ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver



Article # 231 by David McKinley
(click on photos to enlarge image)


Fiddle pattern table spoon made by Robert Rutland
Fiddle pattern table spoon made by Robert Rutland

There is nothing remarkable about this spoon, as a spoon! It is a straightforward fiddle pattern table spoon made by Robert Rutland in London and assayed in 1822/3. What is mysterious about this spoon is the way in which it has been marked at Goldsmiths' Hall.
Marking of spoons by this date was done mechanically by means of a fly press, a method of marking which not only made the process much quicker than by the old hand punching method but made sure that the marks would always appear even and in the same order.
On this spoon the marks have been struck twice and it is interesting to speculate on why this might have been. Duplicated marking was very rare and certainly not part of accepted practice so that I have found no references to it in the records at Goldsmiths' Hall in London. For this reason we shall never know beyond doubt why it was done but one can speculate on a possible reason.

spoon in which the marks have been struck twice by London Assay Office
Spoon in which the marks have been struck twice by London Assay Office

Examination of these marks with the aid of a magnifying glass shows that those on the right were struck first since those on the left impinge on them to the extent that they have pushed the cartouches surrounding the individual marks out of shape. Further examination reveals that each mark in the right hand set is smooth and devoid of detail whereas those on the left are pristine.
The detail on the duty mark is particularly clear. This suggests that the first set of marks was on a worn stub (multiple punch) and that the Touch Warden decided to replace this stub with a new one. One can only speculate on why he used both stubs on the same spoon. Did he just forget that the spoon was still in the machine after deciding to replace the stub or did he make the unilateral decision that the marks in the first set were just not good enough and applied the second set purposely?
Whatever the true reason for this aberration it is very rare indeed and therefore sought after by collectors of rare and unusual marks. I have also illustrated here the marks on a tea spoon of 1817 which has been treated in the same way. These marks too show that one set is worn whereas the second set was obviously produced from a new stub. The dates of these two spoons are fairly close together so that it may well have been the same Touch Warden involved in both cases. Perhaps this aberration is peculiar to him!

An 1817 spoon in which the marks have been struck twice by London Assay Office
An 1817 spoon in which the marks have been struck twice by London Assay Office

I am indebted to The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths for allowing me the privilege of examining their records.

David McKinley
- 2018 -

David McKinley devotes much of his time to researching the history of silversmithing in England with particular reference to hallmarking at the London office. He writes for both The Silver Spoon Club of Great Britain and The Silver Society.

David McKinley is the author of the book THE FIRST HUGUENOT SILVERSMITHS OF LONDON
Information about the content of this book and the discounted price applied to members of ASCAS is available in September 2011 Newsletter