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by Robert Massart  
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An Elegant Article for the Table Setting


To spice the taste of our meals, using a pepper pot, is an everyday custom for all of us. Actually pepper casters or dispensers of pre-ground pepper are manufactured in all kinds of materials and shapes; even silver pepper pots or crystal pepper pots topped with a silver lid are still in use in households for special occasions. In past centuries only nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie used silver objects to beautify their table setting and impress their guests.
It is known that ground pepper loses flavour and aroma quite quickly through evaporation or when exposed to light. Hence the application of a pepper pot to preserve pepper’s original spiciness during a longer time.

A pot or shaker for pre-ground pepper, invented in the 19th century, is a container with several small holes in the top. By shaking the pepper pot an appreciable amount of pepper is released to dispense it onto food.
The screw-top pepper shaker was invented by John Landis Mason, a citizen of New York, U.S.A., and patented on November 30th 1858.
Handheld pepper mills, crushing whole pepper corns, are also used to preserve pepper’s aromatics for a longer time.

Over the years rare and decorative pepper pots became a collector’s item. A look at some examples of silver pepper pots once more confirms the imagination and craftsmanship of silversmiths who designed and created different shapes of these utensils.

Silver Pepper Pot - London 1896

Victorian, octagonal, solid sterling silver pepper pot or pepper caster in the ‘Arts & Crafts’ style, made in London, England in 1896 by the silversmith Charles Boyton II at his Upper Charles Street workshops.
Both the body and the pierced lid are fully hallmarked for London 1896 and carry the maker’s mark of the silversmith. The push on lid has a spiral pointed finial and still fits tightly on the body. The pedestal pepper caster is gilded inside and is not engraved with initials or a crest.
It stands 85 mm high from base to finial, measures 35 mm at the widest point of the waist and weighs 31 grams.
Hallmarks: lion passant for sterling silver, leopard’s head for London and date letter ‘a’ for 1896.
The sponsor’s mark ‘CB in 2 conjoining circles’ (mark entered in 1855) stands for Charles Boyton (note 1).

Solid Silver Pepper Pot - Birmingham 1898

Small solid sterling silver pepper pot with well fitting cobalt blue glass liner made in Birmingham in 1898 by the Victorian silversmiths Edward John Haseler & Noble Haseler at their Branston Street workshops.
It has a lovely geometric pierced design around it. Both body and finial of the pepper pot are hallmarked and carry the sponsor’s mark ‘EJH over NH in a shield’ (entered August 1888 in Birmingham and June 1895 in Chester), for Edward John Haseler & Noble Haseler, also known as Haseler Brothers (note 2).
The pierced finial fits still tightly on the body.
Hallmarked with lion passant for sterling silver, anchor for Birmingham and date letter ‘y’ for 1898.
The pepper pot measures 50 mm height, with a diameter of 25 mm and weighs 18 grams (46 grams with liner).

Solid Silver Pepper Shaker - Sheffield 1905

Edwardian pierced solid silver pepper shaker with the original cobalt blue glass liner made in 1905 in the firm of manufacturing silversmiths and platers Atkin Brothers (note 3) at their Truro Works, Matilda Street, Sheffield.
The cylindrical body is pierced with a geometric design revealing the original cobalt blue glass liner and the pierced push-on finial still fits tightly on the body.
The pepper pot is fully and clearly hallmarked on the bottom and on top of the push-on finial with a crown denoting the Sheffield assay office, lion passant for standard sterling silver, date letter 'n' for the year 1905 and the sponsor’s mark ‘HA in a rectangle with cut corners’ (entered in 1853) standing for the silversmith Henry Atkin of Atkin Brothers. The push-on lid is marked on the side with figure '8' and the side of the pepper pot is marked with figure '6'.
The pepper shaker measures 49 mm high by a diameter of 22 mm and weighs 33 grams in total.

Solid Silver Pepper Pot Shaker - Birmingham 1907

Large Edwardian solid silver pepper pot made in Birmingham 1907 by the silversmith Edward Souter Barnsley at his Frederick Street workshops. It has plain smooth sides and a decorative rope twist rim, a pierced well fitting top finial and is fully hallmarked on the front and on the rim of the top finial for sterling silver, Birmingham 1907.
The pepper pot is supported by four pad feet.
Hallmarks: lion passant for sterling silver, anchor for Birmingham, date letter ‘h’ for 1907.
The bottom bears the number of the patent RE297548, released for this model by the UK Patent Office in 1897, as well as a journeyman’s mark ‘x’.
The sponsor’s mark ‘E.S.B in a rectangle with rounded corners’ stands for E. S. Barnsley & Co Ltd - Edward Souter Barnsley (mark entered at Birmingham Assay office on November 1887 and September 1908).
The pepper pot stands 100 mm heigh and weighs 60 grams

Solid Silver Pepper Pot - Birmingham 1919

Small George V solid silver lozenge shaped pepper pot shaker made in Birmingham 1919 by the silversmiths E.S Barnsley & Co Ltd (Edward Souter Barnsley) in their Frederick Street workshops.
It has plain, smooth sides, a decorative rope twist rim and a pierced, well fitting top finial and is supported by four pad feet. It measures 80 mm high and weighs 32 grams.
Hallmarked with lion passant for sterling silver, anchor for Birmingham, date letter ‘u’ for 1919.
The maker’s mark ‘E.S.B in a rectangle with rounded corners’ stands for E.S Barnsley & Co Ltd (mark entered at Birmingham Assay Office on September 1908).

Sterling Silver Pepper Pot - Origin Unknown (possibly India)

Sterling silver pepper caster, which is part of a boxed cruet set including a mustard pot and a salt cellar. The pepper caster, supported by three pad feet, is richly decorated with repousse work, representing colonial scenes such as an elephant, a tree and flowers.
The lid has a gadrooned border and a chalice like top finial.
The pepper pot is hallmarked ‘sterling silver’. There is no maker’s mark present.
The pepper pot is 73 mm high and has a diameter of 30 mm. It weighs 30 grams.

Silver Pepper Caster - U.S.A.

Pedestal silver pepper caster manufactured by Gorham. It has a plain smooth body and a decorative rope twist rim. The screw-top pepper pot is pierced with fancy holes and has a pointed finial.
The bottom bears the marks ‘Sterling 835’ and the sponsor’s mark ‘Gorham’.
The pepper pot stands 110 mm high, has a diameter of 40 mm at the widest point of the waist and weighs 36 grams.

Silvered Handheld Pepper Mill - Italy c1950

Silvered handheld pepper mill of modern design, made in Italy. It has a plain smooth body with two separating rings as only decoration. The reeded top finial screws onto the internal rod to grip firmly the complete stainless steel milling mechanism.
The bottom plate is marked ‘Garantito’ followed by a lozenge with a faded mark inside and followed by ‘Acciaio’(steel). The bottom plate holder is marked ‘Made Italy’.
The pepper mill stands 170 mm high, has a diameter of 51 mm and weighs 239 grams.
Bought in 1950 in Antwerp, Belgium in a shop selling modern silverware.

Silver & Crystal Pepper Pot - France 1972

Small crystal pepper pot with solid sterling silver gadrooned and screwed top lid made by Cardeilhac (note 4)/Christofle (note 5) France. It is part of a boxed set of four pepper pots.
The lid is hallmarked on top with ‘OC’ standing for the master silversmith Cardeilhac and ‘925’ for the silver fineness of 925/1000. The crystal body is signed on the bottom ‘Orfèvrerie Christofle’.
The pepper pot is 41 mm high, has a diameter of 27 mm at the widest point of the body and weighs in total 18 grams.
Bought in a shop in Paris, France in 1972

1    Charles Boyton is particularly well known in the world of English silver for his highly sought after Art Deco pieces. It is far less well known that his great grandfather founded the company in 1825 and the two intervening Charles Boyton’s continued the family business producing a lot of silver flatware and it was in the time of the famous one that the company went bust. The name of the firm changed in 1904 to Charles Boyton & Son (the son being the famous one). The company collapsed in the early 1930s although the firms’ name of Charles Boyton & Son continued to be used until 1977. The workshop producing beautifully designed Art Deco silver throughout the thirties was known as C. Boyton & Son Ltd. Charles Boyton & Son continued to be used until 1977.

2    The Haseler Brothers opened in 1897 a London office at Hatton Garden. In 1906 they amalgamated with J. Thomason & Nephews (John Thomason) under the style of Thomason & Haseler Brothers Ltd.

3    Henry Atkin's silversmithing business was established at Truro Works in Sheffield. Atkin registered his first silver mark 'HA' at Sheffield Assay Office in 1841. He produced blades, handles and forks. Upon Henry Atkin’s death in 1853, the brothers Harry Wrigth Atkin, Edward Thomas Atkin and Frank Shaw Atkin took over the business trading under the style of Atkin Brothers. The company expanded its output to include a large range of flatware, holloware and some cutlery. The firm was known for producing goods of an exceptional quality. In 1958 the flatware business was sold to C J Vander of London and the holloware business to Adie Brothers of Birmingham.

4    Master silversmith Cardeilhac (4 rue du Roule, Paris) was a prestigious silversmith of the 19th century during the reign of Napoleon III chosen as his silversmith. Some of Cardeilhac’s pieces are exhibited in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

5    Charles Christofle, born in 1805 in a family of small industrials, was apprentice at the age of fifteen at the jewellery of his brother-in-law in Paris. Very soon he was able to expand the family business and founded the company in 1830.
In 1839 he runs a company with more than fifty employees. In 1842 he turns towards the innovative technology which will make his fortune: electrolytic gilding and silvering.
A new ruling class, the bourgeoisie, emerges at the beginning of the industrial period and rapidly adopts the new type of silverware which is notably less expensive.
Soon after Charles received orders for tableware from Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III the Christofle company obtains the title of kings’ silversmith and later purveyor to the emperor.
At his death in 1863 Charles’ nephew, Henri Bouilhet, chemical engineer and a talented artist, expands the production possibilities. He equips the Christofle company with a complete industrial complex, controlling all production phases.
The plant of Saint Denis, located near the canal and built in 1876, to process ore from New Caledonia, became in 1878 the most modern factory of flatware at that time.
The first world war and thereafter the economical crisis of 1929 resulted in a real difficult period in Christofle’s history. The factories of Karlsruhe, Buenos Aires and Milan were closed. Tony Bouilhet decides to regroup all industrial activities at the factory of Saint-Denis.
After the second world war Christofle rediscovers his prosperity. Several divisions are started in Argentina, Brasil, Italy, Germany and the United States. Christofle subsidiaries are everywhere in the world. The symbol of this growth is the building of a plant in Normandy to manufacture flatware. The production possibilities of this factory make it the most performant one in the area of luxury tableware. Since 1993 the company diversifies. All artistic table articles are actually explored: glass, crystal, porcelain and table linen.
A museum located at Saint-Denis, France, shows 150 years of creations by Christofle; in total more than 2000 pieces.
Robert Massart
- 2009 -