You know that theoretical question…if you could invite any four people from history to dinner who would it be?
This is my version, I’d ask a silversmith.
Instead of dinner and trying to speak with all of these amazing silversmiths at one time, I’d like to have a coffee with each of them individually. This way I get to sneak in my fifth person!
Let’s set the scene.
As it’s been a horrid, cold winter here, I’m imagining a warm spring day. Sunny, but not too hot, just a slight breeze. Sitting on my terrace looking out over bright daffodils and green grass. A nice tray with drinks and a few delicious goodies – perhaps some hazelnut & chocolate biscotti and a few lemon squares. Nice pieces of silver to serve the nibbles with. Oh, comfy chairs too. Alright, I think we are set.
So who would I invite?
1. Andrew Fogelberg
Little is known about Andrew Fogelberg before he come to London in the 1760’s. He was Scandinavian, likely Swedish as he made provisions in his will to his sister and a nephew who were in Sweden. Fogelberg was most active in the late 18th century, well known for his fine quality work done in the high neo-classical style of the era. He was also the master to whom Paul Storr was apprenticed. Paul Storr is one of the best known of the early 19th century silversmiths.
Fogelberg intrigues me personally because I have the enormous luck to own one of his pieces. It is a trefid spoon.
My trefid spoon is absolutely gorgeous and quite a puzzle. One day, I need to spend some time unravelling its story.
- It was made in 1791, long after trefids were popular.
- It is goldwashed – not just on the bowl but the entire piece, front and back. I have never seen anything like it in person.
- There is no monogram – nor any evidence of a removal.
- It was undoubtedly an expensive piece. It is large and very heavy, containing lots of sterling, by 1791 Fogelberg was well established and sought after, and I doubt the goldwash was a free upgrade!
Would you like to see another stunning example of his work?
I stumbled upon this teapot the other day. It is simply incredible.
2. Thomas Chawner
“The most important dynasty of English spoon makers began in the mid-18th Century with Thomas Chawner. This group of silversmiths, along with the Bateman family, dominated spoon production in the late 18th & early 19th Centuries.” Quoted from Antique Silver Spoons in the UK.
Again, my intrigue is a personal one, based on ownership of several pieces of English silver bearing his mark – sometimes alone and other times in combination with a partner. The survival of these quotidian pieces over hundreds of years endlessly fascinates me. Spoons are not like candelabra or large pieces of hollowware which don’t tend to get moved around a lot. They get used and are subject to repetitive motions that cause wear.
My very favorite piece from the Chawner group was made in 1776 (a catchy date). It is engraved D ● P. Whether it was DP or someone else in the 200 plus years since this spoon was made, I love this piece because someone was very serious about getting every last drop of food off their plate. The front/top edge of the bowl is worn on the left side from being scraped against the plate or bowl. Furthermore, having the wear on the left side means that person was right-handed, as I’m a leftie that strikes me each time I use this spoon.
3. Hester Bateman
Yes, I know its a bit of a cliche for me to add Hester to this list. But as one of the relatively few women silversmith’s of the time and one who’s work is well-known, I just can’t leave her off.
I don’t have a piece by Hester – although I plan on rectifying that situation at some point.
Remember the quote from Antique Silver Spoons about Chawner AND the Bateman family dominating spoon production. “Dominating spoon production” – wow, that was akin to being a big box store today. Although I suspect most big box store items bought today will not be in good working order in 200 years. Just a hunch.
A bit more about Silversmith Hester Bateman.
4. Jacob Hurd
I saw an episode of Antiques Roadshow a few weeks ago in which a woman turned up with a piece of silver by Jacob Hurd. Hurd was one of the most influential of the early Boston silversmiths (Paul Revere was the beneficiary of great PR). I happen to be familiar with Hurd as I did some research on another of the Boston smiths for a project.
Anyway, they were showing this gorgeous milk jug on the show. I was glued to the telly, enthralled. Unlike most American milk jugs of the era, this one featured the most exquisite engraved decoration, very unusual. To the stunned delight of the owner the value of the piece was estimated at $30,000-$50,000.
Here is a link to the item and the appraisal video on Antiques Roadshow.
Here is another marvelous piece by Hurd I thought you might enjoy – what do you think this teapot would be worth?
5. Alfredo Sciarrotta
Sciarrotta was the silversmith who opened my eyes to 20th century vintage silver. I confess I had not given post-WWII silver a chance, not for any particular reason, rather I was busy with older items.
Then this beauty came across my desk – meet Leaf #10.
It bowled me over. So clean – the lines and curves. Form and function – it was love at first sight. This is one of those pieces that is very difficult to part with, but as I keep telling myself – Silver Magpies is a business and I have had the privilege of caring for these marvelous creations.
Unlike with the others, I know exactly what my first question to Mr. Sciarrotta would be. “Were you really smuggled out of Italy during World War II to assist the US with submarine technology development?”
Update: see Alfredo Sciarrotta -It’s a Small World. A fave silversmith 🙂
Do you have a Silversmith to add to the list?
I always to love hear from you.