Notable North American Silversmiths
HENRY BIRKS & SONS
Birks was by far the largest and most influential Canadian silverware manufacturer in 20th century. Henry Birks & Company was established in Montreal in 1879 as a retail jeweller. It became Henry Birks & Sons in 1893 when his three sons joined the business. In 1897 Birks bought out Hendery & Leslie, their largest supplier of silverware, and began manufacturing their own products. Birks manufactured their own flatware and some hollowware in their Montreal factory until the early 1990s when the factory was closed and production was moved offshore. Birks is one of only a handful of Canadian companies to have held a Royal Warrant, which was granted in 1935 by Edward VII, then Prince of Wales.
GORHAM MANUFACTURING CO
Established in 1831 in Rhode Island, as a coin-silver flatware and jewellery manufacturer, Gorham eventually became one of the largest silversmiths in the world. By the late 1860s it grossed $1 million in sales per year. Gorham was tremendously successful with flatware patterns like Chantilly, patented in 1895 and it still remains one of the most popular flatware patterns today. Their crowning achievement may be their line of handmade Art Nouveau style silver known as Martele. Some of Gorham’s notable commissions include the Lincoln White House Tea and Coffee Service (1861), the Davis Cup tennis tournament trophy and the Nixon White House Table Service (1974).
Carl Poul PETERSEN (1895-1977)
According to his family history Carl Poul Petersen apprenticed at Georg Jensen in Denmark before emigrating to Canada in 1929. He worked at Henry Birks and Sons in Montreal but he also set up a studio for commission work in the late thirties. Petersen left Birks and opened his permanent studio in 1944 and registered his company, C.P. Petersen & Sons two years later. Unlike Birks, Petersen’s production was largely by hand and his designs were inspired by the naturalistic forms of Danish silver. He was commissioned to reproduce the NHL’s Stanley Cup (1962) which is still used today. C.P. Petersen & Sons remained in business until 1979.
TIFFANY & Co
America’s dominant silver manufacturer from the mid 19th to early 20th century. The company began in 1837, when Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Young opened Tiffany & Young. In 1851, it became the first American firm to introduce the .925 English Sterling Standard in American-made silver. The name changed to Tiffany & Company in 1853 when Charles Tiffany took over management. Renowned American silversmith Edward C. Moore, Jr. joined Tiffany and introduced flatware to its range of products. In 1867, Tiffany became the first American firm to win the grand prize for silver craftsmanship at the Paris Exposition Universelle. Along with other World’s Fair prizes and awards, Tiffany was also appointed silver and goldsmith and jeweller to many of the European royal families.
Notable English Silversmiths
George ADAMS (1840-83)
William Chawner II’s son-in-law who took over Chawner & Co. with his mother-in-law Mary Chawner. He took over the firm and registered his first mark in 1840. He was an exhibitor at the 1851 Great Exhibition and the company became one of the largest producers of quality silver flatware in Victorian England. (See also Chawner & Co)
Hester BATEMAN (1708- 1794)
The most famous women silversmith, Bateman was the widow of John Bateman. After his death in 1760, she took over his London-based metalwork business and transformed it into one of the most successful and prolific silversmithing workshops in London. Hester and her sons were known for their bright-cut engraving, thin-line beading and piercing.
CHAWNER & Co.
Flatware-making is one of the sub specialties of silversmithing. In the 18th and 19th century the vast majority of spoons and forks were made by specialist “spoon makers” (knives were made by an entirely different tradesman called a cutler). The Chawner family was one of England’s dominant producers of silver flatware in the 19th century. William Chawner II began a seven year spoon-making apprenticeship with the prolific flatware makers William Eley and William Fearn in 1797. He became the third partner of this company in 1808. Seven years later, he set up Chawner & Co. which would become one of the largest producers of silver flatware through the 19th century. When Chawner died in 1834, his widow Mary Chawner registered her own marks and took over with her son-in-law George Adams. Chawner & Co were supplier to the retail houses of Hunt & Roskell, R.& S. Garrard & Co, Elkington & Co. Chawner & Co is renowned not only for quality but the breadth of patterns they offered. Their pattern book from the mid 19th century included 47 patterns, far more than was typical at the time. The company was eventually sold in 1883 to Holland, Aldwinckle & Slater.
ELKINGTON & CO. LTD
Brothers George Richards and Henry started G. R. Elkington & Co in the 1830s. The firm then operated independently as Elkington & Co. for over 100 years. Elkington & Co employed top designers and won many awards and held various royal warrants of appointments, they also supplied flatware to the Titanic and the Royal Yacht Brittania.
GARRARD & CO
Originally founded in 1735 by George Wickes, the firm was taken over by Robert Garrard in partnership with John Wakelin in 1792. Garrard had many aristocratic patrons and was represented at numerous international exhibitions including the Great Exhibition of 1851. Garrard was the Crown Jeweller for six successive monarchs from 1843 to 2007. Their commissions have included jewellery and silverware for royalty around the world as well as the Premier League Trophy, Ascot Trophy and the America’s Cup.
Robert HENNELL & Sons
Hennell of Bond Street is one of London’s oldest silversmiths and jewellers. It was founded by David Hennell and originally made fashionable silverware for the nobility and landed gentry. David’s son, Robert I, is know for his fine neoclassical silver, often with bright cut engraving. His son, grandson and great grandson (Roberts all) carried on the business throughout the 19th century.
MAPPIN & WEBB
In 1775, teenager Jonathan Mappin started a small cutlery workshop in Sheffield. Within a year the first Mappin hallmark was recorded at the assay office. But it was under his four great grandsons who incorporated the business as Mappin Brothers Ltd in the middle of the 19th century. In 1963 Mappin & Webb amalgamated with British Silverware Ltd together with Elkington & Co Ltd and Walker & Hall Ltd.. Mappin & Webb has held a royal warrant as silversmiths to each of the five subsequent sovereigns and today holds a Royal Warrant as Silversmiths to HM The Queen and to HRH The Prince of Wales.
Nathaniel MILLS (1784-1843)
Nathaniel Mills I, registered his mark in 1803 when he was a partner in jewellers Mills & Langston in Birmingham. When he died in 1840, he was succeeded by his sons Nathaniel II, William and Thomas; it was under their direction that business flourished, and the firm’s most collectable boxes, vinaigrettes, and card cases were produced. William and Thomas designed many of the pieces made after the death of their father; Nathaniel II, meanwhile, introduced several new techniques, such as engine-turning, stamping and casting, and became known for successfully adapting them to this industry. William died in 1853, and with him the family trade.
PAUL STORR (1771 – 1844)
Known for his excellent technique and mastery of the Neo-Classical and Regency styles, Storr is England’s most celebrated and sought after maker. Not much is known for certain about Storr’s apprenticeship other than the fact that he was formally apprenticed to vintner William Rock and possibly informally apprenticed to silversmith Andrew Fogelberg (whom, as a foreigner was not a member of the guild). He opened his workshop in 1796, and eventually joined Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the royal goldsmiths to King George III. Rundell Bridge & Rundell also made pieces for Lord Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and King George IV. In 1819 Storr left the firm to open his own shop, focusing on more naturalistic designs. In 1822 Storr formed a partnership with John Mortimer and later John Hunt. Storr retired in 1839.
HUNT & ROSKELL
A manufacturing firm, retail jewellers and silversmiths founded by Paul Storr in 1819 as Storr & Co. John Samuel Hunt, who had assisted Storr from the start, continued as a partner until his death in 1865, when he was succeeded by his son, John Hunt. Robert Roskell joined in 1844 and remained in the firm until his death in 1888. Hunt & Roskell were silversmiths and jewellers to Queen Victoria.
Notable European Silversmiths
Georg JENSEN (1866 – 1935)
The son of a blacksmith, Jensen was born in 1866 in a small town north of Copenhagen. He was apprenticed to a goldsmith at age 14 then focused briefly on sculpture, but he returned to metalwork and opened his workshop in Copenhagen in 1904. Jensen exhibited his works at several major foreign exhibitions and quickly gained a reputation for being an outstanding and original silversmith. He moved to a larger workshop in 1912 and acquired his first factory building in 1919. Jensen hired many talented designers including Johan Rohde and Gundolph Albertus who were allowed the freedom to design as they saw fit. After his death the business was carried on by his son.