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Identifying Marks On British Sterling

by SevenGables (04/09/08).

Here is a cute British sterling vinaigrette circa 1818. It was made by John Shaw under the reign of George IV. How do we know this?

The hallmarks on this piece are the keys to identity.

The man in profile is King George IV who reigned during this time. The anchor mark tells us that it is from Birmingham, England. The rampant lion facing to the left is the telltale sign on all British pieces for sterling. The lower case “u” within a square tells us that it was made in the year 1818. Lastly, the “JS” initials are that of John Shaw; the Shaws were known for making vinaigrettes and snuff boxes.

British sterling all carry such identifying hallmarks. If you have any pieces like this, you can research them in two good references – ” Tardy’s International Hallmarks on Silver” or “Jackson’s Hallmarks: English Scottish and Irish Hallmarks on Silver & Gold From 1300 to Present Day.”

A vinaigrette is a little box that hangs on a chain like a pendant. Beneath the intricately pierced grill is normally found a pad of perfume. A lady of the era would raise the box to her nose and sniff the perfume to offset the odors of the 19th century street. Sometimes, ladies would carry a more piercing smelling salt mixture in their vinaigrette to revive themselves if they suffered from fainting spells.

This vinaigrette is rare by its being in the shape of a wallet or small purse. It also has a fancy “grate” – the reticulated silver square inside the box which was used to hold in the sponge containing vapors. The value of a vinaigrette can be determined by the form and also how fancy the grate is. It is not uncommon to find the best examples priced at more than $2,000. These pieces are getting harder to find and the value can be determined by auction or how much a collector is willing to pay.

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