Irish Silver Maker’s Marks
Photographs of Irish silver maker’s marks, first letter from M to Z, including some biographical background to each silversmith where possible, in alphabetical order.
Another member of the famous Walker family, Matthew Walker had a very long career, and was an excellent silversmith. He was a Freeman from 1716 until 1760, and was elected Warden of the Company of Goldsmiths from 1721-4, and served a term as master warden in 1724-5. In 1737 he was elected to the Common Council of the City of Dublin.
His work is scarce, but generally of very high quality. His mark was a very distinctive MW intertwined. (Although it is a slightly rubbed mark, the intertwining is clearly visible. If I come across a clearer example I will replace this!)
Fitzgerald worked from 1760 until 1817.
Maurice Fitzgerald’s maker’s mark was MFG, with the vertical bar of the F being formed from the M. (another version is also known where the three letters are formed separately.)
Michael Homer was a silversmith working in Dublin in the second half of the 18th century. His mark was a block capital MH, seen below, taken from a spoon from 1778. Interestingly, you can see that he stamped the spoon twice, and there is a slight ghosting of the first strike around the mark.
Patrick Loughlin worked in Dublin in the 19th century, from 1835-44. He had a workshop on Ship Street, at the side of Dublin Castle, a common area for silversmiths to base themselves.
His maker’s mark was PL, in block capitals, in a rectangular outline. It is seen below, taken from a large table centrepiece, almost 27 inches high.
Robert Breading, who had a long career, from 1775 to 1822. He worked on Ship Street, just around the corner from Dublin Castle, where many silversmiths worked. His mark is RB. It is seen here on a teapot, date 1805.
He was a very talented silversmith, as can be sen in this example, a sauce tureen from 1788. In this example, there is a dot between the R and the B
The hallmarks on this piece are near the handle, as is typical for this type of item
Calderwood was active in the middle of the 18th century, roughly from the 1727 until his death in 1766. He worked in Castle Street, at the back of Dublin Castle, in the centre of Dublin. He served time as both a Warden and Master of the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin, and trained several apprentices.
It is thought possible that he worked for a time in London, as his work is slightly different to many other Irish silversmiths working at that time.
He also accupied Pew Number 75 in St. Werburgh’s Church, the church which stood around the corner from Goldsmith’s Hall.
His maker’s mark was the letters RC with a small device between the letters. The shape of the mark was usually slighly scalloped on either the bottom or both the top and bottom of the mark. In the example pictured, it is shaped on both the top and bottom of the mark.
Unusually, in this example, the harp crowned was stamped upside down!
Calderwood’s work was generally of superb quality, and is among the finest Irish silver one will see.
Samuel Neville was a silversmith working from the time of George III all the way up until his death in 1851. He had a few different workshops over the course of his career, including at Hoey’s Court, Ship Street and Stafford Street.
He was a specialist in flatware, and the example of his maker’s mark, SN, is taken from a meat skewer, Dublin 1810.
Samuel Walker was one of a famous family of silversmiths from Dublin. He had a long career, working from the late 1720s as an apprentice to John Taylor, until his death in 1769.
His father, Joseph Walker, was a wonderful silversmith, and other members of the family known to have worked in the trade are James (possibly an uncle), Thomas and Matthew (siblings?)
His mark was an SW in block letters, very easy to recognise!
It is seen here on a sauceboat from late in his career, circa 1765. You can also see wonderful, clear Hibernia and Harp crowned marks in this photo. :
Sharman D Neill of Belfast
Sharman D Neill was one of the finest silversmiths of the late 1800s, and one of the few Irish silversmiths who produced Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movement pieces. From his workshop on Donegall place, he produced items of outstanding quality; he excelled at items of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts styles. In 1885 he was appointed Jeweller to HRH the Prince of Wales, an honour that reflects his talents.
His mark was SDN in a shamrock shape, though another mark, SD Neill incuse, was used as his retailer’s mark. They are seen below.
Tom Jones was a silversmith working in Dublin in the late 18th century; his workshop was on Castle Street. He became freeman in 1774, and was master warden of the company of goldsmiths in 1791.
His mark was a TJ, seen below from a silver salver.
Thomas Sutton was a famous silversmith from the first part of the 18th century.He worked from 1717 until 1744.
He was apprenticed to Thomas Bolton, one of the most famous Irish silversmiths of all time, who is immortalised in Bolton Street. His brother, William Sutton, was also a silversmith of note, and was active at the same time.
His mark was TS with a crown over it, seen below, taken from a silver mug made in 1728.
Another interesting feature on this mug is a scratch weight. As the fee for assaying depended on the weight of the object, this was often scratched into the base. In this case, this mug weighed seven ounces and fourteen pennyweight. Over a period of hundreds of years, sometimes a piece lose a little bit of weight (through repeated polishing, for example), and can weigh a little bit less than this. However, it should never weigh more!
Dublin silversmith William Cummins, who worked from 1813 to 1846, worked prolifically, and was an expert maker of flatware. His name was sometimes spelled “Comyns”.
His mark was a plain WC in a square outline, as seen below, from a soup ladle from 1827.
This is the mark of a rare silversmith, William Duggan of Dublin. His name was sometimes spelled “Dugan”
Little is known of him, other than that he worked from about 1723. His mark was a WD, in script, in a plain surround. In this example, it is on the base of a silver brandy warmer, dating from about 1745. It has a scratch weight of 11=15.
William Homer worked from 1754 until his death in 1773. His mark is a WH in italics, in a plain surround, though a variation with a four leafed surround is also known. It is seen below, taken from a small salver, circa 1770
Here is the mark of a wonderful silversmith, William Nowlan of Dublin, active from 1811 until 1835. He worked on Whitefriar Street. His mark is WN in a rectangular outline. It is seen here on a coffee pot from 1829.
William Williamson of Dublin was part of a silversmithing family whose work spanned the 18th century. His father, William Williamson I worked during the reign of George I. His son, William II, the subject of this post, probably worked with his father on Cole Alley, and then at Castle Street. He was a freeman of Dublin in 1740. He served as assay master from 1754 until 1770. His son, also called WIlliam, worked in the same street, and possibly in the same workshop.
Williamson’s maker’s mark was WW, with a distinctive star above. His father’s maker’s mark was similar, but the outline of the punch was different.
It can be seen in this photo, taken from a pair of salvers.
The Pink Star Diamond, which sold this month for $83 million dollars, is one of the most fabulous diamonds in the world. It is the largest fancy vivid pink internally flawless diamond in the world, and weighs in at an astonishing 59.60 carats, making the price paid almost 1,400,000 dollars per carat. It is the highest price paid at auction for a gemstone. It is mounted as a plain ring, and is one of the most beautiful stones in the world. It has been graded by the GIA, the world’s foremost authority on gemstones, who gave the colour and clarity grade, and also took the unusual step of issuing a letter to state that it is the largest such diamond that they have ever graded. Within this colour and saturation grade, the next largest stone is less than half its size. It was bought by New York dealer Isaac Wolf, who has renamed it the Pink Dream. Investment grade diamonds like this have made headlines recently, and appear to offer stability against volatility in world markets.
We wrote about it previously, in 2011, in this blog post: http://www.weldons.ie/the-steinmetz-pink/
The rough diamond weighed 132.5 carats, and it took years to cut. Experts made over 50 resin models of the rough diamond in the process of deciding how to cut it, a process which took a long time! It is a type IIa diamond, the rarest type, which accounts for about 0.5% of all of the diamonds in the world. This type of diamond is the purest, even at a crystal level; while most diamonds contain trace amounts of nitrogen or boron, type IIa diamonds are comprised almost entirely of carbon atoms.
It was first in the public eye in 2003, when it was modelled by Helena Christensen at an event held in Monaco. It was later exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum, as part of a display of the finest diamonds in the world, where it was alongside the Hope Diamond, the Millennium Star (203 carats), the Moussaieff Red (the largest known red diamond in the world), the Harry Winston Pumpkin Diamond, the Allnatt Yellow Diamond, The Heart of Eternity Blue, and the Ocean Dream, a blue-green diamond. It gives an idea of the rarity and magnificence of the stone that it can hold its own in such company.
Over 1.6 million people came to see the diamonds. It was also a feature in the “Diamonds” exhibition held in London’s Natural History Museum in 2005.
It was sold privately in 2007 and renamed the Pink Star.
Of all of the grades of pink that one can see in a diamond, “Fancy Vivid” is the highest possible grade, and is a gorgeous deep colour. The cause of colour in diamonds is dealt with in more depth in another blog posting: http://www.weldons.ie/fancy-coloured-diamonds/
Below is the Pink Star actually being sold. It took mere minutes for bidding to reach almost $60 million dollars, breaking the pre-sale estimate, and within a few more minutes a new world record for a gemstone at auction had been set, which, including fees, was a little over $83 million dollars.
The diamond is the universal symbol of love. Of all its many roles, it is as a messenger of romantic love that the diamond has resonated through the centuries to emerge today as powerful as ever. This began with the belief that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds. The word diamond is derived from the Greek word “adamas”, meaning “unconquerable”; over the centuries the belief evolved that people who owned and wore diamonds were indestructible. The Greeks even believed that diamonds were the tears of the gods. Diamonds were also believed to be splinters from stars, which fell to earth. Roman soldiers would wear diamonds into battle because they believed it made them undefeatable. Eventually the attributes of courage, unfailing virtue, perpetual youth, good fortune, marital bliss and sweet dreams became associated with diamond.
Engagement Rings in Antiquity
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depict eternity as an unending circle or ring; it is believed that a ring as a symbol of a wedding pledge comes from an old custom of two people pledging a bond inside a sacred circle, (often a created by a ring of stones). The reason we wear wedding rings on the third finger of the left-hand comes from the Egyptian belief that the vena amoris, (the vein in your left-hand), connected that finger to your heart. The Romans used a plain iron hoop as a wedding ring, but among the elite, the iron ring was worn while indoors and replaced with the more valuable gold band when outdoors. Sometimes there would be inscriptions carved on the inside of the band.
According to a 5th century Roman writer called Macrobius, the wedding ring was to be worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. However, the Catholic Church tradition was to have couples wear rings on their right-hands; this is still the tradition in much of Europe today.
As with many of our traditions regarding rings, the engraving of a ring also started with the Egyptians. In the 16th century the British and French took ring engraving to a whole new level, engraving posies, or small love poems inside the ring. These posy rings are still available today, indeed we have had them in stock many times over the years.
Just as the symbolism of the wedding ring has developed over the years, so has the use of diamond changed.
The earliest references to diamonds are dating from about 300 B.C. However, it was not until much later that diamonds were first mined in significant quantites, in India, in the now mythical mines of Golconda. Many of the world’s most famous diamonds came from Golconda, including the Hope Diamond, the Koh-i-Noor and the Regent Diamond. They finally made their way to Europe, as the Roman’s trade routes spread across the Eastern world. It was the 12th century that the first use of diamonds was seen in royal western jewellery, in the Crown of St. Stephen of Hungary.
Throughout the ages royals have adorned themselves with diamonds, as a show of power and wealth. Indeed, in the 1200s Louis IX of France declared that only royalty could wear diamonds. However, it was not until the 1400s that women joined in, when Agnes Sorel (a mistress of the King of France) became the first recorded woman to wear diamonds.
Engagement Rings in The Middle Ages
This is an 15th century diamond ring; you can see that the natural shape of the rough is intact, and simply mounted on a gold band.
By the fifteenth century, the diamond ring was a common feature of royal weddings. The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given in the year 1477, a gift of Archduke Maximilian to Mary of Burgundy.
However, the news of the ruling elite wearing diamonds was not always pleasing to the common citizen. The rumour that Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, plastered the walls of her country retreat with diamonds did not go down well with the French people!
This following poem was written in 1475, to mark the wedding of Constanzo Sforza to Camilla d’Aragona,
‘Two torches in one ring of burning fire / Two wills, two hearts, two passions, all bonded in marriage by a diamond.’
The obvious symbolism of the diamond being as unbreakable as a marriage (and vice versa) is clear to see!
Gradually, during the Renaissance, these rings became more and more elaborately decorated. New techniques such as enamelling, and improvements in goldsmithing allowed the manufacture of increasingly intricate designs.
Engagement Rings in Georgian and Victorian Times
With the discovery of diamonds in Brazil in the 18th century, diamond jewellery became more readily available, and was no longer soley for those at the very top of society; more and more people could afford to wear diamonds, and diamond cluster rings were the height of fashion. A common design is seen below, a cluster of small rose-cut diamonds arranged around a larger centre diamond.
It is worth noting that the metal is every bit as important as the stone; historically it was a widely accepted belief that gold was the metal of the sun, while silver was the metal of the moon and platinum was the metal of heaven. Prior to about 1900, you will find that most rings are made of gold, while after that rings were predominantly platinum. In the modern era, both are used.
Below is another antique engagement ring, comprising of Rose Cut diamonds, which look best in candlelight. This is interesting in that it reflects the societal rule that diamonds were for evening wear, and not for daytime wear. This did not begin to change until the 19th century.
This is a classic carved mount vintage engagement ring from the late 19th century, with ornate decoration, swirls and beautiful Old Cut diamonds.
This is a similar ring, set with five stones. You can see the skill that would have been required to made such a ring!
The simple effortless style of the Tiffany setting, created in 1886 and almost unchanged ever since, offered an ideal way to showcase to the beauty and fire of the diamond. Developments in diamond cutting in the later 1800s and early 1900s maximised the sparkle of a diamond, making the solitaire a perfect way to display a diamond. Below is a classic Tiffany setting, showing off a diamond to its best!
This is a modern Tiffany style ring, you can see how little the pattern have changed in 120 years
Art Nouveau Engagement Rings
Art Nouveau style focussed on Naturalistic motifs, emphasizing soft lines, fine detail and heavy ornamentation. In the ring below you can see the filigree style typical of the era, with lots of intricate work. This was made possible by the use of platinum, which allows one to create a ring with more detail than gold will typically allow.
The ring in the video below is a classic Art Nouveau ring; see the swirls and curves below the gallery of the ring, and the fine piercing and cutaway sections of the shoulders.
Art Deco Diamond Rings
Art Deco engagement rings were almost the complete opposite of the Edwardian style – simple and geometric, and alost totally focussed on the diamond as opposed to the setting. Below is a classic Art Deco ring, with straight diamond baguettes.
As it spins around in the video clip below, you can get a feel for how pure the lines are, and how it captures the Art Deco crispness perfectly.
Finally, you can learn more about diamonds here: Weldons Diamonds Information Pages
Sometimes we get asked if there is a story or history behind a ring we have; often, it is not possible to be sure, but equally sometimes there is a lovely piece of background one can pick up on about it.
This is a lovely sapphire and diamond dress ring; the centre stone is a 4.48carat natural colour sapphire, and there is a baguette to each shoulder, and eight round cut diamonds to each side. It is a superb, bright ring, full of character.
The nicest part, however, is the engraving on the inside. It is hand engraved “28 Septembre” and “1922-1947″, from which we can tell that the ring was a 25th anniversary present for someone who married in 1922! One can image how cherished and loved the ring was, and the pleasure at celebrating such a milestone. The spelling of September points to France.
You can see the engraving in the video below.
Amethyst is a purple coloured gemstone, the most prized member of the quartz family. It has been known of and treasured since the time of the ancient Greeks. It’s wine-purple colour lead the Greeks to believe that it would protect one from drunkenness, and keep the wearer clear headed and quick-witted. According to Aristotle, it was also the name of a nymph who invoked the help of the Diana to protect her from the attentions of Bacchus; she did this be transforming the nymph into a precious gem. In remembrance of his love, Bacchus gave the stone its colour and the quality of preserving its wearers from the noxious influence of wine. Good specimens were found in Aztec graves, but it is not known from where the stones were mined.
Amethyst has been thought to have many attributes throughout history, and all of them are good. It was thought to control evil thoughts, quicken intelligence, and to make a person shrewd in business. On the battlefield, it was thought to preserve soldiers from wounds and aid the warrior to victory. In the Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui, the amethyst enhances the “wealth corner”, focusing on the giving and receiving of material wealth. It is associated with the crown chakra at the top of the head where divine essence enters. In Renaissance magic, an amethyst engraved with the image of a bear was worn as a protective amulet. If worn round the neck on a cord made from dog’s hair, it even affords protection against snakebite!
Where Does Amethyst Come From
Today, most amethyst comes from Brazil, though there are minor sources in India, Sri Lanka, the USA and Zambia. Historically, however, the main source was in Siberia. The inaccessibility of Siberia made it a very rare gemstone, and only available to Royalty and aristocracy. The discovery of huge mines in South America at the start of the 20th century made it suddenly available to a wider public, who embraced it with gusto; as a result, much of the amethyst jewellery seen today dates from that era. What was presumed to be the largest-ever cavity was discovered in 1900 in Rio Grande do Sul. The deposit measured ten by five by three metres, and was estimated to weigh eight tonnes. There is a piece weighing 200 kilogrammes, taken from this, in the Smithsonian Museum. In recent times, a find in the USA contained well over 1000 kilogrammes of cuttable amethyst; some crystals were 19 cm in length. There is a three metre tall geode – a hollow rock filled with amethyst crystals – at the Crystal Caves at Atherton, south-west of Cairns.
Properties of Amethyst
As a member of the quartz family, amethyst is very suitable gemstone for jewellery; it has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, and is of good toughness. The finest colour is a rich royal purple with reddish overtones, often found in African amethyst. Steam cleaning is not recommended, though it is safe to clean with warm, soapy water. It is also the birthstone for February.
Tanzanite is a transparent blue gemstone that was first discovered in 1962 in Tanzania, in East Africa. It is a variety of a mineral called zoisite. Initially only small pockets were discovered, but in the late 1960s a large deposit was discovered, and large-scale mining began.
Its immense and sudden popularity was almost entirely due to the fact that Tiffany and Co began a huge marketing campaign in 1968 to promote it; it was the gem of choice for cutting edge designers and sellers, and was instantly in demand. However, supply was intermittent and unreliable, and this is still true today. Prices and availability are subject to fluctuations depending on the political situation in Tanzania.
The main appeal of tanzanite is that it is highly pleochroic, that is that it will show different colours from different viewing angles. The two main colours are blue and purple. Because of the way in which the crystal grows, a cutter will typically get a larger finished stone by cutting the gem to show the purple colour. This has made predominantly blue tanzanite rarer and more valuable.
The Properties of Tanzanite
Tanzanite is graded on the mohs hardness scale at 6-7, with fair to poor toughness. (It is worth bearing in mind that this is still more durable than steel!) This means that it can be susceptible to cleaving and to thermal shock. It should not be cleaned in a steam machine, worn in a manner likely to give it a strong knock, or exposed to sudden temperature change. Most examples are mounted in necklaces or earrings, where they are less likely to receive such a knock. It is safe to clean tanzanite with warm soapy water.
Fine blue examples (“top blue”) are sometimes confused with sapphire, but there will almost always be a degree of purple visible.
Now that the new website is fully set-up, and all of the little tweaks have been made, it’s business as usual with uploading diamond rings, jewellery and antique silver to the site! We have also moved a lot of the previous blog posts into a smaller number of larger, in-depth articles.
You can find our new page about choosing a diamond ring from Weldons of Dublin HERE
Our newest selection uploaded to the site include a wonderful Art Deco engagement ring by Lambert Brothers of New York, once owners of the famous 69 carat pear shape diamond that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor. Our ring is a 0.94ct E colour, and is certificated by the Gemmological Institute of America, the world’s leading experts in gemmology. It is on platinum, and has graduated diamond baguette shoulders. It is pictured below.
There are lots more to view, simply click HERE! No appointment is needed, but you can call us on 01-6771638, or simply drop in to see us from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am until 5.30pm.
Irish Silver Maker’s Marks
Photographs of Irish silver maker’s marks, first letter from A to L, including some biographical background to each silversmith where possible, in alphabetical order.
Anthony Lefebvre worked in Dublin in the 1730s. He was originally apprenticed to Mary Barrett, one of the few female silversmiths working at the time.
His maker’s mark was a very recognisable AL, with three stars above. It is pictured below. A piece by him would be considered quite a find, and a wonderful addition to any collection.
Benjamin Tait was a prolific Irish silversmith, working at the end of the 18th century. He registered in 1784, and had a workshop near Bride Street, in the south inner city of Dublin.
He made a wide range of items, but specialised in flatware; most commonly his mark will be seen on sugar tongs, spoons, forks, and other tableware.
His maker’s mark was a block capital BT, with a distinctive scalloped edge, though he also used a punch with a BT separated by a dot, and a plain edge.
It is the former we see here, taken from a bright cut sugar tongs. You can see the evidence of an old repair to the right of the mark. Looking even closer (!) at the left hand side of the B, you can also see that there mark was double struck, probably because Tait didn’t think it came out clearly enough the first time.
Charles Leslie was a superb silversmith of Scottish origin. His father, Thomas Leslie, was a silversmith from Edinburgh. It is not known when he moved to Ireland.
Charles worked of Castle Street, according to the street directory of 1752. He was a freeman in 1728, and worked until 1758.
His work is of superb quality, though in many cases he never submitted the pieces to the assay office. Often his pieces will only have a maker’s mark.
One example of his work is this loving cup, made in Dublin in 1746. It is hallmarked near the handle, and features a beautiful crest. As can be seen, his maker’s mark was a CL with a crown above.
Here we can see his marks on a salver, Dublin circa 1736-40. In this case, the salver was not submitted to the assay office, but instead has CL stamped three times.
David King was a superb early silversmith; King Street in Dublin is named after him (the street where the Gaiety Theatre is located)
He was active from 1690 to 1737. In that time he served a period as Master Warden of the Company of Goldsmiths, and was on the Common Council of the City of Dublin. His work is typically of a high quality, plain and simple in design. His maker’s mark is DK with a crown above, though he also used a punch with no crown, and with both plain and scalloped edges. (The only example I can show you is the one with the crown!)
It is seen here, on a basin from 1708/9
The basin is of this form:
Another example is this superb lidded tankard from similar period.
This is the tankard
Edmond Johnson was a silversmith working in the late 19th century and early 20th century, based in the Grafton Street and Wicklow street areas. In 1879 he started restoration work on the Ardagh Chalice and was later given permission to make copies of it and other objects. The replicas were much sought after with Johnson’s own catalogue listing the Chicago (1893), Paris (1900) and Glasgow (1901) expositions among his clients.
He also made the Liam McCarthy Hurling Cup in 1921.
His maker’s mark was an EJ intertwined, as seen below.
Historically, silversmithing was almost exclusively a male profession. In Irish silver, this was also true. However, there was some examples of female silversmiths, some of whom were among the very best in the trade. Generally, a woman became a silversmith though marriage, or being born to a family of silversmiths.
One such case was Elizabeth Bainbridge, a watchmaker. Her mark was EB in a plain silhouette.
Erasmus Cope was a silversmith in Dublin, working in the first half of the 18th century. He was made a freeman in 1707, and worked through until 1748. His work is scarce, but of the highest quality, tending to be simple in style, and of heavy gauge.
He had a few different maker’s marks over the years, including the one seen below, an EC with a star below.
George Moore worked from 1748-84. Moore’s mark was GM, in a lovely scalloped edge surround.
Silversmith George Nagle worked at the end of the eighteenth century.
His mark was a GN in an oval or rectangular outline. This example below is taken from a serving fork, Dublin 1810, which also has a retailer’s mark, for Keanes.
Gustavus Byrne was an Irish silversmith working in Dublin in the 1800s. He worked at Cole Alley, near Castle Street; originally he served as apprentice to Charles Townsend, on of Dublin’s most famous silversmiths.
Byrne’s makers mark was a GB in script, seen here on a snuff box from 1812. Being on the inside of the box has preserved the mark very well for 199 years!
This is another Belfast silversmith, Henry Gardner, who worked from 1805 until 1837. His maker’s mark was a HG, either with or without a dot in-between. This example has no dot.
Hopkins and Hopkins
Most famous for making the Sam Maguire trophy, Hopkins and Hopkins were a silversmiths based at O’Connell Bridge in Dublin. Their maker’s mark was H & H, as seen below. Silver by Hopkins and Hopkins is quite rare, and very collectable.
Isaac D’Olier was from a prominent family of silversmiths, who worked in Dublin in the 18th century. He started working on Cork Hill some time around 1731. He moved to Dame Street at some point, and entered into partnership with his son, also called Isaac, a jeweller.
He had a long career, and was also elected a member of the Common Council of the City of Dublin in 1755.
His maker’s mark was ID, in a slightly oval outline. It is seen here on the handle of a lemon strainer.
Daniel, who worked in the first half of the 18th century, and was a superb maker.
Below is a picture of Jane Daniel’s mark:
James le Bas
James le Bas was a silversmith working in Dublin in the early 19th century. He was a member of a famous family of silversmiths, his father, William, being a silversmith in London, as were his sons, William and Benjamin.
He originally trained in London, working for his father, and moved to Dublin circa 1800. His first workshop was on Great Strand Street in Dublin, until 1809, whereupon he moved to Ship Street, at the side of Dublin Castle. He died in 1845.
His maker’s mark was ILB, with dots between, in a rectangular surround, seen below.
This is the mark of James England, of Michael’s Lane in Dublin. He was active from 1791 until 1815. His mark is IE with a dot inbetween. It is seen here on a grape scissors from 1815.
James Kennedy, a silversmith working in Dublin in the late 18th century, was a master box maker and flatware maker.
One example of his work is this torpedo shaped box, made in Dublin in 1793. Even over 200 years later, it still airtight.
The street directories indicate that he worked on Exchange Street, and Chancery Lane, in Dublin. It is marked on the inside, and is gilded, to protect the silver.
His mark was IK with a dot in between the letters. In this example, the maker’s mark is upside-down with respect to the hallmarks.
James Warren worked from the 1740s until 1789. He worked at Skinner Row up to 1778, and Cork Hill from 1778-82. He served as apprentice to Andrew Goodwin in 1742. He had a number of different maker’s marks over the course of his career, but the one we can show you in this post is J.W, in italics. Taken from candle sconces, it is best to look at both, as the mark is slightly worn. If we comes across examples of his other marks I will post them too!
Although Weldon shares our family name, we have no evidence that he was a relative! James Weldon worked in the 17th century, until his death in 1704. His mark is a JW in italics, and is sometimes mistaken for that of Joseph Walker, who worked at the same time. However the two silversmiths had slightly different marks.
As Weldon’s work is rare, there are not many examples. The one below is from a spoon, made in 1703. It is a JW in script, with the curve of the J looping around to form one of the bars of the W.
John Hamilton worked in Dublin, on Ormonde Quay. (North bank of the Liffey, upstream from the Ha’penny Bridge)
He was a Freeman in 1709, and served two periods as master warden of the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin, in 1710 and 1714. He was elected to the Common Council of the City of Dublin on four occasions between 1714 and 1740. He died in 1751.
His maker’s mark was IH with a dot inbetween, with a crown above. It is seen here.
This is from a large plain bowl, Dublin 1733.
It is also seen on a Beer Jug, similar date. In this case there are no hallmarks, just a rubbed maker’s mark.
John/Jonas Osborne was a George III Irish silversmith, who worked on Garter Court on Castle Street in Dublin, from about 1784 to 1809.
His maker’s mark was a distinctive JO in script, in an oval outline. It is seem below, on a basting spoon from 1792.
John Pittar, a prolific silversmith from the time of George III, worked in several different places over the course of his career, from Bride Street in the centre of Dublin in the 1780s and 1790s, to Windy Harbour (Windy Arbour) from 1815-1825.
His work included a large quantity of flatware, (forks and spoons), and his mark was variously IP with a star in-between the letter, or JP with a dot in-between the letters. A mark of JP in italics is also known.
It is the second of these that we illustrate here, taken from a lovely set of twelve bright cut spoons, circa 1790.
Note that there is no date letter, (a fairly usual occurrence), and that the letters MG are engraved on the underside of the bowl, near the handle. These are the initials of the original owner, and a lovely feature to find!
John Sheils, who worked from 1762-1790, worked on upper Ormonde Quay, and was apprenticed to one of the finest Irish silversmiths, Robert Calderwood.
Sheils’ (also spelt Shiels) maker’s mark was JS with a dot in between. This is slightly unusual for the era, as J was often written as I at that time, and is a nice way of identifying his mark. Is it seen below, from the handle of a soup ladle. Note how the assay marks are crisp and clean, but the maker’s mark is slightly worn. This is normal, as the maker had to stamp his piece himself, whereas the assay office punches were often of a higher quality, and last longer!
John Smyth (Smith) of Dublin worked in the 1820s on Grafton Street, and then moved to Clarendon Street, near to where Brown Thomas car park now stands.
His mark was a JS with a dot in-between. He worked until 1855. Another John Smyth, probably his son, continued working as a silversmith; his mark was a very similar J.S; the quickest way to tell them apart one would be to look at the date of the piece in question.
Smyth jr.’s mark is seen below, on an oil stock from 1879. He was quite a proflic and talented maker.
John Pennyfather was a silversmith working in Dublin in the early 18th century. His background was quite interesting; born in Kilkenny in the late seventeenth century, he moved at some point to Limerick, and trained as a silversmith. In 1699 Kilkenny City records note “To pay Mr John Pennifather £7.4.4 due to him for repairing the scabbord of the King’s sword.”
When he moved to Dublin in 1704, he was admitted directly into the Company of Goldsmiths, presumably on the basis that he served seven years as a apprentice in Limerick.
He seems to have had a number of maker’s marks over the years; this example is a JP together in a single motif.
Joseph Jackson worked at Hoey’s Court in Dublin, and was a freeman from 1775-1807. He served as a warden of the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin from 1791-1793.
He was apprenticed to Robert Glanville.
His mark was II with a dot in between. This example is taken from an Adams Style bowl, Dublin 1788.
Joseph Walker was a silversmith working at about the same time as Weldon. He was a freeman from 1690-1722, and served a period as master warden of the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin. He was also elected to Dublin City Council in 1714. His mark was also a JW in script, but the two letters are formed separately, as seen below.
As most Antique Cork items do not bear offical assay office marks, they cannot be called “silver”. In the 18th century, it was impractical to send items all the way to Dublin for hallmarking, and the city of Cork was never given its own assay office, despite repeated requests. To overcome this, Cork silversmiths took to stamping their own wares, usually with the word “Sterling”. Tests have been carried out of some items from the 18th century, and the level of fineness of silver was over 90%, but sometimes fell below the sterling silver requirement of 92.5%. However, the unusual history of Cork items lends a charm and attractiveness to the story, and the craft and skill of manufacture is the equal of any other city in the islands.
Here are some Cork silversmith’s marks, in alphabetical order of the first name.
Carden Terry was born in 1742, to a notable Cork family. He was apprenticed in 1758, and registered in 1785.
His early work bore the mark CT, usually with the word STERLING. Though technically not a hallmark, this in normal for provincial Irish items.
In 1791, his daughter Jane married John Williams. Terry and his son-in-law worked together from 1795 until John’s death in 1806. After this, Jane continued working with her father, until his death in 1821.
Father and daughter used the mark CT over IW, as seen below
The second is Daniel MacCarthy, whose mark is DMC.
The first is John Irish, whose mark is II with a star in-between.
John Warner worked on North Main Street in the 1770s and 1780s.
His maker’s mark was IW with a dot in-between. There exists also a similar mark incuse (indented).
Below is a mark from a marrow scoop, circa 1780 by John Warner.
Richard Garde was a silversmith working in Cork in the 19th century. He is recorded as being at 18 Broad Lane in 1824.
His maker’s mark was RG in capitals, with a dot between, see below.
William Bennett was active in Cork from 1722-1758. His maker’s mark was a very simple one, WB, in an oval surround, and occurs both with and without a star in-between the letters. Walter Burnett of Cork had a very similar mark, but the surround is a different shape.
This example is from the base of a two handled loving cup, circa 1740.
William Egan silversmiths of Cork are among the most famous silvermiths in the modern era. They were based in Cork city centre.
Egan silver is beautiful, well made, and very collectable. It is scarce without being impossible to find, and a great way to start a collection. They also have an interesting history, particularly concerning Republican silver (made during the Civil War), of which very few pieces survive!
We get pieces of Egan silver into stock from time to time, and are always delighted to help to build up your collection!
Most diamonds in the world are slightly coloured with a faint trace of yellow or brown, although they can exist in almost any colour. The amount of colour a diamond possesses has a huge impact on its value. In increasing order of rarity, yellow diamond is followed by brown, colorless, then by blue, green, black, pink, orange, purple, and red. By far the most common fancy colour is yellow; in the year 2003, for example, 58% of coloured diamonds graded by the GIA were yellows, with all of the other colours together making up the balance.
Diamonds that are colourless or only slightly coloured yellow or brown are classified on the “normal color scale”, which is an alphabetical scale, running from D, which is totally colourless, to Z, which is noticeably coloured. The closer to D colour, the whiter and more valuable the diamond.
Coloured diamonds are ranked according to their rarity and value. The causes of the colour is as follows:
- Blue is caused by the presence of the element Boron, which changes the conductivity of the diamonds.
- Red, Pink and strong brown are caused by crystal lattice defects, during the formation of the diamond.
- Yellow is caused by trace amounts of nitrogen in the diamond.
- Green is caused by exposure to natural radiation in the earth.
- Black diamonds are not truly black, but instead contain numerous dark inclusions that make the stone seem black.
The colour of a diamond does not change over time; some treatments exist today to enhance the colour grade of a diamond, but treated diamonds are a lot less valuable than their natural counterparts!
Red diamonds are probably the rarest and most valuable diamonds of all in the world. True red diamonds are very scarce, and have long been sought after by gem collectors, jewellers and consumers. Strictly speaking, they are too rare for there to be a “market” for them, but whenever one comes up for sale they are highly valued. For example, a 2.26 carat purplish red diamond sold at auction in 2007 for 2.7 million dollars!
The colour system for fancy colour diamonds
There are two elements of a colour grade for a fancy colour diamond; together, they give a description of the diamonds appearance. The first is the colour description. Although the human eye can recognise miillions of colours, the GIA has 27 possible colour descriptions.
The colour wheel has basic colours, for example blue or yellow, and in-between colours, like greenish yellow or bluish purple.
The main colour is stated second, in capitals, the modifying colour is stated first in lower case. So gY would stand for greenish yellow, and yG would stand for yellowish green. For some colours they can be further modified to include the terms “slightly” or “strongly”, so “slpR” is “slightly purplish red”, or “vstgB” is very strongly greenish Blue”.
The colour is then quantified on a 9 step scale, ranging from faint to fancy vivid. In general, the closer to Fancy Vivid, the more valuable the diamond. This is useful for yellow diamonds, for example, as they occur in a wide range of intensities and depths of colour. As red diamonds are so rare, and diamonds that are red have a very tight range and depth of colour, the GIA has so far found only the description “Fancy” to be necessary.
Causes of Red in diamonds
The cause of red in diamonds is not completely understood. There is no reason to believe that it is caused by trace elements like nitrogen or boron. (These have a role to play in the colouration of yellow diamonds). The red colour in diamonds is believed to be caused by plastic deformation, which in the simplest terms is a “ripple” in the diamond crystal, caused by the intense pressure during the formation of the diamond, which makes the planes of the crystal displace slightly. Another potential cause is “gaps” in the diamond crystal, or to call it by its full name, “an atomic-level lattice defect”! It is possible that these two things combine together as well.
Rarity of red diamonds
In 2002, the GIA published a list of red diamonds that they had graded. (Some were excluded from the list due to client confidentiality.) There were only 15 diamonds in the list, 8 of which were below 1 carat in weight, and 14 of which were below 2 carats in weight. Only four were graded as “Fancy Red”, the others all had a modifier of the colour, for example “purplish red”. In addition, the Kazanjian Red, a 5.05 carat red, and 5.03ct De Young Red are large red diamonds, but the latter two are not mentioned in the GIA’s list. The 2.26carat red diamond mentioned in the first paragraph was not in the list either.
The largest, the Moussaieff Red, weighs 5.11carats, and is a Shield Shape Fancy Red diamond, last examined by the GIA in 1997. It was exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum in the summer of 2003, and is pictured at the top of this post.
In 1934 a five carat ruby red diamond was reportedly shown at the Chicago World’s Fair; it was valued at the time at $150,000. It is not the same diamond as the Moussaieff Red, as that diamond was only mined in the 1990s in Brazil. What happened to this stone, unfortunately, seems to be a bit of a puzzle! Could it be either of the two other large reds mentioned?…
The Kazanjian Red
One interesting red diamond with a good history is the Kazanjian Red. The 35 carat rough diamond was discovered in the 1920s in South Africa, and was initially sold for eight pounds. It ended up at a diamond cutter in Amsterdam, who spent seven months studying the diamond before starting to cut it. The end result was a stunning 5 carat emerald cut stone.
In 1944, it was placed in a safe in Arnhem. It was discovered by the Nazis, and sent to Germany. It was hidden in a salt mine near Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. After the war it was sold to Ernest Oppenheimer, and thence to a private collector. It vanished from public view until 2007, when it was bought by Douglas Kazanjian. It forms the centrepiece of the Kazanjian Charitable Foundation.
The chemical cause of yellow in a diamond
The chemistry of a pure diamond is very simple, and is what causes its amazing strength and purity of light. Carbon atoms form a rigid tetrahedral structure, which, when repeated over many billions of atoms is immensely stable and hard to break up.
These type of bonds are called covalent bonds. Covalent bonds are the most stable type of chemical bonds. To cause a substance to emit light, you need to give the electrons enough energy to “move” them from this very stable state (called the valence band) to a more energetic state (called the conduction band). With pure carbon bonds, seen on the left in the diagram below, this “energy gap” is 5.4 electronvolts (eV), more than the energy in the visible light range; thus the diamond does not absorb light and will appear colourless. (One stray nitrogen atom lowers the gap to 4eV, still not enough to cause the diamond to appear coloured)
Tiny amounts of nitrogen cause this energy gap to narrow. Only a few atoms of nitrogen per million atoms of carbon can narrow this gap to as little as 2.2eV, as on the example on the right in the image below. This narrower gap means that the diamond will now absorb some light, and will appear yellow.
Where do Yellow Diamonds Come From?
Historically, yellow diamonds were very scarce; some are documented by Tavernier, the famous explorer and merchant who discovered many of the world’s most famous diamonds in India in the 17th century. He makes reference to a 137 carat yellow diamond known variously as the “Florentine” or the “Grand Duke of Tuscany”. However, stones such as those were very much the exception until the 1860s, with the advent of mining in South Africa. As most of them came from Cape Province, these diamonds are now known informally as “Cape” colour. Today, most yellow diamonds still come from there.
One of the most famous yellow diamonds in the world is the 128 carat Tiffany diamond, normally on display in their store on 5th Avenue, New York.
A recent arrival in stock is this interesting yellow diamond cluster ring, set with a 0.82 carat fancy yellow centre stone. Of note is that it is also of good clarity and cut, a rare combination. It is in a platinum mount, with pavé set diamonds surrounding.
Some famous celebrities who have had yellow engagement rings include the rather marvellous Heidi Klum (below), who had a fantastic cushion cut, Holly Madison and Rebecca Romijn. Interestingly, most of the large yellow diamonds one will see are cushion cuts, or modified princess cuts, and this is not a coincidence – generally, to enhance the depth and sensation of colour, the extra depth of those shapes gives a much more pleasing effect than a round stone will.
Blue Diamonds are among the rarest and most enchanting of all coloured stones.
To understand why they are so rare, we need to look at the chemistry of diamonds. 98% of all diamonds are what as know as Type I (“type one”). Type I diamonds contain trace amounts of nitrogen. The other 2% of all diamonds are called “Type II” (“type two”).
Image copyright Smithsonian Institute
There is a further division of Type II diamonds, into Type IIa and Type IIb.
Type IIa are almost totally chemically pure, containing only carbon. Type IIb contain minute traces of boron.
Type IIb is the category in which we find almost all blue diamonds. Unlike the other categories, Type two diamonds are electrical semiconductors.
The boron present in Type IIb diamonds can in some cases make a diamond blue. The mechanism is not fully understood, but we do know that almost every blue diamond in the world is Type IIb. However, the chemical rarity of these diamonds means that overall, less than 0.0001% of the diamonds in the world are blue diamonds.
The colour of blue diamonds runs from very pale blue, to a rich, deep intense blue. The deeper and richer the blue the more desirable the stone is.
It is possible to colour diamonds artifically nowadays, however these diamonds are much less valuable than their natural counterparts. The majority of blue diamonds for sale that one will see are either synthetic/simulant or are natural stones that have been artificially enhanced. Such enhancement may involve irradiation and/or heat treatment.
In October 2007, a 6 carat natural blue diamond broke all previous records, becoming the most expensive diamond (per carat) ever sold at publin auction. It sold for almost 8 million dollars, or 1.3 million dollars per carat. It is pictured below. What made it so valuable was the richness of blue, and the fact that it was evenly spread across the whole of the diamond.
One of the most expensive diamonds in the world, a 6 carat blue:
Any diamond with even a slight amount of blue colour is classified as a blue diamond. Many have a grey modifier, that is to say the blue is “mixed” slightly with grey. The rarity and value of a blue increases dramatically the stronger and purer the saturation of blue gets and the less grey mixed into the blue.
The most important factor in evaluating a fancy color diamond is the richness and beauty of the color. The GIA grading scale for blue diamonds ranges from “Faint” and “Very Light,” to “Fancy Deep” and “Fancy Vivid” where the saturation and intensity of the color just reaches out and grabs you. Other considerations, including clarity and carat, are of much less importance than colour when discussing coloured stones.
The most famous blue diamond is the world is the Hope Diamond. A wonderful 45 carat rich blue diamond, currently in the Smithsonian Institue in Washington. Legend has it that it is cursed, though that is a subject of another blog posting some day!!