What can be discovered by delving into the Sheffield Assay Office Library and Archives?
Published: 22nd September 2020
Each year the Sheffield Assay Office answer enquiries from the trade and general public both nationally and internationally. The scope of these enquiries varies enormously from hallmark identification to copyright permission to create a hallmark tattoo.
Most frequently, enquiries relate to the identification of a hallmark. The team at Sheffield Assay Office answer these by using our online database, referring to the card indexes, books and ledgers containing registered sponsors marks.
Two recent enquiries have led to the identification of hallmarks on a Sterling silver spoon and a fish serving set. The enquirers were both unsure of the maker and used Sheffield Assay Office's Enquiry and Research Service to assist them. Amanda was unsure of the identification of the sponsors mark 'P Bros' and our Librarian and Archivist was able to assist by searching the records and establishing the sponsors mark to be that of Pinder Bros, the date of assay (tested) and hallmarking of the spoon was 1957/8.
Pinder Bros registered 11th Oct 1922, Arundel Street, Sheffield. Sterling silver, date letter = 1957/8.
Amanda said ‘Thank you very much for your report. It has answered my query and I can now update my records. I do appreciate the help of you all at Sheffield Assay Office’.
A further enquiry was to establish the sponsors mark, date and identification of an Rd (Registered Design number) on a set of fish servers for a customer in Romania. The sponsors mark identified on the piece was registered to Mappin and Webb and was assayed and hallmarked 1881/2. Regarding the registered design number we gave Alin advice of where to research Registered Design numbers held by The National Archives.
Mark registered to the firm Mappin & Webb, the company registered this mark on the 5th January 1882, Royal Cutlery Works Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Sterling silver, date letter =1881/2.
Alin said ‘Thank you so much for your help, it is greatly appreciated. Now I'm very happy I know more about this lovely set. Thank you again’.
Often items that are identified by the team are very personal; for instance jewellery, tableware, cutlery, flatware passed down through the generations. Many are items found at antique fairs, car boot sales or even dug up in the garden. The Library at Sheffield Assay Office contains over 4000 books and catalogues and is an essential reference tool to help identify makers, sponsors, metal type and every day and often mystery objects.
More in depth research can be undertaken on behalf of customers and this often involves consulting the archives which are stored off site and are under the care of Sheffield Archives. In recent years there have been a number of enquiries relating to day books, these are records detailing the objects submitted to the Assay Office for assay. The Sheffield Assay Office hold handwritten day books from 1773 – 1975.
An initial enquiry started eight years ago and was followed up with further research in 2019/20. Mr Plaistow said ‘Having discovered that a relation of mine was one Henry Tudor, founder of the firm of Tudor & Leader, the Sheffield Assay Office has been an invaluable resource to me in my researches. Having collected a couple of items of the 'family silver'!, I have been able to pin-point some of the pieces I have in my collection to a specific date recorded in the Assay Offices Day Books. The staff at Sheffield Assay Office have been most helpful in enabling me to use their records in order for me to make these discoveries”
Day Book 1773, held at Sheffield Archives.
A cup and cover made by silversmiths Henry Tudor & Thomas Leader, Marked on 20th September 1773, the first day the Office opened for business.
Tudor & Leader was renowned for producing designs of the highest quality in silver and Old Sheffield Plate. The firm occupied premises on Sycamore Hill (now Tudor Street). In 1777, Leader leased the house at the end of Surrey Street. This building is now the administrative office of Museums Sheffield.
Perhaps you have an item that you would like our team to identify for you? Sheffield Assay Office charge as little as £10.00 plus VAT for the identification of a hallmark and our research charges can be found on our website. At present due to COVID-19 restrictions we are unable to book appointments for your own research but we can assist you via post, email and telephone.
The Sheffield Assay Office was established in 1773, under an Act of Parliament and today the company assays and hallmarks the precious metals - silver, gold, platinum and palladium. Sheffield Assay Office is one of only four UK assay offices who all work to uphold the Hallmarking Act of 1973 and continue to ensure consumer protection for customers purchasing precious metals.
To find out more about the whole range of services offered by Sheffield Assay Office, such as our hallmarking and analytical services, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the contact form on our website at http://www.assayoffice.co.uk/contact-us,