Members' Window # 54  
by Robert Massart
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- Birmingham 1896 -

In this page is illustrated a Victorian solid silver hip/spirit flask assayed in Birmingham in 1896. The maker silversmith is Berkeley William Fase & Co (note 1), operating at 50, Oxford Street, London. It's a flawless solid silver container of excellent workmanship, beautifully polished and virtually scratch free, properly outlined to match the curve of the wearerís hip or thigh (note 2).

This heavy gauge silver flask bears a rare slide-off fully gilt-lined silver drinking cup in excellent condition. The open/shut system of the flask is activated by turning 180į the bayonet hinged lid and a cork seal on its inside prevents liquid's leaking.

This hip flask measures 132 mm (with the lid) by 72 mm, is 24 mm deep and weighs 186 grams. It has a fine traditional shape with a fully gilt-lined mouthpiece and a lovely smooth finish.
The front is nicely engraved with the initials of a former owner (twined together "gothic" letters JM)

This object is a good example of the Arts & Crafts style. The name and address of the manufacturing silversmith "B.W. Fase & Co. London 50 Oxford St." is stamped in full on the base of the cup.
The hip flask carries clear English silver hallmarks for Birmingham 1896, with the "anchor" (Birmingham assay office -horizontal for pre-1900-), "lion passant" (sterling silver), date letter "w" (year 1896) and "B.W.F & Co in a cartouche" (sponsor's mark of B.W. Fase & Co)(note 3). It is hallmarked on the front of the flask, on the front of the cup and on the neck. The hallmarks on the cup are slightly rubbed, due to over-polishing, but still quite readable and guarantee that this is the original cup for the flask.

The overall condition is excellent, without splits, repairs and leaks. Nasty knocks or dents are absent. This is an exceptional and fortunate circumstance as 19th century solid silver flasks are often dented or damaged. Only some light scratch line is present where the cup pushes onto the bottom of the flask.
The gilt-lining around the mouthpiece and inside the cup is still intact and of great effect.

(1) Berkeley William Fase was the successor to Robert Lewis, silversmith and jeweller at 22 Oxford Street, London. Robert Lewis took Berkeley William Fase as a partner, although the business continued to trade under the style of Robert Lewis both then and after the dissolution of their partnership on 17th December 1841. Fase took control of the business at 22, Oxford Street and gave it his name in the 1850ís. He is listed there in 1867 as a jeweller and silversmith. The firm later moved to 50, Oxford Street, London, where Berkeley William Fase & Co is listed until after 1916.
(2) The hip flask began to appear in the form recognised today in the 18th century and was initially used by members of the gentry. Antique hip flasks, particularly those made of silver, are now sought-after collectorís items. Nice to know is the fact that the Royal Air Force used "hip flask" during the World War 2 as a code name for a revolver.
(3) Mark entered in Birmingham in 1896. Two similar marks, but not identical, were registered on 3 February 1879 at the London assay office 
Robert Massart
- 2008 -