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An article giving more info about all these numbers seemed like a good idea. Due to the common and unfortunate practice of splitting up table and flatware services at auction sales or between family members, 'pairs' with the numbers 3 and 4 might be offered. This practice was amply illustrated in the Thurn and Taxis Collection.
but in conversations about the various meanings of all these numbers, I found out that knowledge about these is sketchy at best. 1 shows the lid and rim of a sauce tureen, bearing the numbers 4, thus indicating that lid fits to body, but also that this tureen was one of a set of four. Larger collections with multiples of the same items introduced inventory numbers.
Wine coolers and soup tureens and their liners are often such numbered, with the proper way of assembly (after cleaning) in mind. B- Inventory numbers with two parts were used for sets of plates and flatware, as for example in Lot 98 'A set of twelve German Silver Dinner plates, J. Drentwett I, Augsburg 1755-57' is numbered with 33-1 to 33-12. Lot 84 'A German silver-gilt dessert service, Johann Beckert V, Augsburg 1757 '59' consisting of forty-two dessert spoons, forty-two dessert forks and forty-two dessert knives with silver blades and are stamped with inventory numbers: 9-1 to 12, 10-1 to 12, 11-1 to 12 and 12-1 to 6. Deviations from the scratch weight are indicators for alterations: A conversion from a teapot into a (much higher prized) tea caddy by removing the spout and handle, conversion from a larger mug to a teapot, added borders, spouts, handles: the examples are endless.
Fig.2 shows a beautiful entre dish by Mortimer and Hunt, London 1843, the lid does not quite fit and the numbers on body and lid '1 and 4' tell the rest of the story. The fact, that they are numbered with 13, 14, 18, 20, 21 and 22 proves that there must have been 24 or more at one time. (note 3) Many but by far not all early silver pieces have weights scratched in underneath. Additions on English silver pieces are of course marked with contemporary hallmarks, but sometimes one has to really look hard for these in elaborate borders and handles.
(1) WHO: the maker is PHILIP ASHBERRY & SONS identified by the Figural trade mark (paw feet with banner) and the initials PA&S(2) WHERE: the firm was active in Sheffield, identified by the "S" (on the right, after the maker's initials) (3) WHAT: the piece is identified by the stock (production) number 1414 and the base metal is Nickel Silver (E. Tighe from New Zealand emigrants in 1876" (the ship's surgeon averted a measles epidemic on board the Rangitiki) This is a page of 'The What is?
Silver Dictionary' of A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of vertu, a 1500 pages richly illustrated website offering all you need to know about antique silver, sterling silver, silverplate, Sheffield plate, electroplate silver, silverware, flatware, tea services and tea complements, marks and hallmarks, articles, books, auction catalogs, famous silversmiths (Tiffany, Gorham, Jensen, Elkington), history, oddities ...
Many, but not all, Storr silver pieces have three-digit numbers stamped in, which could not have been inventory numbers. Variations and inconsistencies are many, for example only three of a set of 4 wine coolers are stamped 887, a dinner service made for Sir Thomas Picton, 1814, is marked 167 on 2 meat dishes and covers, a large meat dish, two rectangular dishes and covers.