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English Enamels & Derby figures

Welcome to our latest Fresh Stock release at Moorabool.

This week we have a fine selection of English Porcelain figures, and a collection of English Enamel patch & snuff boxes.

Enamel patch boxes and snuff boxes were everyday items for fashionable 18th century people of social status.

Patch-box with mirror in lid

Patchboxes, as their name suggests, were used to store ‘patches’ – literally small wax-based cosmetic ‘boils’ that were seen as essential beauty products in the 17th & 18th centuries. This ‘beauty spot’ fashion had a practical origin; the diseases of the era would often leave facial scars, and a patch could be used to fill the mark; however, it obviously became something more, with perfectly healthy un-diseased beauties feeling they had to add artificial patches to their faces!
The patchbox, with its compact size and elegant appearance, provided a convenient and stylish way to carry these essential fashion accessories on one’s person, ready to apply if needed. You can tell them by the mirror seen inside the lid – something seen into the modern era with the ‘powder-compact’.

Snuff boxes were used to store ‘snuff’ – essentially powdered tobacco, a popular stimulant in the 17th and 18th centuries. Snuff-taking was not only a social ritual but also a symbol of refinement and status. These boxes, often passed down as heirlooms, were prized possessions that reflected the taste and sophistication of their owners, making them cherished artifacts right to the present day.

Fresh to Stock – 18th century Enamel Boxes


One of these lovely enamel boxes isn’t what it seems: can you tell which?

SLIDE the line across to reveal the Sampson 19th century copy!

Derby Figures

Derby figures, originating from the renowned Derby Porcelain Factory founded by William Duesbury in 1756, represent a pinnacle of 18th-century ceramic artistry. These exquisite porcelain sculptures, often depicting scenes of pastoral life, classical mythology, or notable historical figures, are celebrated for their impeccable craftsmanship and artistic detail. From elegant ladies and gentlemen in period attire to elaborate animal and mythological motifs, Derby figures encompass a diverse range of subjects and styles, each meticulously sculpted and hand-painted with vibrant enamels. Reflecting the tastes of the aristocracy and burgeoning middle-class of Georgian England, these figures adorned the mantelpieces and tables of affluent households, serving as both decorative ornaments and symbols of status and refinement. Today, Derby figures remain highly sought-after by Collectors and Connoisseurs of Fine Things, cherished for their timeless beauty.

Fresh to Stock – Derby Figures – and more!

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A Rare Pair: Meissen copies of Sèvres, by J.G. Loehnig, circa 1786

Rare Meissen beakers in the Sèvres style, by Johann Georg Loehnig, c.1775

Sometimes, things don’t turn out to be what they look like. While that’s usually a pre-cursor for disappointment when we discover something is made later, or badly damaged – our recent experience was quite the opposite…
An enquiry about some ‘Dresden Cups’ with a photo of the two beautiful beakers illustrated here came to us. The pieces looked superb quality, and Sèvres would be a likely candidate – not Dresden, or Meissen as it is more familiarly known.

Handling them for the first time showed them to be even better than the photos. They are absolutely the most stunning items, and their condition exceptional. Turning them up reveals their surprise : a pair of crossed sword marks, for Meissen.

Definitely 18th century, and Vincennes/ early Sèvres style, but Meissen marks; clearly there’s a tale to be told….

A dive into the books brought up the answer: a rare moment in the world of Meissen, when it no longer led the way in porcelain taste in Europe, but followed the French. Once we had established the period, we were able to attribute the artist: Johann George Loehnig (1743 – 1806).

His work is rare. He was listed as one of the 1st-class artists in Meissen between 1764 and 1770. In 1786 he was still listed as a “…figure painter of the most exquisite class” in the manufactory’s list of painters. The artwork source for the lush and expressive putti were mostly provided by Johann Eleazar Zeissig (1737 – 1806), called Schenau, who in turn was inspired by François Boucher (1703 – 1770).”

Sèvres cherubs, 1758-9

Meissen cherubs, c. 1770

Meissen c. 1770

Meissen c. 1770

Meissen, the pioneering porcelain manufacturer in Europe, had led the field in discovering how to manufacture porcelain, inventing and defining the European taste for porcelain right from their first creations in the first decade of the 18th century. By the 1770’s, they had a large number of competitors, and lost their lead as innovators to other makers. There are several shapes ‘borrowed’ from France, and this cup shows the strong demand for the ‘French’ taste, decorated in a design that first appeared in Vincennes & Sèvres products in the 1750’s. While the Sèvres examples were based on the paintings and prints of Boucher, it has been suggested that the designs for the Meissen examples 25 years later came from the works by Schenau (Johann Eleazar Zeissig), Director of the Royal Academy of Arts in Dresden – who was himself directly influenced by the works of Boucher.

Very few examples are to be found of this direct copying, and appear to be limited to a few very exclusive tea sets – and chocolate, as seen here – made for the most wealthy of customers.

This cup, along with its companion, is said to have come to Australia in the 19th century, to be passed down several generations in Geelong, Victoria, before it was brought into our premises in Geelong in 2024.

Munich Museum tray – illustrated in ‘Meissen Porcelain of the 18th century’ by Hermann Jedding

There is a tea-tray in the Munich Museum which is so exactly related to this cup, we speculate it may be the original for a split-up setting – perhaps a teapot, a coffee/chocolate pot, a sugar bowl, and two cups & saucers sat on this as a dejeuner set. The main scene is Venus and attendant cherubs amongst clouts, while the small panels in the border feature trophies, with the borders around each being the exact leaf & flower design seen on this cup. There is an identical dentil border to the rim.

Above is a detail from Hermann Jedding ‘Meissen Porcelain of the 18th century’ p 104, pl. 179, showing a tray with the exact same figures, ground and fine gilt borders, described as being painted by Johann Georg Loehnig, who “…preferred preferred vessels in royal blue… which he painted with putti, lovers or portraits, often using the stippled dot technique”.  He describes the borders: “etched gold tendrils and flowers… the refined delicacy of French taste was also sought in Meissen”.

The tray illustrated is in the Munich Bayerisches Nationalmuseum , dated 1770.

Compare to the border of these beakers – it’s the same, and assumed to therefore be from the same unique commission, circa 1770. This was not a ‘pattern’ of the firm, and each commission would be different in detail, such as the gilt borders. The cherubs and their clouds appear identical in concept – although no colour photograph of the tray could be found.

A tray ‘manner of’ Loehnig sold at Christies, 2008:

Lempertz example of a complete service:

The V&A has a single example of his work:

Two rare Meissen chocolate cups, of tall beaker form, superbly painted by Johann Georg Loehnig with two panels of cherubs in clouds, in his distinct ‘stipple’ technique, imitating Vincennes/Sèvres products of the mid-18th century, set within ornate leaf & flowers raised & tooled gold frames, the foot with a solid gold band.

Crossed swords mark in underglaze blue to each, also indistinct underglaze ground-painter’s mark, pressnumer ‘.9′ (or 6’) in the foot rim.

Circa 1770

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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

Left ImageRight Image

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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Rarity in Miniature: micro-carved Ivory Rococo scene, c.1795

Micro-carved ivory plaque,

Micro-carving describes the feat of creating miniature artworks, with the favourite material being ivory due to its compact nature which carves easily and displays well. Set against the burgundy silk, this example is a splendid example of the technique.

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong

The technique is very reminiscent of the contrasting ceramic reliefs made famous by Wedgwood’s Jasperwares, and of the carved shell cameos with similar contrast. However, this ivory carving was magnitudes  harder to achieve; the carving is independent of any support until it is attached to the backing. This piece consists of small number of pieces mounted together, with a separate roundel border. In order to lighten the appearance of the urn and its plinth, they have cut out straight lines, with several together only measuring a millimetre – some features such as the stems of the roses in the border garland are the thickness of a hair!

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch (attributed) micro-carved ivory plaque, circa 1795.

Some of the best of the Georgian era were Continental emigrés, G Stephany and J Dresch. They established themselves in Bath and London, catering for the wealthy clients who were after miniature novelties for their snuffbox collections, or pieces of jewellery, or framed works suitable for a cabinet or wall.

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong

They promoted themselves as  ‘…the most eminent sculptors in ivory in Europe who will execute any design for Rings, Bracelets, Lockets, or for Cabinet pieces’. Their work was ‘so fine that a glass is necessary to discover its beauties’. They exhibited a number of times at the Royal Academy, and were presented with a Royal Warrant by George III, titled ‘Sculptors in Miniature on Ivory to their Majesties’. The Royal Collection still has three pieces, portrait profiles of George III, Queen Charlotte, and the Princess Royal, Charlotte.

This superb micro-carved plaque is quite possibly by this premium English firm, or a Continental carver of similar talent.

An example in the Bath Museum:

'Grand Tour' fan, Views of Rome, Italian c.1785
‘Grand Tour’ fan, Views of Rome, Italian c.1785
micro carved ivory Grand Tour fan, Italian c.1785 at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong, Australia

A sensational example of micro-carved ivory can be seen on this Neapolitan ‘Grand Tour’ fan of the 1780’s. It depicts a French-style Rococo ‘folly’, and shows great skill in keeping the sticks strong enough to still stand up to usage.

See this item here >>

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A Box or Two….

Soth East Asian Ceramic Boxes

Some fascinating ancient boxes, just released on

We’re pleased to offer a small selection of South-East Asian ceramic boxes, fresh to

Collection of South East Asian Ceramic Boxes

These pottery and porcelain objects were produced in vast quantities in certain places as trade goods, and as a result are found all across South-East Asia.

Khmer bird pot, 12th century
Khmer bird pot, 12th century

The earliest we have are the Khmer examples, with one delightfully shaped like a small plump bird; his beak and eyes protrude from one side, balanced by a tail at the rear. A small conical cap to the top is almost a miniature Buddhist stupa….

Song Dynasty, 13th century
Song Dynasty Qingbai, 13th century

Equal date is the amazing large white glazed porcelain box with a peony rose moulded to the top. This is from Song Dynasty China, 12th-13th century, of a type known as ‘Qingbai’.

Thai 15th century

I like the Thai pieces from the 15th century for their sophisticated moulded patterns. The ‘Deer’ and the ‘Flower’ boxes we have are particularly tactile pieces, encouraging you to explore their design with your fingertips.

Swipe Left, South Australian Museum:Swipe Right, our example. Thai, Swankalok,

The other Thai pieces are a larger form, made to hold more. These are a distinct high-fired stoneware, and the kiln sites for these were traced & excavated in the 1980’s in Thailand, known as Sawankalok. Australian scholars were a major part of this study, and an important collection of these pieces can be seen in the Art Gallery of South Australia. Interestingly, there is an almost identical box to one of our pieces there, the only difference being a complete reversal of the colour scheme; ours is like the ‘negative’ of theirs!

What were they used for?
The answer to that is “whatever you need a box for!”
Much like a Tupperware box today, they would have been used for whatever the locals needed a small container to hold. In some regions they were probably highly prized expensive imports, used in such prestigious occasions as wedding dowries and burials of the more wealthy. In some of the Indonesian island kingdoms, for example, they are found in ‘caches’, large groups of buried ‘treasure’ including ceramics and precious metals – probably a local wealthy person burying their prized possessions in a time of conflict and never coming back for them.

Hoi An Shipwreck, c. 1490
Hoi An Shipwreck, c. 1490

Another amazing source of these boxes are shipments that never made it to the market place. Boxes from well-known shipwrecks that we have include the Vietnamese products from the late 15th century Hoi An wreck, and a few from the early 17th century Ming Dynasty Bihn Thuan wreck, sold off in Melbourne a few years ago.

Here’s a selection currently in stock:

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Macintosh Clan Silverware & etc.

Macintosh Clan Family Crest, on Sterling Silver at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong, Australia
Macintosh Clan Family Crest, on Sterling Silver at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong, Australia
The Macintosh Clan Family Crest, on Sterling Silver cutlery at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong, Australia

“Touch not the Cat bot aglove’

The Scottish Clans are a proud lot of Gentry. Of all the clans, Macintosh is a very familiar name – and part of that is the very memorable crest.

It’s a Wildcat, beautifully engraved to each piece. The motto when included reads ‘TOUCH NOT THE CAT BOT(without) A-GLOVE’ – in other words, don’t mess with these wild Scotsmen!

These fierce Scots supported Robert the Bruce in the 14th century; Mary Queen of Scotts in the 16th century; and Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 18th century.

Their crest is in keeping with this ‘prickly’ nature: A wild cat, ‘guardant’ – rising up with claws out to attack.

The silverware is lucky to be here, having been rescued from the ‘Scrap Merchant’ recently in rural Victoria. The knives were made to match in England, with Sterling Silver handles, in 2015!

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The mysterious Mr Betts – a miniature artist ‘signature piece’ discovered.

Samuel-Betts-Miniature-Artist's Signature Piece
Samuel Betts Artist oil miniature 1847
Samuel Betts Artist oil miniature 1847 at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

The miniature portrait-painter of the 18th & 19th centuries was the equivalent of the portrait photographer today. His skills provided a memory of a person by re-creating their likeness – the personalities that smile or scowl from their frames to this day are testimonial to their skills.

There were a large number of them in the Georgian & Victorian eras, some famous and therefore expensive, others unknown and inexpensive. It seems a large number were not signed on the front: however, just occasionally there is an inscription on the back of the work.

A piece purchased recently here in Geelong was just an anonymous gent of the earlier 19th century – until we took the backing off. A large inscription in cursive pinwork met our eye, reading:

Samuel-Betts-Miniature-Artist's Signature Piece at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong
Samuel Betts portrait miniature – the inscription on this Artist’s ‘Signature Piece’ at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

“This likeness taken
by Mr Betts Artist
of Shipston-on-Stour
aug 1847
Died Oct 8th 1856
Aged 97 years”

There’s a portion missing – very faintly visible is the trace of an initial and a surname, which unfortunately seems to have been written on the copper fastenings and has not survived. However, it’s the artist in this case that is extremely interesting.


There’s a go-to source for all who love portrait miniatures: the massive online resource of ‘‘. This is a superb study site funded by the UK’s ‘National Lottery Heritage Fund’, and for a decade has been accumulating work on miniature artists. They build on the various works on the subject published in the 20th century – but with the wonder of the internet, are able to update further discoveries / research, with the active encouragement for visitors to upload their own miniatures.

I’ve gone ahead and uploaded this example, as it can now stand as a ‘signature piece’ – meaning other unidentified portrait miniatures could potentially be linked to the mysterious Mr Samuel Betts by comparing them to this piece.

We’re always amazed at what turns up in Geelong!


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A Scottish Lord’s stunning coffee pot & a Missing Mark found – OSP discoveries

This remarkable piece of design is Old Sheffield Plate- the laboriously-constructed technique used before silver plating was invented.

Roberts, Cadman & Co Old Sheffield Plate coffee pot c.1805
Roberts, Cadman & Co Old Sheffield Plate coffee pot c.1805

The simple form and lack of fussy details is a style more usually associated with the Art Deco period a century later- but here it is, in the early 19th century.
This is the essence of what Art Deco later copied to great effect.
Chronologically, in the evolution of the coffee pot, if you look at the earlier 18th century pieces and then the mid-19th century examples that came later, you can see what a special example this is, with its simple elegance.

There’s a crest on the side of the coffee pot – and it’s alway fun to find the original owner. Who were they? What did they do? and where did they use this remarkable piece?

The ‘Fetterlock’ crest.
The Grierson’s crest in ‘Fairburn’s Crests’ (1911 edition)

The curious stirup-like symbol has the motto “HOC SECURIOR” , meaning ‘safer by this’. It is actually a middle-ages ‘Fetterlock’, used to lock a horse against a post or tree. Several families were awarded the use of this in their heraldic crests, but only one conforms to the motto – the Griersons of Dumfriesshire. A quick browse through ‘Fairburn’s Crests ‘ confirms this to be the crest of the Grierson Clan of Scotland.

They have a long & proud part to play in Scottish history, closely associated with the powerful Douglas clan. They supported James IV, and suffered the same fate as him at the battle of Flodden in 1513. They were a ‘Jacobite’ clan: 200 years later, they supported James VI of Scotland, receiving a knightship in 1608. After the accession of James VII of Scotland (James II of England), the current clan leader, Robert Grierson, was made the Baronet of Lag. During the ‘Glorious Revolution’, they opposed the Prodestant William & Mary’s claim on the throne.

Roberts Cadman & Co ‘beehive’ version, 1805, note the same handle, base & spout, but with a ‘fruit’ knop and ribbed body.

When we examine this colourful history of the Grierson clan, we can narrow down the owner of this elegant coffee pot: Sir Robert Grierson, 5th Baronet of Lag, 1733- 1839. In his 106 years he saw a lot of changes – and after his initial military service, drew his entitled government ‘half-pay’ for the next 76 years!

His 1839 obituary in The Times is fascinating, declaring he was was “…fond of excercise in the open air, excelled in all sporting and athletic arts, and perhaps trod the moors consecutively for a longer period than any other man of rank and fortune that ever existed. His constitution was remarkably sound and vigorous; to sickness he was a stranger; never was confined to bed a single day, and only a few hours preceding his death talked of taking his usual carriage drive.”

He “…mingled little in public business, took no prominnent share in politics, avoided revelry and ostentation, managed with discretion the affairs of his estate, was of easy access, and lived beloved and respected by all, near or at a distance, whether of his own or inferior rank, down to the humblest of his tradesmen and servants…”.

So this very simple no-frills form of coffee pot was the perfect choice to be used by this no-frills Scottish country gentleman, on those chilly mornings in the impressive stone towerhouse he inhabited…… Rockhall, a 16th century tower house near Dumfries, which is now a superb Bed & Breakfast!

Rockhall, home of Sir Robert Grierson of Lag in 1805

It’s interesting to see the shape illustrated in the definitive book on Old Sheffield Plate by Bradbury, where a series of ridges cause it to become a ‘beehive’. Our example is a more refined version, and we can positively attribute it to the same firm, Roberts, Cadman & Co of Sheffield.

The group of coffee pots in today’s ‘Fresh Stock’ illustrate the change in fashion towards the end of the 18th century. Anyone familiar with Sterling Silver versions will see it’s exactly the same evolution; the Rococo angular forms giving way to the streamlined Classical forms at the turn of the 18th century. The 1805 Roberts Cadman & Co example is surely the most elegant design to appear – if we continued into the 19th century, before long the Regency and Victorian periods re-visited elaborate scrollwork and cumbersome decoration, and it isn’t until the end of the century that these pure forms are re-visited.

Another interesting Old Sheffield Plate example to be offered in this ‘Fresh Stock’ is a wine coaster, pierced with undulating panels in the Neo-Classical ‘Adams’ style. It has a most interesting hallmark, very much in the manner of a Sterling Silver hallmark, but lacking the lion of Sterling Standard. A look through Bradbury shows up part of the mark in his ‘Unknown Marks’ section – but our mark has an extra clue: the initials of the maker, ‘HF’, and a ‘G’. When we look back a few pages, we find this combination of marks attributed to H. Freeth of Upper Priory, Sheffield, a ‘Plater’. So this fascinating piece is ‘documentary’, as it ties together the unknown maker with a known maker. Bradbury published his book in 1912, and it was re-printed as the most reliable source on the subject in 1968; time for another update?

‘Telescopic’ Chamberstick

The ‘chambersticks’ are interesting. The Chamberstick was a candle holder with a drip-pan and attached snuffer, suitable for taking to your chamber from the parlour when you retired for the night. One example we have bears a makers mark – not common – which shows it to be the work of the esteemed Mathew Boulton himself, the industrialist genius responsible for the massive expansion of Sheffield in the later 18th century and instigator of the whole Sheffield Plate industry.

The other is a rare ‘telescopic’ version, which allowed you to raise the candle up higher when it burnt down.

Mathew Boulton’s mark on the chamberstick, c. 1790
Mathew Boulton chamber stick, c. 1790
Mathew Boulton’s mark on the chamberstick, c. 1790
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A Quality Deskset

Engraved & Gilt Desk Set, Mosley London c.1860

Within this embossed velvet box lies a supreme quality desk-set.

Engraved & Gilt Desk Set, Mosley London c.1860
Engraved & Gilt Desk Set, attributed to Mosley, London, c.1860

Of superior quality, this set is made to impress. From the shape of the letter-opener and the detail of the engraving, it was ‘exotic’, reflecting the riches of the Eastern cultures – it would not have been out of place in the courts of Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.
But clearly, this example was made in the second half of the 19th century.

Engraved & Gilt Desk Set, Mosley London c.1860
Engraved & Gilt Desk Set, Mosley London c.1860

The clue to who, when & where is found on the nib of the pen. The inscription there reads ‘RICHARD MOSLEY & Co. / LONDON’ . The nib was English made – and the style of the piece, while possibly attributable to a French workshop, could also be English. A little more research reveals a fascinating story that supports this attribution.

Richard Mosley & Co.

RICHARD MOSLEY & Co, LONDON steel pen nib

Richard Mosley was the son of Richard Mosley, silversmith in London, and became a supplier of superior writing implements by the mid-19th century. In his 1852 London Directory advert he states he supplies superior steel nibs that do not wear, as seen on the pen in this set. He also states he stocks a “A LARGE STOCK ON HAND OF EVERY DESCRIPTION OF INK STANDS, CUTLERY, LEATHER GOODS, IVORY AND PEARL GOODS, AND VARIOUS OTHER ARTICLES SUITABLE FOR STATIONER & JEWELLERS”. Clearly, these were not all manufactured by him, but sourced from various workshops and retailed by him – once he had included one of his superior non-wearing nibs.

Richard Mosley advert 1852
Richard Mosley advert 1852

His secret to a superior product was to embrace the latest technology: stainless steel. This was the ‘holy grail’ of industry in the 19th century, to have a durable steel product that would resist rust. By embracing a new technology, he was able to produce a novelty ‘tech gadget’ of his time.

Etched steel paperknife, perhaps Sheffield, c. 1870
Etched steel paperknife, perhaps Sheffield, c. 1860
Detail of the steel paperknife, clearly showing the acid etched technique patented by Skinner in 1851.

The method of decoration is acid-etching steel. This technique was exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition by Thomas Skinner of Sheffield. He had obtained a patent the same year for an efficient way of producing complex etched designs on steel, which could then be enhanced with gilt, as seen on our desk set.

The technique used was simple and efficient for such complex designs, previously only possible at the hand of a master-engraver. Basically, a copper plate engraving of the required design was printed onto tissue paper (such as potters use for transfer printing) – in ink & linseed oil, which could then be pressed onto the steel surface; once this had hardened, water applied to the paper allowed it to be peeled off. A powdered ‘resin’ was then dusted over, binding with the sticky linseed oil/ink. Applying hot water solidified the design in the same places into a hard crust, resistant to acid. This was then ‘bitten’ – the very descriptive term used by engravers for the action of acid onto metal!  Once cleaned off, the acid etched depressions could be gilded, and a low temperature firing in a kiln ensured a strong bond for the gold.

The Mosley firm exhibited pens in the 1851 Great Exhibition, but did not win a medal. Curiously, they did not enter their pens into the ‘Iron & General Implements / writing implements’ category (Class 22), but rather in the ‘precious metals’ category (Class 23, exhibitor 107) – such was their regard for the quality of their products. This set is certainly ‘exhibition-worthy’, but the question of wether it was a Mosley product or if he just added one of his tips to a fine quality Sheffield product made using Skinner’s patent remains debatable.

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Wine Antiques – Stylish Imbibing!

Old Sheffield Plate Wine Cart c.1820

Wine has always been a part of an English gentleman’s meal. In the past it was considered safer to drink than the water…. and to do so with style was important. Glasses were once pretty basic, but as the Georgian period continued, they became works of art. So too did the presentation of the beverages; wine accessories such as decanters, silver plaques with the names of the drinks, and coasters became a necessity at any refined table.

The ultimate recently ‘rolled’ through our door; a wheeled cart to transport two full decanters down the table with ease!

Old Sheffield Plate WIne Cart c.1820
Old Sheffield Plate Wine Wagon (with later decanters) c.1820

This piece is constructed from a copper/silver body known as ‘Old Sheffield Plate’.
Old Sheffield Plate is a fascinating collecting field, and the go-to book is the 1912 ‘Old Sheffield Plate by Frederick Bradbury. He was active in the late 19th century, and published his lavish book full of hundreds of photographic illustrations and records of the manufacturers and their products. The information he records is important as it was compiled just a generation or two from the time the Plate was last in production, and many of his sources were the workmen trained in the production of the type, 50 years later. He also had a personal connection, with an ancestor being one of the manufacturers he was writing about.

Old Sheffield Plate with characteristic ;blush; of copper showing through the silver covering.

Old Sheffield Plate is an important step in the evolution of silverwares, and should not be confused with silver plating, or electroplate. This modern method, invented in 1840 by Elkington, meant that any base-metal item could be moulded and then dipped into the plating solution, coming out covered in silver. Quick, easy & very cheap.
Old Sheffield Plate is the opposite. The basic material was laboriously made by hand. Basically, a slab of Sterling grade silver and another of copper were heated, then rolled together through a press to form a sheet. These flat sheets could then be formed into the desired shapes, ie. teapots, trays, or wine coasters. There is a seam on anything that required a vertical wall, and this was silver-soldered. A breath on a suspected seam results in a clear indication of a seam, and is a collector’s favourite method of identifying Sheffield Plate. Another feature is the rims of a vessel; if left exposed, the layered nature of the body is obvious, and so the intricately stamped-out silver borders, often Rococo scrollwork, was laboriously silver-soldered along the rims.

Old Sheffield Plate WIne Cart c.1820
Old Sheffield Plate Wine Waggon, by Battie, Howard & Hawksworth, c.1820

Bradbury illustrates the exact same ‘Wine Wagon’ we have, and identifies the maker as Battie, Howard & Hawksworth, dating it to 1820.

Old Sheffield Plate WIne Cart c.1820
WineWagon by Battie, Howard & Hawksworth illustrated in Bradbury, 1912

He has a tale on the subject, and saw in interesting enough to include in his book:

The origin of the ” wine wagon ” we must attribute to the inventive genius of Sir E. Thomason, of Birmingham, and in this connection the following extracts from his memoirs will be read with interest :

” Many years since, Lord Rolle called upon me at my establishment, and said that he had dined with His Majesty George IV. the day before, and that His Majesty was pleased to remark that he regretted that his noble guests who sat on either side of him were constrained to rise from their seats to pas the wine, and observed to him (Lord Rolle), ‘as you have said that you are going to Birmingham to-morrow, you had better call upon Thomason who may invent some plan to obviate this inconvenience.’

I suggested to Lord Rolle that decanter stands upon wheels was, in my opinion, the only method to be adopted ; and as I held the beautiful dies containing the victories of the late war, forty in number, viz., from the landing in Portugal to the capture of Paris, and the settling of Napoleon at St. Helena, I recommended to place these medals around the flat perpendicular edges of the bottle stands, which would fill up four, thereby adapting them to two waggons, the whole made of silver and richly gilt, and each waggon to have beautifully ornamented wheels.*His lordship approved
of my suggestions, and requested that no time should be lost in executing them, and when done to forward them to the Marquis of Conyngham. On their arrival, His Majesty expressed his entire approbation of the thought.
Some time afterwards the King presented them to the Duke of Wellington.”

Frederick Bradbury, 1912
One of Wellington’s Wine Waggon, as described by Thomason via Bradbury. The medallions are by James Mudie, and commemorate the British Victories in the Napoleonic Wars.

This is the story related by Bradbury, via the memoirs of Thomason, one of the major manufacturers of Old Sheffield Plate luxury items in Sheffield in the early 19th century. The items he is describing are these remarkable constructions, created for George IV who then presented it to the Duke of Wellington in 1826. The pair can still be seen in his preserved residence at Aspley House, on the corner of Hyde Park, London – considered the only preserved example of an English aristocratic townhouse from its period.

However, Bradbury was not convinced in this being the actual origin of the type, stating in a footnote:

Notwithstanding what is here recorded, wine waggons not very dissimilar to those illustrated are to be met with in both silver and Old Sheffield Plate apparently made late in the 18th century. Whether, however, such have been put together at a more recent date in the form of wine waggons from pairs of coasters, cannot be said with certainty.

We are pleased that our example of a ‘Wine Wagon’ is absolutely original, being a documented product of Battie, Howard & Hawksworth of Sheffield. It is in splendid condition, despite being completely ‘black’ when it came in. Many hours of patient cleaning later, the original silver was found to be in excellent, unworn condition – a rarity with Old Sheffield, which is well known for its tendency to ‘blush’ as the copper starts to show through the silver.
It is now ready to grace the table of some fresh Stylish Imbiber….