Butter knife; silver, with openwork cage handle formed of thick silver wires twisted together and enclosing a silver ball set on a central rod; junction of handle and blade is ornamented with beading, as is the end of the handle, which is set with a cabochon chrysoprase.
- 1897-1900 (designed;circa)
- 1900 (made)
- Factory in: London
- (Europe,British Isles,England,London)
- Retailed in: London (16A Brook Street, or no.67A New Bond Street)
- (Europe,British Isles,England,London)
- Length: 13 centimetres
Inscription CommentLondon hallmarks for 1900.
Inscription Typemaker's mark
Inscription CommentIn a shield.
Text from J Rudoe 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950 A catalogue of the British Museum Collection' 2nd ed. 1994. no. 4.
Most of Ashbee's designs for metalwork were executed by the Guild of Handicraft, which he established in 1888, initially in London and then in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire from 1902 to 1907. The Guild worked mainly in base metal before about 1896, when silverwares were first exhibited at the Arts & Crafts Society exhibition of that year. Wirework was already a prominent feature of Ashbee's designs and the characteristic twisting of wires to form a handle seems to have appeared from about 1897 (see The Studio 9, 1897, 130 and Art Journal, 1897, 337). Silver balls were also introduced at about this time.
The mark that appears on this butter knife was entered by Ashbee at Goldsmiths' Hall on 29 January 1896. After the Guild's registration as a limited company, Ashbee entered a second mark, which appears on Rudoe 1991, Cat. 5, in December 1898. Both marks were used around 1900 and there seems to be no significance in the use of one or the other, though it has been suggested that pieces made after 1898 which bear the 'CRA' mark were perhaps farmed out to other makers (S. Bury, 'An Arts and Crafts Experiment: the silverwork of C.R. Ashbee', Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin, Vol. 111, no.1, January 1967, 6).
This piece was made during the peak years of the Guild's production of silverwares, around 1900-1; production dropped with the move to Chipping Campden in 1902 and picked up again in 1903. This and Cat. 5 illustrate the wide range of small-wares in production; at this period the Guild produced an almost complete range of tablewares that could match the range of commercial firms, but the competition from the trade and in particular from Liberty's 'Cymric' range introduced in 1901 (see Rudoe 1991, Cat. 133) was one of the causes of the Guild's eventual demise.
This design is illustrated in a catalogue of the Guild's silverwares of c. 1905-6 (in the V & A Library); it sold for £1 7s. 6d. (Guild of Handicraft Ltd. Silversmiths and jewellers by appointment to her Majesty the Queen, 37). The catalogue records the Guild's two London shops at I6A Brook Street and 67A New Bond Street. For a variant of this butter knife, also date-stamped 1900, but with the maker's mark of the Guild of Handicraft, see Naylor, G, 'The Arts & Crafts Movement, London 1971, pl. 83.
After the liquidation of the Guild in 1908, the metal workshop was continued by George Hart (see Rudoe 1991, Cat. 121).
3 January 2007
Clean to improve appearance[Renumber]
Light tarnish, Some green corrosion in the join between blade and handle. Powdery green corrosion crystals near to the screw thread. White corrosion deposits near to the stone.
Used both White Spirit (composition variable - petroleum distillate) and Industrial methylated spirits (ethanol,methanol) applied on cotton wool swabs to remove dirt and old cleaning deposits from the detail and hallmarks. Brushed with Hotel silver dip (acidified thiourea) to remove the tarnish. Rinsed with tap water and then cleaned again with distilled water from the steam cleaner. Dried using paper towels. A few more stubborn stains were removed using Silvo silver and chrome (cotton wadding,white spirit,Newburgh chalk,china clay) applied on cotton wool swabs. Removed the residue with White Spirit swabs and finally wiped with paper towels. Used Acetone (propan-1-one/dimethyl ketone) applied on swabs to remove old registration number. Renumbered with acrylic ink using a fine brush.
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
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Object reference number: MCT423
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