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  What does the mark "alfenide" mean?

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Author Topic:   What does the mark "alfenide" mean?
Stephen

Posts: 625
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 04-23-2003 11:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The mark is on a Christofle serving ladle (Looking for info on Christofle).

Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary of 1913 says --

quote:

Alfenide
(Al"fe*nide) n. (Metal.) An alloy of nickel and silver electroplated with silver.

Is this correct? It doesn't sound right to me.

[Note: This message has been edited by Scott Martin]

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Stephen

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posted 04-24-2003 05:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a photo of the mark on some other Christofle flatware
(with the Es chopped off).

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Arg(um)entum

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posted 04-24-2003 12:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To find the correct name for any of the various Cu/Ni based alloys or the defining proportional composition for any one name is futile. These names have varied considerably with language, geography, time and the industry using them.

Just looking at the entries a quick search on 'alfenid' brings up, some have it as a plain alloy and others define it as a silverplated one. Some equate it to Alpacca, some to 'white metal' and so on.

It only makes sense to discuss the differences between them and the specifics of these various terms when they are relevant e.g. trademarks which at a particular time period point to one or more licenced manufacturers.

How old is your ladle? Interesting to see this term used on it given that the French chose at some time to name the Cu/Ni thing "Maillechort" after a couple of their researchers while several languages know a word "Christoflemetal" for it.

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Stephen

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posted 04-24-2003 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The mark is "alfe nide" (not alfenid).
The mark was used on Christofle flatware.
The serving ladle is described in a previous SMP forum topic -- link posted above. It is not my ladle.

The photo I posted came from that big U.S. online auction site. Still listed if you care to look. A full set of flatware. Listed as "1800's CHRISTOFLE SILVER PLATED SET ALFENIDE". (Seller says ALFENIDE is the pattern name -- well, that's certainly a new twist!)

So let me restate my question. What did Christofle mean by the mark "ALFE NIDE"? Let's forget the botched translations and definitions in other languages.

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Arg(um)entum

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posted 04-25-2003 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well Sir, I responded to your question in the first post of this thread. However, as it turns out, you are very right
in focusing on the French version of the term though probably not quite the way you meant it.

So, I sent Monsieur Google out to look for good French "alfenide"s with a nice French 'e' at the end and forget
about silly foreign spellings. Et voilà!

While the pickings are slim, they are enough to show a French Manufacturer "ALFENIDE" in 1871 and probably earlier (maybe much earlier); also they show it still existing in
the mid-1930's.

That reminds me of the post a few months ago about a piece that had the marks of both Christofle and Cailar+Bayard, a firm acquired by them. You may have the same situation here. The best hope for confirmation is likely to be Madame Suzanne. If she would keep an eye out for this name while burrowing through her
75 page photocopied treasure, that might clarify things. Maybe you should keep a joblist for her or she might lose track of all the things expected of her.

To me an interesting aspect of this is that I found no entry that described 'alfenide' as an alloy. This suggests that it having been a protected name in French, other nations adopted it as a generic term as they did Alpacca and Christoflemetal, thus emphasizing the significance of this company.

And now I'll do what sensible people are urging me to: leave the computer alone and enjoy the spring weather for a few days! A la semaine prochaine!

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Stephen

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posted 04-25-2003 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I asked the seller what it meant (potentially dangerous, I know) and here's what he had to say --
quote:

Dear Sir,

... many thanks for your question, so I may added an information about ALFENIDE, the mark is stamped
ALFE NIDE.

Alfenide is an alloy of nickel & silver, electroplated with silver, that gives the perfect effect of silver. And this alloy is reserved for the 1st class dinner set.

Sincerely
Philippe


[This message has been edited by Stephen (edited 04-25-2003).]

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Stephen

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posted 04-27-2003 10:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did find a book, "A Practical Guide for the Manufacture of Metallic Alloys ... comprising their Chemical and Physical Properties, with their Preparation, Composition, and Uses ", by A.A. Fesquet (French Chemist and Engineer), translated into English by A. Guetteir. Originally published by Henry Carey Baird (1872 Hardback, 293 pages with index).

I don't have the book, but one chapter is described as follows --

quote:
Chapter 16: Alloys for Jewelry, Gold and Silver Wares, Brittania Ware, etc. [including formulas for dozens of specific exotic metals of various trade and family names, a few of which follow as examples: Manheim gold, Pinchbeck - Prince Robert's metal, Chinese white copper, Ruolz alloys, Electrum, Maillechorts, Alfenide, Alloys of Mr. Toucas, English tutania, German tutania, Spanish tutania, Engestrum tutenia, Queen's metal, Ashberry metal, etc....

Anyone have access to the book? Does it agree with the Websters definition?

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Stephen

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posted 04-27-2003 11:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Note: alfénide = French, alfenide = English, Spanish, and Dutch, alfenid = German, alfênide = Portuguese, ... etc.

An on-line French encyclopedia says, "alfénide - n. masc. - Alliage d'argent, de cuivre, de nickel et de zinc, de couleur blanche, utilisé pour la fabrication d'ustensiles et couverts."

(Alloy of silver, copper, nickel and zinc ...)

Hmmm. Baffling, n'est-ce pas?

[This message has been edited by Stephen (edited 04-27-2003).]

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doobees

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posted 04-28-2003 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doobees     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bonjour! I just returned from out of town, checked the computer, and found this discussiion on Christofle's alfénide. As luck would have it, I did find information in my little "photocopied treasure."

It was actually pretty interesting. I'll translate as best I can.

"Le Mallecourt: Is an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc. It got it's name from the inventors Maillot and Chorrier (patented June 22, 1827.) It is used as a base for Christofle's silverplated pieces and offers numerous qualities. It is white and possesses an exceptional resistance that assures a very great longevity for these silverplated products. Under the name métal blanc (white metal), what it actually did was spark interest in these exceptionally resistant pieces and formed the basis for what was destined to become Christofle's restaurant, cafè, and "lemonadier" business in the 19th century.

It was never marketed under the name Christofle. It was known for some years under the name of alfénide and Christofle sold these products with double marks: Alfénide and Christofle. That ended in 1878 when the "société of marks" decreed that silverplated pieces would bear the mark of the maker and also be marked "métal blanc."

Note: All that was from a little corner of page 18... we still have 74 4/5 pages to go. Anything else you wanna know


------------------
Suzanne D

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Stephen

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posted 04-28-2003 04:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, that is interesting.

Was the "société of marks" some kind of trade group?

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Arg(um)entum

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posted 04-29-2003 01:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"..Anything else you wanna know" - Yes, everything in it - but not all at once

"..baffling.."? I'd say, Stephen! First, how did I miss the metallurgical entries?
Then, does this affect my hypothesis about a manufacturer called 'Alfénide'? I'm not ready to give up on it yet, but I'll need to explain (and translate) the evidence (or rather indications) with some care. This thread promises to get rather long as it is, so I'll start another one for that, once ready.

Issues:
- "Mallecourt..." I would have expected the term Maillechort. Is it used anywhere in the document?
- Until now, I assumed that 'metal blanc' was an alloy without (or only very little) nickel, as opposed to the N.S., Maillechort, Alpacca, GS, etc. How does one distinguish between the two on French products?
- The brief little stories on Christofle one finds here and there seem to be divided as to whether he obtained the process from Maillot and Chorrier or from Elkington. Most likely, he played it safe and tied up both. Was there any difference in what they were used for, or in the labeling?
- Stephen mentions 'ALPHEN' as the name of the absinth spoon. Does anyone else hear a similarity or relationship? What came first, the metal or the maker? What is the origin of the word alfénide with or without accent or trailing 'e'?
- What is 'ALFE NIDE' as opposed to Alfénide? a trade-mark? If so, whose?

O Suzanne, Reine du trésor aux 75 pages, nous vous prions!


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doobees

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posted 04-30-2003 05:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for doobees     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Monsieur, Vous avez de raison! C'est Maillechort. (Sorry typo... even we Reines may goof up quite a bit if we're in a hurry.)

Well the "tresor" does not mention métal blanc beyond that. It does speak about the uses of their other alloys. I'll translate a few here now - and then continue when I get back from the states in 2 weeks. I'll also call Christofle and see if they can answer the questions with any clarity, though I hope to do this in person at a later date since it is "plus difficile de comprendrendre en appareil." (hard to understand over the telephone) My french language skills are best when reading, no problem when conversing, a stuggle over the phone, and usually not grammatically correct when writing... but I digress.

"Le Nickel: the metal that gives it's quality to Maillechort is nickel. For a longtime rare and expensive, it became more common after the discovery of mines in New Caledonia in 1860.The mines were able to be put to good use thanks to Christofle's having come up with a treatment process for the mineral, and constructed at St. Denis (a Paris suburb,) the only factory for the treatment and production of nickel in France between 1876 and 1898.

Le Laiton: A malliable and light alloy of copper and zinc. Laiton is the premier alloy used by Christofle. At the outset, it served as a base for place settings to be covered in silver, a use that ended in 1867. It was equally used for making large formed pieces. It was finally melted in the pieces of "galvanoplastie" copper, refined and then resulting in their pieces of "Galvanoplastie massif."

(Note from Suzanne: "Massif" - argent massif is the term used for sterling, so what is galvanoplastie massif?
I confess that I do not know what "galvanoplastie" is. Do you? My best guess, using the dictionary, is that it is either: Covered with galvanized plastic... or (and this is visually my favorite guess) galvanized and then blown up with plastic explosives. What do you think? Maybe the next paragraph on copper will help.)

Le Cuivre: Copper is also a base metal for Christofle, used for 2 distinct productions. Starting in 1852, it was used for the production of galvanoplasties. Henri Bouilhet showed during that era that galvanized copper offered a greater resistance than all the other forms. It was the reason he chose it to fabricate the statue of Our Lady of the Guard, in Marseille. Most of the items sold under the name "galvanized bronze" were in reality objects of galvanized copper. Between the two wars, Christofle found a new use for copper and used it to develope a line of dinnerware (tableware) decorated with a silver patina or sheen and also inlays and/or overlayed."

There's more: Gallia, l'acier, L'étain, etc., but now I'd better go pack. Please email to me any questions that you might like me to ask either Christofle or the Paris assay office when I return.

Au revoir et à bientôt!


------------------
Suzanne D

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Arg(um)entum

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posted 04-30-2003 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great stuff Susanne!
Only a quick reply with more later:
Just as 'argent massif' means solid silver as opposed to plated, 'galvanoplastie massive' means a solid figure as opposed to a hollow one. Galvanoplastic was/is the method of reproducing three dimensional objects by coating them with something that is conducting and then electro plating them with a layer thick enough that it retains the form after the model is removed. If the hollow new figure was then filled with metal then it became a 'galvanoplastie massive'.

I know Christofle became involved in some of the art reproduction business but I have no details. It was basically a question of exploiting the new advances in electroplating. That was Christofle's strong suit just as it was its German counterpart's WMF; it even developed a thriving business in cemetary figures. I wonder if Christofle did too.

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Stephen

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posted 05-09-2003 03:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Arg(um)entum: this is to respond to your issues/questions.

Re: "Until now, I assumed that 'metal blanc' was an alloy without (or only very little) nickel, as opposed to the N.S., Maillechort, Alpacca, GS, etc." -- I believe that "métal blanc" is a nickel-silver alloy. Unfortunately, the literal translation is "white metal", but I don't believe that "métal blanc" is what we would call a white-metal alloy.

Re: "How does one distinguish between the two on French products?" -- By the marks (if any) or a knowledge of the manufacturer's wares if there are no metal content marks. No different than any other country.

Re: "The brief little stories on Christofle one finds here and there seem to be divided as to whether he obtained the process from Maillot and Chorrier or from Elkington. Most likely, he played it safe and tied up both. Was there any difference in what they were used for, or in the labeling?" -- The Maillot / Chorrier patent was for a metal alloy. The Elkington patents pertained to the electrolytic process, not a specific metal.

Re: "Stephen mentions 'ALPHEN' as the name of the absinth spoon. Does anyone else hear a similarity or relationship?" -- I've only found two items that allegedly have the ALPHEN mark. The absinthe spoon on eBay where the seller said the mark was Alphen (the photo isn't real clear), and an auction house listing for "un plateau en métal argenté de la maison ALPHEN" -- no photos of marks. Further research needed to figure out who "Alphen" was. Perhaps just a coincidence. Heres a photo of the absinthe spoon marks:



Re: "What came first, the metal or the maker? What is the origin of the word alfénide with or without accent or trailing 'e'?" -- I have no idea, all I know was posted above (it is the name of an alloy [..replaced "a nickel silver alloy" with "an alloy"..] from the chemist's book). I believe that Websters dictionary was wrong.

Re: "- What is 'ALFE NIDE' as opposed to Alfénide? -- I think it was just a way of squeezing the word into a square box. The actual marks may or may not have the accent -- I've never seen a clear photo of the mark.

Re: "a trade-mark? If so, whose?" -- I don't think so, any more than NS or EPNS. Unless Christofle = Alphen. Again, further research required.

Just to add to what Doobes posted, laiton is brass, gallia is a pewter alloy, acier is steel and étain is tin.

Hopefully we're on the same track here. Let me know if not.


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Arg(um)entum

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posted 05-09-2003 08:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a few points now, the rest later:

- I had translated 'metal blanc' literally which in light of the quote from Suzanne now seems unjustified. You believe that it is a nickel-silver alloy. Is it that specifically, or is it just a term that was imposed to warn consumers that the article wasn't silver? Quoting Susanne's translation ".... decreed that silverplated pieces would bear the mark of the maker and also be marked 'métal blanc.'".
Can we depend on it having at least a minimum Ni content in the same way we know this about a German spoon if it is called Alpacca? or, I believe, a British one if it is called EPNS?

- On Maillot/Chorrier versus Elkington: Boo! I had been thinking about Maillot/Chorrier vs. Berndorf et al and about Ruolz vs. Elkinton, then I really muddled it up.

- 'ALFE NIDE' just a convenience squeeze? That is what I thought from the beginning.

I will get back to the question of Alfénide later.


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Arg(um)entum

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posted 05-09-2003 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"...I believe that Websters dictionary was wrong."

What is right and what is wrong? First, as I said before, meanings vary with time and geography. Second, looking at the net one could conclude that the 1913-Webster's definition has been adopted by a majority of other dictionaries. This may still be just on-line ones that picked up a legitimately free source. But, we have to accept that most people will look in one place and accept it. Few will make a research project out of it like us.

Then comes the question of what the definition is in other languages:

Here is a different usage: ... Haus ... erweiterte Peter Firmenich die bisher bestehenden Bereiche „Uhren, Schmuck und Alfenide” mit „optischen Artikeln”."
He had been carrying 'watches, jewelery and alfenides', now he added optical goods. The word here is a noun; what is an 'Alfenide'?

OR [gone from the internet - dutraleiloes.com.br/maio2001/Catalogo/dia1.htm] "de talheres de maillechort prateado para ...; marca alfenide. França, séc. XIX. Ao maillechort, certa liga metálica, se dá o nome de alfenide quando e prateado."
I don't speak portuguese but some remnants of highschool spanish tells me that this agrees with Webster.

From our limited perspective (i.e. the little usage of this uncommon word that made it onto the web), we feel that it should be descriptive of the alloy, period! Then we could speculate that Webster getting it wrong caused all these others to continue the error. But just then, we find this last bit that I will quote on the subject:
[gone from the internet - letras.ufrj.br/phpb-rj/corpora/xix/anuncios/rj-xix/fase3/comercio3.htm] "Halphen|Para evitar falsificações e usurpações de nome, deve-se exigir os dous carimbos juntos.|Talheres Alfénide|(metal branco prateado)|Propriedade exclusiva da Societé des Couverts Alfenide|(...)" - "Jornal do Commercio, 01 de outubro de 1881"

So somebody saw it that way twenty years before Webster came out with it!!

Back to my original point: It's futile to search for the one definition that is correct regardless of time and place.

P.S. I should have added that 'prateado' = silverplated and branco = white.


[Note: This message has been edited by Scott Martin]

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Stephen

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posted 05-10-2003 05:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But today I think that Websters was right. I will resume my search at the libraries rather than on the internet.

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Stephen

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posted 05-12-2003 03:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Stephen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have found more information (books) on the use of Alfenide in England and France. Will post it later, probably in a new thread.

Maybe it would be worthwhile to contact the authors of the German web page to ask what they mean. Their e-mail address is on the page. I'm not sure what to make of the Spanish and Portuguese items. My high school Spanish isn't all that wünderbar either.

---------
Continued here (L'Orfvrerie Alfnide).


[Note: This message has been edited by Scott Martin]

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