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Cape Silver Hallmarks – The Use of a Single Stub by Several Makers

Published in "The Finial", Journal of the Silver Spoon Club of Great Britian -David Murray, June 2007


The use of “pseudo-English” hallmarks by Cape Silversmiths is well documented, as is the fact that a number of makers used the same or similar marks. In 1953 David Heller observed “that (certain of) the pseudo-English hallmarks used respectively by Johannes Combrink, William Moore, Lawrence Twentyman and Fredrik Waldek are identical” (pg179, History of Cape Silver, 1700-1870). He went on to speculate “It is possible, of course, that this is pure co-incidence, alternatively the articles bearing these marks may have been made by a journeyman who worked for them all and they added their initials to his devices, or that silversmiths borrowed each other’s punches.” In 1976 Stephan Welz added Lodewyk Beck to the four silversmiths named by Heller, and hypothesized that the reason that these 5 silversmiths “used the same device marks on several pieces of flatware” (Cape Silver, page 118), was due to the concept of “makers to the trade”, where a silversmith “produces work for another silversmith or retail outlet, and puts the mark of the final seller on such silverware”. Welz then expressed an opinion that “all silverware bearing these common device marks came from the workshop of Johannes Combrink”, as “only Combrink appears to have been a trained silversmith and was the first to have an established workshop in Cape Town.” He goes on to comment that “pieces bearing these common device marks are limited to spoons and forks that are identical in shape and style, yet the evidence would suggest that those bearing the initials of Combrink are the earliest. We know also that Lawrence Twentyman was a highly successful retailer of silverware, as were William Moore and Fredrik Waldek. There are in fact no records indicating that Moore or Waldek ever fashioned silverware themselves.”


In addition to the “common device” described above, there are a large number of other pseudo-English hallmarks in evidence, used by an additional 9 makers to the 5 listed above. These include Johannes Lotter, William Lotter, Daniel Schmidt, Thomas Stevenson, Jan Steyn, John Townsend, Thomas Townsend and the two Johannes Jacobus Vos’s (father and son) – examples of these can be seen in Welz’s Cape Silver. These hallmarks include a bewildering array of pseudo lion passants, duty marks, various date letters, leopard heads and town marks (anchors and castles), used randomly in no perceivable order. A study of these marks reveals that they are all individually struck (where the silversmith strikes the hallmark punch with a hammer).


The “common device” (Figure 1, with makers mark FW for Fredrik Waldek) can be described as a row of 4 pseudo-English hallmarks, struck vertically, in the following order (from base):

1) Leopards head (uncrowned), the leopard having distinctive large ears

2) Georgian duty mark, with the head resting on unusually large shoulders

3) Date letter capital A

4) Lion passant (horizontal), facing right (unlike the English lion passant which faces left).

The shape of each punch is cavetto (Poole, Identifying Antique British Silver, pg 14), which is a rectangle with all four corners indented.

 
 Figure 1.


Given the precise alignment, spacing of the marks and the fixed sequence of the marks, we can deduce that the “common device” as described by Welz is a stub, which has been struck mechanically in a fly press. A stub is a combination assay punch, where a number of different marks are incorporated into a block (Anthony Dove, “Some Unusual Positioning of Hallmarks on Flatware”, The Finial, pg 4, July 2004). A fly press (or screw press) is a machine that enables hallmarks to be applied mechanically, that has the benefit of speeding up the process, ensures neat alignment of the marks and ensures they are struck consistently (David McKinley, “The Fly Press”, The Finial, pg 151, April 2002). The stub is a metal bar which has the hallmarks engraved on it, and is held in the jaws of the press. The difference between the stub hallmarks and the individually struck pseudo-English hallmarks (described above) is clearly illustrated in Figure 2, on two items made by the silversmith Fredrik Waldek (FW makers mark).

 
 Figure 2.
 

Inspection of other examples of the “common device” confirm the stub theory, as shown in the accompanying photographs (Figure 3, with makers mark IC for Johannes Combrink, and figure 4, with makers mark WM for William Moore). They also confirm the use of only one single stub in the Cape, as the punch marks produced by the stub are identical in every respect, as can be seen in Figure 5, which shows 3 examples of the stub, by 3 different makers (WM for William Moore, incised M used by Lodewyk Beck ((see Welz mark 8)) and FW for Fredrik Waldek). Detailed inspection of numerous items produced by the 5 silversmiths (Combrink, Moore, Twentyman, Waldek and Beck) where the stub combination assay punch was employed, show the punch marks to be identical in every respect, confirming that only one stub was ever used in the Cape. It also appears that the stub was only ever used on flatware, as no known instances of the stub have been recorded on hollowware.

 

 
 Figure 3.

 
 Figure 4.

 
 Figure 5.
 

Now that we have confirmation of the introduction of mechanical hallmarking to the Cape, we can surmise that a single fly press (for which only a single stub was made) was introduced to the Cape by an enterprising silversmith, who either:

  1. allowed other silversmiths the use of the press,

  2. was a “maker to the trade”, as described by Welz.

A third possibility is that the press passed through various different silversmiths hands at different times, but given that the flatware bearing the stub mark appears stylistically to have been produced at roughly the same period, this seems unlikely.


The fly press was invented in 1753 and demonstrated to the Goldsmiths Committee in 1757, but only came into regular use in London in 1781, in co-incidence with top marking (McKinley, “The Fly Press”). It was still not being used by any of the English provincial assay offices in 1797 (Dove, “The Cusped Duty used at the Assay Offices from 1797”, The Finial, Vol 14/04, March 2004), which demonstrates that this innovation was slow to spread. We can safely assume that the fly press would not have reached the colonies until the 19th century.


In considering the 5 silversmiths who used the stub, and the dates they are known to have worked, the following is known:

  1. Lawrence Twentyman, the most prolific of all Cape silversmiths, produced silver between 1818 and 1832 (Welz, Cape Silver). A large percentage of his silver bears a wide variety of single struck pseudo-English hallmarks, a much smaller amount of his flatware has the stub hallmark. He was a highly successful and innovative businessman, who traveled regularly and extensively. He traded in many goods beyond silver, and was described as the first South African “wholesaler” by Heller (History of Cape Silver, page 84). He was also the first retailer to establish a shop-front in his premises, “an innovation that aroused a violent storm of opposition by his neighbours who considered it to be a disgrace” (Heller, History of Cape Silver, page 89).

  2. Fredrik Waldek produced silver from 1830 to 1877 (Welz, Cape Silver). He is known to have worked with Twentyman, and took over Twentyman’s shop on Heerengracht (today Adderley Street) in 1836 (Heller, History of Cape Silver, page 104). He too was fairly prolific.

  3. William Moore was apparently a retailer only, who operated between 1840 and 1863 (Welz, Cape Silver). Only flatware by Moore is known, and it all bears the stub hallmark. This is significant, as he is the only “silversmith” of the five who used the stub exclusively to hallmark silver. He must have been quite successful, as flatware by Moore is also relatively common today.

  4. Lodewyk Beck worked between 1847 and 1867 (Welz, Cape Silver), he appears to be the least prolific of the five. He too used a variety of single struck pseudo-English hallmarks, only a small portion of his silver bears the stub mark.

  5. Johannes Combrink is tricky, as 3 generations are known, all with the same name, and all apparently using the same makers mark (Welz, Cape Silver). They worked between 1814 and 1871. Johannes Combrink I was very prolific (second only to Twentyman according to Welz, Cape Silver, page 41), he was of Dutch descent, his hallmarking (initials with a variety of devices) follows the style of the other Cape silversmiths of Dutch descent, without pseudo-English marks. Combrink flatware with the stub hallmark is occasionally seen, but it is a very small percentage of known Combrink silver.


Using the evidence above, I suggest the following:


  1. Twentyman imported a fly press to the Cape circa 1830, towards the end of his silversmithing career. Twentyman is the most likely candidate, given his innovative business nature, frequent trips back to England and position as a major importer of goods into the Cape. The date of 1830 accounts for only a small percentage of Twentyman silver having the stub hallmarks.

  2. The fly press passed into the hands of Fredrik Waldek, who probably took over the Twentyman workshops when he took over the Twentyman shop in 1836.

  3. William Moore was a retailer only, and had all his flatware produced in the Twentyman/Waldek workshop, and hallmarked using the fly press. (Here I support Welz in his “makers to the trade” theory, but disagree that it was the Combrink workshop, on the basis that only a very small percentage of Combrink silver has the stub hallmark).

  4. Beck and Combrink II and III occasionally “bought in” flatware as per Moore above, to satisfy English clientele requiring “English hallmarks”. They continued to produce and mark silver with their own punches.


In conclusion, given the evidence that mechanical hallmarking was introduced to the Cape circa 1830 with the importation of a fly press, and given that only a single stub was produced with 4 pseudo-English hallmarks, and given that the stub was used quite extensively by 5 different silversmiths, I propose naming this particular sequence of hallmarks “The Cape Stub”.


References


  1. David Heller - “A History of Cape Silver 1700-1870” – David Heller (PTY) Ltd, Cape Town, 1949.

  2. David Heller – “Further Researches in Cape Silver” – Maskew Miller Ltd, Cape Town, 1953.

  3. Stephan Welz – “Cape Silver and Silversmiths” – A.A. Balkema, Cape Town, 1976.

  4. T.R. Poole – “Identifying Antique British Silver” – Bloomsbury, London, 1988.

  5. Anthony Dove F.S.R.A. – “Some Unusual Positioning of Hallmarks on Flatware” – The Finial Vol 14/06, July/August 2004, pg 4.

  6. David McKinley – “The Fly Press” – The Finial Vol 12/05, April/May 2002, pg 150.

  7. Anthony Dove F.S.R.A. – “The Cusped Duty used at the Assay Offices from 1797” - The Finial Vol 14/04, March/April 2004, pg 4.



Note: Further examples of photographs of Cape silver hallmarks, including single struck pseudo-English marks and the Cape silver stub, can be seen in the Cape silver section of www.leopardantiques.com. All the examples used in this article can also be viewed on the same website.



 

 

 

 



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