandr Smirnov. Also we note another hallmark above in large capital letters: "KLINGERT" for Gustav Klingert. Mr. Klingert who used to work for Fabergé started his own silversmith business in 1866 in Moscow and specialized in this type of cloisonné enamel work. Klingert was considered one of the best enamel artists in the capital of Moscow, and his company filled many orders for Fabergé. He had 200 workers and 45 teenagers in his factory. He participated in several exhibitions including Paris in 1889. In 1893, Klingert was named the most important exhibitor at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago by the jury. He had 4 sons and grandsons who worked closely with him, and his business flourished until about 1920.

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Katherine Palthey
- 2018 -