A Fleur-de-Lys Mark

By David Whitbread

Apostle finialBowl markStem marks

A couple of years ago I acquired a provincial Apostle spoon of c.1630. Holy Dove nimbus. No emblem to identify which Apostle so I guess it can stand for any or all of them! It is punched in the bowl and twice on the stem with the mark listed under Wales and unascribed English Provincial in the Pickford Jackson, about half way down page 523, where it is described as an indistinct mark, probably half a fleur-de-lys and half another device, noted on a spoon of c.1630.

My interest in the spoon was to have an example of the type and period in good condition. That the marks were unascribed probably helped keep the price within bounds. Still, it would be nice to get closer to an idea of where the spoon was made. Nicer still though even more unlikely, if a possible maker's name were ever to emerge.

The marks on my spoon seemed rather less worn than those in the photograph that is included in Jackson, so from time to time I would look at them, wondering whether I might be able to identify what the other half-device is and thus possibly get a step closer to an ascription. However, the more I looked at the marks, the more I felt that this was probably simply a fleur-de-lys punch distorted by more wear on one side than on the other. (I rather think that fellow member Vic Bowman, through whom I got the spoon, felt the same.) But the bowl and the stem marks on my spoon and the marks illustrated in Jackson all lacked the fleur-de-lys detail on the same side, so I could not be absolutely sure the difference was not in the original punch rather than the result of subsequent wear.

There the matter rested until more recently I acquired a copy of the 1935 Ellis sale catalogue. Lot 60 was a Seal Top, pricked 1652 but probably earlier, with a good set of the same marks clearly photographed and described simply as a fleur-de-lys. The stem marks showed greater wear on the same side as those on my Apostle, but this time the bowl mark showed greater wear on the other side. The 'twiddly' bits of the fleur-de-lys are plainly to be seen on the side where they have disappeared on my spoon and in the Jackson illustration. Clearly this is indeed a straightforward fleur-de-lys mark.

Extract from 1935 Ellis sale catalogue

Success! Or maybe not, since in satisfying myself that this is just a fleur-de-lys mark I have moved no closer to an ascription. So much for any daydream of beginning to emulate those whose research adds to our knowledge of makers and places of origin. Still, I thought it might be worth sharing this little trip round an unascribed mark just in case any member has a spoon with the same marks and is wondering about them as I did - or just maybe has got further towards a possible ascription?


The Finial, August/September 2003

This site and images copyright © 1997-2004, by Daniel Bexfield Antiques