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Author Topic:   Hamburg marks
iconnumber posted 03-27-2005 08:27 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've had this dinner plate for a while -- I like it because of its unusual form, which seems to have French Regence (c. 1720) influence, although it is a German plate.

I believe the marks are from Hamburg. But I have never found a reference book that has a good series of Hamburg date letters, let alone maker's marks. Certainly both Tardy and Rosenberg are of little use.

The date letter is W, and the maker's mark is SW under an indistinct shape. Can anyone point me in the right direction? I'd like especially to be able to date it ... I wonder if it is really early-18th-century, or a later piece (which would not surprise me, given the Germans' stylistic conservatism.)

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iconnumber posted 03-27-2005 11:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, my focus is 19th century, but fortunately when I copied some information Hamburg silver of that era - with great excitement, I might add, at having uncovered the secret of the cryptic Hamburg date letters - I copied enough 18th C. information to answer at least one of your questions: your platter dates to 1738-1759. "W" was the date letter for Assay Master Hornbostel who served during those years. (Sorry, no first name - I copied the full names only of 19th C. assay masters.)

The Hamburg "date letters" do run sequentially, but the trick is that Hamburg had 4 assay masters working simultaneously. The first four letters A, B, C, and D were assigned (respectively) to assay masters Hansen, Schütte, Richels and Rothaer in 1688. The next letter E was given to Hansen/A's replacement Wolters in 1691, and so on. Theoretically, then, letters E-H should be roughly concurrent, then I/J-M, etc.

However, since the post was held for life and some men served only a few years and others for decades, by the time your platter was made the date letters were a jumbled mess. For instance, the next letter F went to the assayer Weber, who replaced not Schütte/B (the last of the original assayers, who didn't die until 1712) but rather Richels/C.

All this is good reminder that most continental "date letters" are not that at all: they were not meant to identify the date, but rather the assayer.

There are three very good books on Hamburg silver, but, alas, good luck finding them in the US. The New York Public Library has a copies of at least the latter two (whence came my information on one of my annual research trips there):

Konrad Hüseler, "Hamburger Silber 1600-1800", 1950
Wofgang Scheffler, "Goldschmiede Niedersachsens", 1965
Erich Schliemann, "Goldschmiede Hamburgs", 1985

The last of these may certainly be considered the definitive reference on the subject.

Hope this helps!

PS - Although I feel pretty sure that your platter is from Hamburg, is to be noted that the German city of Altona's silver mark was nearly identical to Hamburg's: three towers with a letter below.

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iconnumber posted 03-28-2005 09:24 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No wonder Tardy and Rosenberg didn't take a stab at this! "Jumbled mess" is right.

I'm grateful for the names of those books. I'd looked in the Library of Congress (which usually has just about everything I could wish for on a subject), but it possesses none of those three titles. Glad to know they are in the NY Public.

Did Hamburg start using an actual date mark at a certain point? I have a mid-19th-c beaker that has the three towers with an A beneath (a distant successor of Herr Hansen, I suppose), and then the number "56" in a chevron. I've assumed this was for 1856, which seems to fit the style and manufacture.

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iconnumber posted 03-28-2005 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, the four assayer system remained in effect until the dissolution of the Hamburg guild in 1865. On your second item, the "A" was the mark of assayer Jacob Nicholas Wilhem Schäffer, who served from 19 Apr 1828 to 30 Aug 1851.

Therefore, the "56" isn't a date. It certainly looks as if it should be - and that's exactly what I thought for some time. But no, Hamburg marks couldn't be that easy.

The 56 is what was known as a "concession" number. It was essentially a commercial registration number unique to each maker. My (admittedly fuzzy) understanding is that its function was independent of the guild and represented permission granted by the city to conduct business under is auspices. There's a separate chapter about them in Schliemann's book.

Theoretically, then, this 56 should identify the maker, but alas I did not copy this information in full - there may or may not have been a complete list of these; I just don't remember. What's the maker's mark? Maybe I can help with that.

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iconnumber posted 03-28-2005 12:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This has been dealt with previously in earlier threads, but as a reminder, the first clue that your initial assessment was on target would have been the zizzag assay mark on the underside, which is typically found on earlier silver.

Now that the time frame has been narrowed down to a 21 year period, if may be possible to correspond with someone wha has access to one of the appriopriate references who might be willing to look up the maker for you. If his dates overlap the known period by less that the full 21 years, that would narrow down the date of manufacture even further.

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iconnumber posted 03-29-2005 08:32 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Blakstone, I will have to get the beaker from the bank to check the maker's mark. Of course, I should have known that those obfuscatory Hamburgers wouldn't make things easy for us. The concession numbers you describe sound similar to the system currently in use in Italy (which we have discussed elsewhere in these forums).

Swarter, thanks ... I knew the plate was 18th-century; my puzzlement was over early vs. late. (I've seen that zigzag burin mark on German silver as late as 1820 or so.) The dealer from whom I bought the plate described it as "circa 1780," but stylistically it looked about 50 years older than that to me, which I suppose has turned out to be close to the truth.

Next time I am at the NYPL I will see if I can find the maker's mark in one of the tomes that Blakstone recommended.

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iconnumber posted 03-29-2005 03:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great - do let me know what you find.

As for the proofstrike-diet-burin mark-tremolierstich-zigzag-etc., while it is much more common on 18th C. (and earlier) pieces, akgdc absolutely right that it is no guarantee of age: it was used regularly well into the 19th C. I've seen it as late as 1842 in Berlin, for instance, and outside of Germany - in (Portugal?), most notably - as late as the 1870s. Also, those notorious deceivers in Hanau are known to have put false proofstrikes on their early 20th century wares to go along with their equally spurious pseudo-marks!

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iconnumber posted 08-06-2005 10:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don't know if it still matters, but I found out that the maker of this plate is Michel Stroht. The mark as illustrated is upside-down; it should read "MS" over a duck.

And the 3 towers/W mark is definitely that of Hamburg assayer Gerhardt Daviedt Hornbostell, working 22 May 1738 until sometime between July and October of 1749.

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