Pellets Galore!

By Derek Fry

The Fiddle with Shoulders teaspoon bearing the marks in question was acquired recently at an antiques fair where it was labelled as by Lewis Samuel. Figure 1 shows the assay marks with a journeyman's or workshop mark below and these marks are interesting in two respects. First, according to Jackson(1) (page 62), the upper case Gothic B Date Letter was only used with a William IV Duty Head for 23 days at the start of Victoria's reign (May 29th to June 20th 1837). Secondly, the journeyman's or workshop mark is not simply two pellets but, as shown in Fig 2, has the form of a dumb-bell with a bar running through the "pellets" and protruding either end. If anyone has come across this fairly distinctive mark associated with Lewis Samuel or any other maker(s) it might help solve the mystery of the unusually placed pellet in the Maker's Mark on this spoon.

Figure 3 shows the Maker's Mark in close up and it is the pellet before the L that is difficult to account for. It is definitely smaller than the one between the letters. It would seem that the LS has been heavily struck over some other mark. Most of one long edge and part of the other of the shallower original mark are visible above and below those of the LS punch. The rounded corners at the ends of these original punch edges suggest it was a rectangular punch perhaps slightly less broad than the superimposed one. Thus, the overall size and shape of the original punch is reasonably clear though it is not possible to say if it would have been the same way up as the now dominant mark. What could be parts of the original mark's letters stand proud on both the L and the S and what could be a horizontal arm of a letter (such as E F, L or T) appears between the new and original punch edges above the L. However, none of these observations would lead one to suppose that the mark that has been over-stamped might have had a pellet in the location of the smaller one here. There is no evidence of the original punch having been extended to the left to accommodate another letter such that this pellet might have been in the usual place between two letters. Moreover, this pellet does seem to "fit" into the shape of the left side of the L as if it belonged with that letter. It is difficult to imagine it relating so neatly to the seemingly taller letter that the L has all but obliterated.

The only L S in a rectangular punch in Grimwade(2) (No. 1965; page 144) is without pellets and is for Lewis Samuel with a footnote indicating "of Liverpool. Included here in error." In the section "Notices of Provincial Makers whose Marks Appear in the London Registers" there is a biography of this maker which again acknowledges that his mark is included in the London Goldsmiths section by error. Both this erroneous entry and the biography describe him as a spoon maker and as having entered his first mark in 1830. Intriguingly the entry goes on to state "And a similar mark with two pellets 1835"! I believe "two pellets" would normally be interpreted as one above the other in the form of a colon (:) although these are quite scarce - a quick skim through Grimwade found only four examples. Is it possible that this maker's second mark actually had two pellets as they appear on my spoon? If anyone knows of a more unequivocal example of the Lewis Samuel mark with two pellets or can shed light on this situation in any other way I would appreciate hearing from them.

1. Jackson's Silver & Gold Marks; (Ian Pickford); Antique Collectors' Club; 1989
2. London Goldsmiths 1697 - 1837; Arthur G Grimwade; Faber & Faber; Third Edition; 1990


The Finial, February/March 2003

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