A Beginner’s Guide to British A&C Silver: Part 2

In this second article celebrating British Arts & Crafts silver we focus on a timeline and collectors guide regarding the key makers and designers from around 1890 to 1914. The Arts and Crafts movement favored metalwork produced in affordable materials like copper and brass so there is relatively little silver produced in the period. Pieces prior to 1899 are particularly rare and with the fashion for Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau waning from 1905, there is relatively little silver of this type to be seen of any period, making much of it very special and valuable today.

The timeline highlights how The Keswick School of Industrial Art and Charles Ashbee’s Guild of Handicrafts inspired a handful of Arts and Crafts silversmiths and guilds to take up silver work prior to 1899. After this date the genre blossomed, including with the introduction of the more commercial Art Nouveau makers of Liberty & Co and William Hutton & Sons.

Before we begin, we’d like to take a moment to thank Anthony Bernbaum of the Peartree Collection for providing this information which follows a lecture he gave at Olympia Arts and Antiques Fair in London on November 7th and can be viewed in its entirety on his website www.thepeartreecollection.com/research.

And for those of you that missed last week’s British Arts & Crafts silver overview, click here before diving into the Collector’s Guide below!

  • Keswick School of Industrial Art: Founded by the Reverend Hardwicke and his wife Edith in 1884 they produced the earliest Arts and Crafts silver from 1888. Look out for their rare larger sterling silver pieces with an authentic Arts and Crafts feel and appearance and good repousse work.
  • The Guild of Handicrafts (top photo): Founded by Charles Ashbee in 1888, the Guild led the way in both modern silver design and in the organization of employee run guild workshops. Look out for hand hammered pieces set with stones or enamels pre-dating Ashbee’s departure from the Guild in 1909, which typically carry his personal CRA assay hallmark or the GofH Ltd mark.
  • Connells of Cheapside: Founded in the 19th century, William Connell pioneered the firm’s participation in Arts and Crafts silver, furthered by his son George and his silversmith wife Christine Connell from around 1902. Connells sponsored some of the earliest artistic silver alongside the Guild of Handicrafts from 1893. Look out for their rare, early, if plain, designs or later pieces often made by William Hutton & Sons or A E Jones.
  • Alexander Fisher: The leading enamellist of the period, his work from around 1895 often sets enamels into ornate silver frames or sculptures, typically architectural in form. Look out for any of his rare pieces, often symbolist in style.
  • Nelson & Edith Dawson: From around 1895 this husband and wife partnership produced silver, typically set with enamels. Their work is most prized today for Edith’s enamels, often depicting flowers.
  • Gilbert Marks: Influenced by Japanese design he was more an artistic silversmith than a member of the Arts and Crafts movement. Active from 1894 to his early death in 1904 he is regarded as one of the greatest silversmiths of his generation. Look out for his signed work with deep repousse of flowers or fish.
  • Birmingham Guild of Handicraft: Modeled on Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft their silver is typically designed by Arthur Stansfield Dixon and made from around 1896 onward. Often quite plain, look out for strong designs and authentic hand hammered pieces.
  • Glasgow School: Silver by the famous Glasgow Four of Mackintosh, the Macdonald sisters and Herbert McNair is exceptionally rare but pieces are known from c. 1896 -1910. It is often uniquely symbolist or modernist in style.
  • Oliver Baker for Haselers: Baker worked with the firm of William Hair Haseler in 1898-99 to produce typically heavy, large pieces set with enamels and stones and, unusually for English silver, mixing copper and silver. These designs went on to form part of Liberty’s Cymric range. Look out for Baker’s rare work, often mistakenly attributed to Archibald Knox.
  • Liberty & Co/Archibald Knox (bottom photo): Liberty formed the Cymric silver range in 1899 that continued until around 1908. Their key designer was Archibald Knox. Look out for his modernist radical Celtic designs harmonizing form and ornamentation, often enhanced with stones or enamels.
  • Kate Harris for William Hutton & Sons: William Hutton was a long established commercial manufacturer who recruited Kate Harris to its London artistic studio and who made continental Art Nouveau style silver from 1899 to around 1905. Look out for pieces with Kate Harris’ unique maiden or stylized plant designs.
  • Ramsden & Carr: Omar Ramsden & Alwyn Carr moved to London from Sheffield in 1898 and founded their workshop from 1899, producing authentic Arts and Crafts silver up until 1918 when Ramsden struck out on his own. Look out for pieces with enamels and stones and of a good gauge of silver.
  • John Paul Cooper: He started working on his own, having trained as an architect, in around 1900. His work continued until his death in 1933 and he is best known for his shagreen (ray skin) boxes and ornate jewellery.
  • Artificers Guild: Founded in 1902 by Nelson Dawson, the Guild soon became independent of him and his wife, with control residing with the Guild’s key designer, Edward Spencer, from 1909 until the Guild’s closure in 1939. Look out for complex pieces combining stones, enamel and mixed metals and vibrant jewellery similar in style to John Paul Cooper’s.
  • A E Jones: Albert Edward Jones set up his own firm in 1902 having been a member of the Birmingham Guild of Handicrafts. His firm became one of Birmingham’s leading commercial manufacturers but between 1902 and around 1910 A E Jones produced authentic Arts and Crafts pieces. Look out for these early dates and strong Arts Crafts designs often in the manner of the Birmingham Guild, Ashbee and Voysey.

More examples of silver and jewellery by these makers can be found by visiting: