Thursday, September 17, 2009

Suspicious Spoons and Mysterious Marks

As Anne and I continued to wash and sort the Port Tobacco artifacts from the 1970's we came across a piece of metal that resembled either a shoe horn or the handle from a ladle. After another look we quickly decided that we were dealing with a handle, possibly from a spoon, but have had difficulty finding much information beyond that...perhaps some of our loyal readers will be able to help?

The spoon is made of a type of pewter alloy called Britannia Metal which consists of tin, antimony, and copper. So far we have been able to discern some of the writing and marks stamped into the handle. The stamped mark is of a crown with the words "BEST BRITANNIA" above it and "METAL" below it. Farther down the handle there are two words. One reads "IRMINGHAM," which could be Birmingham, and the other cannot be deciphered save for a few indeterminate letters. This information has yet to help us discover the date and origin of the spoon, though it has enabled us to do a bit of research into pewter production and different types of marks.

Some of the types of marks that are found on silver and pewter utensils are hallmarks, maker's marks, quality marks, and date marks. The hallmark denotes the town or location of the assay office. Maker's marks are exactly what they sound like, with some companies using a name and others using a stamped symbol. Date marks are letters used to denote the year when the item was made in order to identify the head assayer was at the time of the item's production in case an issue of quality arose. Quality marks were introduced later and confirm the silver content of a vessel or utensil. Initially we were searching for the Birmingham hallmark based off of the letters on the handle, however, the crown mark on the handle is more likely a hallmark of Sheffield, leading us to more confusion.

Any ideas or information on this lost ladle would be greatly appreciated!

Kelley and Anne

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