ASCAS Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
Members' Window # 86  
by Joanne and Emmett Eldred
(click on photos to enlarge image)


The following is the second in a series of papers, which discuss several of the criteria we use in evaluating pieces we collect. These discussions will highlight our approach when considering form, originality of teapot and stand combinations, engraving, hallmarks, condition, and crests & coats-of-arms. In most cases we have used pictures from our modest but growing collection to illustrate what is being described.

As is the case with collecting almost anything, the initial learning curve can be quite steep. Being fairly new to the subject it certainly applied to us. Our initial screen involved only two basic areas; form and hallmarks. Our assessment of form was subjective and based solely on our personal tastes at the time. Of course having seen only a few examples we did not have a broad reference base and therefore were unaware of the variety of designs produced during the later part of the 18th century. Our second screen was centered on hallmarks. As noted earlier, one advantage in collecting English silver is its hallmarking system. Fortunately we were able to locate several excellent Websites for researching hallmarks, especially maker's marks. Looking back on things we were very lucky with the majority of our early purchases. We could have made some costly mistakes because we did not realize that several other key factors, such as crispness of the engraving, absence of repairs, surface patina, presence of an identifiable coat-of-arms or crest, etc., significantly contributed to the desirability and therefore the value of a set.

Over time we became more knowledgeable and ultimately developed a pretty rigorous set of criteria for evaluating pieces we were interested in purchasing. Our approach currently involves a number of assessments (form, originality, engraving, hallmarks, condition, crest), which we will describe over a series of articles.


We try to only collect teapots with their "original" stands so originality of the combination is a key factor for us. The question of whether a teapot and stand were originally made as a pair or mated later is probably the most difficult of our assessments. At first blush, it would seem this determination should be fairly straightforward and dependent on answering two basic questions; "do the hallmarks match?" and "do the engravings match?" However, after examining and studying numerous examples one realizes this simplistic approach is likely too restrictive. The real question should probably be "were the teapot and stand paired contemporaneously or were they paired at a significantly later date."

Since it is only recently that the value of these sets has warranted their "marrying" for financial gain, it is usually fairly easy to identify sets that were brought together during the mid 1800s and most of the early 1900s. This is because there was little incentive to deceive, since the primary goal for marrying the two was merely to create an attractive pair. As explored more fully later, there are a number of apparently original sets that are date stamped a year apart. This seems especially common for Hester Bateman, but also appears to be the case for sets by many of the other makers of the period.

This is where subjectively becomes a factor, for example: "were the teapot and stand made around the time of the date hallmark turnover (around May-June in London)?"; or "did owners decided a year or so after purchasing a teapot that they wanted a matching stand and went back to the same or a different shop and had one crafted?" ; or "was stand lost, stolen, or badly damaged and a replacement crafted by the same or different shop?", or "were there budgetary considerations so that owners purchased a plain (no engraving) teapot first and then later the matching stand and then even later had them both engraved?" The list of possible scenarios could go on but in the end, it becomes an individual's personal decision.

After careful consideration we have decided that, as in archeology, it is the sum of all the data that is important for our ultimate determination. As such, we are comfortable with stands that are date marked a year after the teapot (especially if all other criteria for original pairing check out). In some unique cases the stand might even postdate the teapot by two letters (which could possibly indicate slightly over one year difference in manufacture) or the stand might predate the teapot by one letter. However in both of these cases it takes a lot of very solid evidence that the intent on the part of the silversmith and/or the purchaser was that they were meant to be a pair. Even though, in some cases, two different silversmiths might have participated in creating a matched set for an owner, we purposely exclude these examples, since there is no way of knowing whether the two craftsmen collaborated in the creation of the final statement.

The two examples pictured below are interesting study examples. We consider both sets to be original even though the teapots and stands are date coded one letter apart. We plan to offer a detailed discussion of how we reached that conclusion in a future post.
 Peter and Anne Bateman 1798
Robert Hennell 1789 and 1788
 Peter and Anne Bateman 1798
  Hester Bateman 1788 and 1789
Joanne and Emmett Eldred
- 2011 -