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A rare fake ‘TP Dexter’ Sterling Jug: Silver Fraud!

Serling Silver Jugs

These three jugs look very similar, and yet only one is genuine.
Below is a Genuine engraved jug of 1798, a Victorian version of 1888, and another Victorian…. but with marks claiming it is Sheffield 1797.
Can you pick the fake?

Slide down the bar on below image to reveal the dates

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Late 19th century Sterling Silver milk jug, of helmet shape, with elegant curved handle, the body with engraved lines to rim, a central reserve with initials ‘JJC’ to one side , the other blank. 
Hallmarked for Birmingham 1795, also ‘TL’ for an unknown maker –a mark used in documented ‘fraudulent’ pieces of Sterling Silver discovered in the premises of Reuben Lyon in the late 19th century.

FAKE sterling silver hallmarks
The FAKE sterling silver hallmarks, claiming to be Birmingham 1797

The fraudulent nature of this piece of Sterling Silver is an interesting study. 
The hallmarks are clear, and ye have something different about their wear; particularly notable is the background, which shows up lumps & bumps not usually seen in hallmarks. This is because normal hallmarks verified at the assay office have been struck into the piece using a die, with a flat end incised with the initials; the background is therefore flat. The ‘bumps’ indicate this piece is cast at the time of making, ie. there is some texture from the casting medium that cannot be buffed out from the recessed marks……… something that is only done by a forger. 
This maker’s mark ‘TD’ appears to be copying T.P. Dexter’s mark, which was only registered in 1805. As the registry of marks was not published or accessible in the 19th century like it is now, it would not have been possible for a forger to look up the active dates of a silversmith. In this case, it is a decade out, making identification easier. 
In 1899, the London Goldsmith’s Company published a booklet to expose a group of fakes they had detected and destroyed recently. At the premises of 70-year old Reuben Lyon of Holborn, more than 200 fraudulently hallmarked ‘Antique’ pieces were found by officers of the Goldsmith’s Guild, and the hallmarks of ‘around 50’ makers on the pieces recorded and published. The ‘TD’ mark is one of them. 

These pieces were destroyed by the guild. This is still their practice, and they constantly assess the trade in Anbtqiuue silver to ensure that fraudulent pieces are not circulating as genuine. A silver collector witnessed this in action in London recently: visiting one of the seller son silver, a man entered with a portable anvil, the fake was brought out, and completely mashed into a formless lump with a hammer!

Interestingly, an article written about forged silver at the time refers to the technique of casting marks, ‘…adopted by a forger a year or so ago, who recieved his due punishment…’ This suggests the evidence of casting in a piece puts it into an 1890’s context,  100 years after the marks they were depicting. 

The fakes were detected, and their source investigated by the Guild. Reuben claimed innocence, stating he had purchased the goods ‘from a man named ‘Clarke’ …. who had subsequently disappeared’. He was fined £3,000, an immense amount for the time. It was the end of him and his business…..

This was a time of intense interest in English Silver from the Georgian period, especially by the Americans – and the occasional Australian. I wonder if ‘Clarke’ tried selling to this lucrative market of wealth Australians, far away from the eyes of the Goldsmith’s Guild?
This jug came from a local source, and may well have been imported into Australia as an ‘Antique’ around turn of the century, despite it being pretty recently made! 

The irony is, this is now a rarity; in the UK, the Guild has ‘taken care’ of any examples, and only in a place like Australia are there examples to be seen…. at least knowingly!

Read more on the Reuben Lyon pieces here >

The London Assay Office report >

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