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Author Topic:   Tiff or taffy?
wev
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Posts: 4095
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 06-16-2006 10:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A friend asked me over today to look through a box of odds and ends left her by an aunt -- no interest in selling, just wanting to know what was what. It was the typical melange of pretty trinkets and odd bits of flatware acquired over a lifetime, with quality running right across the spectrum. Here is one piece that I found curious. It is ostensibly a Tiffany tea caddy spoon (I suppose), but I can't decide if it's a clinker or if Tiffany was just having a bad day. The finishing work is pretty bad, but the base work is just awful.

front

back

mark

What do you think?

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Richard Kurtzman
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iconnumber posted 06-17-2006 02:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
wev, It's definitely a Tiffany form, a bon bon spoon. The backs of these things usually have some incised line work. It could be a recast but without seeing it in person and holding it I can't say for sure. What is it about the base that is putting you off?

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wev
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iconnumber posted 06-17-2006 03:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I should have added that it is 3 1/2" long, so perhaps an individual bon bon?

I expressed myself badly. By base work, I meant the forming (casting, stamping, filing, etc) of the body as opposed to the finishing of it. In this case, the shaping and cutouts are, to my eye, quite crudely done; there are visible file marks in the cutouts; the handle behind the wreath does not line up with the handle above (especially apparent from the back); the vase form at the top of the handle is not symmetrical and the decoration is, to be generous, amateurish. I have seen more conscientious work done in Intro to Jewelery classes at the local college.

Is the mark date-able?

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Richard Kurtzman
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iconnumber posted 06-17-2006 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see nothing incorrect with the mark. This style of bon bon usually dates 1880's to 1890's. I just looked in Hood and this piece is pictured on page 284. It looks finer in detail than yours. The handles on these things are generally cast, so without seeing your piece I don't want to say for certain whether its a recast or a sloppy piece of Tiffany.
Perhaps Bill Hood can tell us if there should be work on the reverse.

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Dale

Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 06-18-2006 12:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the design of the handle, my guess is that this is taken, warts and all, from a much older piece. Somehow this just looks like a souvenir spoon, with a large bowl for a long inscription. Given the size it may also be a chateline item or a jewelry pendent. Interesting, and hope someone who knows this subject will comment.

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Richard Kurtzman
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iconnumber posted 06-18-2006 07:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dale, Please read my previous posts. This is a Bon Bon Spoon! The whole piece is a Tiffany design. Whether it is a recast or original I cannot tell from the photo.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 06-18-2006 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a close shot of the wreath cut-outs; aside from the obvious file marks, you can see where the saw cut into the body of the piece.

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Dale

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iconnumber posted 06-19-2006 12:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Richard, I have no problem with this being a Tiffany bon bon shape. It seems the most likely identification, as you so correctly point out. I have seen several bon bons that had been engraved with lengthy inscriptions. Including at least one that was on a chain for either a necklace or chateline. Sorry, but I thought such use was a fairly common one. Maybe it isn't, I just saw a few really odd examples.

As for it being cast, there seem to be two periods of casting remakes. Each has its own technology. Which allows some dating, however crude. The first era was in the 60's when some pieces were made up, supposedly in Mexico, using a lost wax method. A favorite item here was the Love Disarmed salad set. Truly crappy work, complete with all sorts of fissures and gouges. These were invariably marked 'sterling' only.

Then sometime in the 70's a new technology emerged. Here a sheet of rubber could be applied to a piece that would take a very finely detailed negative image of the piece. From this, very good wax models could be made. These were even capable of picking up incised marks.

Which was the downfall of these makers. They wandered into copyright infringement. Towle in particular went after the makers. Georgian was a favorite pattern. At first the main products were salt spoons, or as they were retailed 'coke spoons'. One guy I knew began to venture into new territory, making pieces in older patterns that had never been produced before. Like Frontenac strawberry forks.

Anyhow, the quality of the work here certainly looks like that of the 60's era. But, and this is what puzzles me, the mark is more typical of the later production. (The 60's were marked 'sterling' only.) Which would have been far finer than what we see here.

My third thought is that this is a rogue piece, made by someone for pleasure or to learn wax casting. This does appear to have been made by semi-skilled labor. Look forward to more information.

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vathek

Posts: 962
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 06-19-2006 07:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If this was a cast piece, why would there have been any need to make the cut outs by hand? wouldn't these have been cast in? Seems like a lot of work for a fake.

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1768
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 06-19-2006 10:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The marks certainly look authentic--and I can see hand-scratched numerals below the word "STERLING". Believe these are wholesale price codes. These (as well as the stamped marks) certainly would not have been picked up so finely if the spoon was a recast, and I highly doubt a faker would go through the trouble of hand-engraving those numbers. What if this spoon was finished by an apprentice in Tiffany's workshops? That might explain the crude piercing. I can't say for certain from the pictures alone if it's genuine, but I really think it's just a late 19c bonbon spoon with fairly typical decoration. Perhaps not a piece Tiffany will be remembered for, but Tiffany all the same.

[This message has been edited by Paul Lemieux (edited 06-19-2006).]

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William Hood

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iconnumber posted 06-23-2006 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for William Hood     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having just returned from vacation, I can now jump in on this thread. The design of this bonbon spoon is authentically Tiffany, but its execution is not. As Richard points out, the detailing is much less fine than on the "real thing" illustrated on p. 284 in Tiffany Silver Flatware. Also, the marks are not exactly right. The marks "Tiffany & Co. / Makers" appear to be raised. Is that correct? On the piece in the book, the marks are all incuse.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 06-23-2006 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a trick of the light -- they are incuse. I will try to take a better picture this morning. I can say that the A in Tiffany is damaged or mal-formed and the word Sterling is double struck.

Here is a slightly better look

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William Hood

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iconnumber posted 06-23-2006 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for William Hood     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the new pic. I can't believe this piece is a Tiffany original unless, as Paul has suggested, it was made by an apprentice, perhaps as an exercise, and never meant to be sold.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 06-23-2006 01:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Were the handle backs on authentic pieces also left blank?

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Paul Lemieux

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Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 06-23-2006 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The example pictured on p. 284 of the Tiffany flatware book exhibits some extra decoration not present on the example wev shows. I speak of the stippled finish directly underneath the reeded band that lies beneath the flame. Additionally, there are some parallel lines or grooves that occur in the center of the handle between the two floral motifs on the sides of the handle. Although I have never handled this pattern in person before, the picture in the book suggests to me that these particular elements were added by hand, after the handle was cast or struck (whichever it is). The absence of these on wev's example could perhaps act as further support for my suggestion that it was finished by an unpromising apprentice.

Or, is it possible that the finishing of this spoon was halted partway through after the workman's saw ran astray? Surely even Tiffany produced irregulars/factory seconds, so if an error was made on this particular piece, would the company have 1) never bothered finishing it completely and properly, thereby neglecting the additional decoration I mention above, 2) still signed it, and 3) made it available to the buying public?

The finishing does look rather horrendous on this example, is there any chance that this spoon's handle was ever subjected to a buffing wheel or other process that might have softened or otherwise marred the pattern's appearance?

I am now 100% convinced that the marks are genuine and original to the piece, and so also feel sure that the spoon itself is a Tiffany article.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 06-23-2006 08:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A couple of detail shots

You can see how badly the handle, above and below the ribbon, aligns. Also the chunk cut out of the reeding caused by the bad saw work.

Contrary to the photo, none of the horizontals are parallel and the center point of the gadrooning is definitely off to the left.

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outwest

Posts: 390
Registered: Nov 2005

iconnumber posted 06-28-2006 11:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for outwest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They should be ashamed of themselves. wink
Somehow I get a little bit of satisfaction knowing that Tiffany isn't always perfect. I like the little guys.

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