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tline3open  Mystery Silver Tongs

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Author Topic:   Mystery Silver Tongs
June Martin
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Posts: 1223
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 09-28-2003 01:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've come across a plain but very handsome pair of silver tongs that is a mystery to me. There is a maker's mark and marks that look English (lion, date mark, monarch head), but there is no town mark. Any input as to where, when and by whom these tongs may have been made?

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1768
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 09-28-2003 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi June. I don't know who the maker is, but I believe these were made in London in 1796. I have come across a lot of small silver flatware--teaspoons, tongs, etc.--that lacks town marks. I am not sure why this is, however.

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June Martin
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Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 09-28-2003 08:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Paul. It looked like 1796 London to me but without the town mark, I wasn't sure. Someone else (offline unfortunately) also mentioned to me that town marks were sometimes left off during this time period. If we agree on London 1796, I am thinking that the maker is Stephen Adams. Not sure whether it is the father or the son although I lean toward the father because the son's cartouche is not quite the same.

[This message has been edited by June Martin (edited 09-28-2003).]

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ozfred

Posts: 87
Registered: Sep 2002

iconnumber posted 09-28-2003 09:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ozfred     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One reasonable explanation for no town mark was to discourage the use of marks, on small items, being 'let into' a large piece to avoid paying the required fee.

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swarter
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Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 09-28-2003 10:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
June: According to the biographical information in Grimwade, the father is thought to have retired by 1790. Although no maark is shown for the son before 1813, when he entered his first mark as a plateworker, he did enter earlier marks as a bucklemaker. One such mark that seems to resemble very closely this mark is one entered in 1792 and shown as a drawn mark in Fallon. If this is a London made piece (which is probable), it is likely by the younger Adams.

There was at least one earlier discuaaion on this forum) with some information about inccomplete marking on small items:

Confusing partial English hallmarks
Regarding Englands hallmarking

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 09-28-2003).]

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Bill H

Posts: 31
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 09-29-2003 12:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bill H     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
June,

These are London tongs. John Ludington, an experienced and knowledgable dealer states "Up to 1784,[tongs] were stamped with a town and maker's mark only but subsequently were more fully marked, although in London, where the majority were made, the date letter and/or town mark were frequently absent."

I agree with the Adams II attribution.

Bill

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vathek

Posts: 962
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 09-29-2003 08:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have seen a fair amount of small silver items made in London without the town mark. I always first assume such a piece is a London piece.

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buckleman1
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iconnumber posted 10-10-2003 02:31 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that with the opinions that Stephen Adams II was the maker of this piece. As buckle makers, both father and son made tongs, deriving from the fact that buckles involved small castings and this in the 1770 -1780 period was the preferred method of making tongs.

Very few items of small silver were marked fully in London until after 1800 , almost certainly as suggested to avoid the transposing of marks.

For buckles the date letter appears around 1789/90 and the town mark around 1822 with the uncrowned leopards head

One can normally identify the London assayed pieces according the the following guidelines.

The London Lion Passant (actually Lion Passant Guardant) usually has cut corners at the top and a dimple at the bottom edge. Just to confuse matters one very small punch has an oval top and I think there was another ovoid punch !. The cut top corners get more cut until around 1800 when the corner and top sides are almost identical in length

Exeter will usually have a square/ oblong (often quite long - the letterbox punch ) Lion Passant Punch - sometimes oval

Birmingham and Sheffield will be almost invariably fully marked from the start in 1773

York and Exeter are very rarely seen, but Newcastle can be tricky, especially as they used the Leopards head !

I would be very happy to help with an opinion on an English pre 1830 mark

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swarter
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Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 10-11-2003 06:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you buckleman1 for an informative posting. We are opening a new British / Irish Sterling Forum, and hope you will join us there.

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Buckleman1
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iconnumber posted 10-14-2003 03:11 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I should have added to previous post on identification of London v Provincial silver that the guidelines were for the tongs period only . Prior to 1746 Goldsmiths Hall in London used what is sometimes referred to as the "Cottage Loaf Lion " or "Bobble bottomed Lion". This was a side indented punch with two or the cusps at the bottom and was used during the 1740 -1756 period in London only - never used in the provinces.The two cusp and three cusp are supposed to refer to two separate periods , the two cusp being 1750 to 1756 , the three cusp being earlier, but I have reservations on this.

The prior mark to that for London was a square rounded topped mark with a very scraggy lion with odd ears. There are various versions of this punch which have driven me mad over the years trying to sort out. I think in fact several different punches were used simultaneously just to confuse collectors !

Anyone who has any firm chronology of the 1716- 1740 London punch would do everyone a favor by sharing his thoughts. One problem is that Goldsmith Hall and the Antique Plate Committee keep this information very much to themselves to avoid forgers getting too crafty. !

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 10-14-2003 03:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very informative topic. I too have seen several examples on small London items without the town mark.

The Adams' may have prefered casting tongs but these are most certainly handwrought tongs forged in much the same manner as a pair of spoons end to end.

Casting would have only been used to make the ingot used in the forging.

Fred

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Buckleman1
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iconnumber posted 10-15-2003 01:16 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, these tongs were not cast, but formed from an ingot beaten to a sheet. almost all made in one part The earlier type of tongs ( and nips also) were from castings, hand finished, and in the case of tongs usually three part. I was trying to make the point that in the 1760- 1770 period castings were used for both buckles and tongs, hence bucklemakers often turning their hands to making "tea tongs"

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FredZ

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Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 10-15-2003 09:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Buckleman,

I find the association of buckle makers and their choice to make tongs as well very interesting and I see your point. I have always been interested to understand the practical use of early shoe buckles and how they were attached to the shoe. I believe I understand that they were perhaps used to tighten the shoe on the foot. Perhaps you could post some information on their use and some of your collection.

Fred

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Anuh

Posts: 190
Registered: Jan 2003

iconnumber posted 10-16-2003 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Anuh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fred, you don't mean that they weren't actually used to hold the shoe closed, do you?

I'm only being partly facetious, since this is what I always assumed they were for, and if they accomodated a piece of leather to do so, they would be eminently adjustable.

As you can tell, I don't know a thing about antique shoe buckles. I am well aware of those made after 1950 or so which were designed for nothing more than to add a bit of glitz and glitter to a shoe! ;-D

------------------
Anuh

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FredZ

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Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 10-17-2003 03:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My interest in buckles is in relation to the Arts & Crafts Movement. Many examples have been found made by craftsmen during the first part of the 20th Century.

It was during this time that there was an appreciation and a love for the Colonial Period of our nations history and folks revived the use of the shoe buckles to use in costumes. I have a few examples in both sterling and copper. The buckles made during this time period were decorative and were stiched to the shoe for effect and not utility.

I also have examples of shoe buckles made in Japan for export. These are made using damascening on iron and mounted in gold plated brass. These probably date to the late 19th century.

I would be curious if Buckleman has information on when the lace outmoded the buckle. It would be nice to see examples of his collection. Is there a website?

Fred

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Buckleman1
unregistered
iconnumber posted 10-18-2003 07:49 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regret I cannot post pictures as I do not have a picture host.

Attachment of the shoe buckle in the eighteenth century was very practical. We, in modern times, regard buckles as being permanently attached to the article they secure, effectively being one article. The Georgians had a more modular approach. The buckle was designed to be entirely separate so that one could mix and match shoes and buckles. A paste buckle could be used indoors for a ball, then replaced for outdoor wear by a copper or silver one. Silver buckles in particular, were, like most silver items regarded as savings.Banking was rudimentary, and coinage was real value, (a silver shilling was worth a shilling because it was made of one shillings worth of silver, not because the Government made it have an arbitrary value) Silver articles at 925/1000 was the same purity as coinage (hence Coin Silver)

Your surplus money was held in Government stock (- always risky), in coin (gold or silver) or in silver or gold articles. You bought your article by weight, and a bit extra for making it (for the "fashion" (ing)). When times got hard you sold it. When you exchanged your old buckles for the newest style you did not regard the old ones as being scrapped, just re worked.

Sorry to explain in such detail but we modern silver collectors often forget that we have a totally different environment and hence mindset to our ancestors.

Returning to facts.

From each side of the shoe quarters a short , narrow strap of leather protruded (called a Latchet). Originally , in the 17th century, pieced with holes to take a ribbon tie, these had evolved by 1720 into almost a standard width, which slowly increased in width as the century progressed. The buckle had a loop with an internal spike (or after around 1730 ,two spikes) and an opposing spike or more usually two spikes in a pitchfork shape. The loop fitted one strap, and the buckle was drawn up so that the pitchfork engaged the other strap, causing a tight fit. Did not always work, plenty of contemporary accounts of buckles getting entangled at dances and coming off, much to the delight of servants who, one suspects , pinched them. There were many variants of the scheme, some practical like the well known Eley patent design, some very impractical and short lived. As you say, the later buckles were technically shoe "trims" with only a decorative function.

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Buckleman1
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iconnumber posted 10-18-2003 08:08 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The eclipse of the shoe buckle by the shoe lace is a actually quite complex and causes heated argument among buckle buffs and shoe historians. There are as many theories and even dating as there are "experts". Even the dates are, to my mind controversial, as silver buckles had a somewhat different chronology of decline.

In general one can say that by 1790 the general use had declined to virtually nothing, but Court (i.e., formal) use was still strong, mainly due to the influence of the Prince Regent (late George IV) in support of the Birmingham buckle trade.

The reason for the decline has been put to several factors - the French Revolution being the main one. Personally I think that the buckle had by then been through all possible shapes , sizes etc, and it was time for a change. Fashion is fickle and the Napoleonic wars also meant that the military had to have something more practical, and that influenced fashion greatly. Also the British establishment wanted to play down ostentatious display of wealth to avoid the fate of the French aristocracy.

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FredZ

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Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 10-18-2003 10:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
BRAVO! and many thanks for your detailed reply. I have augmented my interest in buckles with a search of the web for images of these buckles and have found some rather stunning examples in collections and for sale. Your explaination of use has been helpful and I understand the collector's fascination with this small yet important item of everyday wear.

Fred

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swarter
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Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 10-18-2003 05:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Buckleman: if you have pictures you would like to have posted, and have the ability to send pictures via email in the .jpg format, send them to me or directly to Scott Martin, Forum Master, at info@smpub.com , and we will see that they are posted.

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