Garden Whispers

Victorian silver bangle with engravings, Birmingham, dated 1883

Nature and plant motifs are a frequent design feature on British jewellery. This is hardly surprising, as hardly any other nation has excelled in horticulture as much as the English in recent centuries. In Victorian times in particular, a well-tended garden with plants that were as exotic as possible was part of the figurehead of every English country house. So the flowering branch on this silver ring from Victorian England is not surprising. The beauty of English silver jewellery is that it can often be dated precisely by its hallmarks. Even for the experienced art historian it is sometimes difficult to evaluate the pieces solely according to stylistic criteria, as the British tend to adhere stubbornly to forms and traditions. Thus, sterling silver bangles such as the present piece were still being made into the early years of the 20th century. Our bangle, however, can be dated to 1883 by the full hallmark. Furthermore, the hallmark reveals that the hoop was made in Birmingham. The second largest city in England was a centre of goldsmithing since the late Middle Ages. Especially in the Victorian era, jewellery making experienced a rapid boom and almost half of British jewellery came from Birmingham. An entire district of the city, known as the Jewellery Quarter, was devoted to jewellery making around Vyse Street. It was home to numerous factories, employing around 30,000 people at the height of its success in 1900. The bangle we found in London is a fine example of English silver jewellery from Birmingham and an original of the Victorian era.

In Great Britain, since the 16th century, silver and gold markings have generally consisted of four, sometimes five, individual hallmarks set side by side. These hallmarks contain all the information needed to precisely trace the material, origin and dating of a piece. In addition to the maker's hallmark, usually two or more initials, we find the mark of the city where the piece was submitted to the official assay office for testing of the precious metal. (For example, London uses a leopard's head as its city hallmark, Birmingham an anchor, and Dublin a harp.) A letter called a "date letter" changes regularly in its typography so that we can date the pieces to the year. In addition, a fineness mark indicates the purity of the precious metal used: in the case of British silver, it distinguishes between two silver standards: a striding lion, the so-called "lion passant", indicates 925 silver; a female figure sitting next to her shield, the "Britannia", refers to the so-called "New sterling-standard" of 958 silver. Gold is stamped in the appropriate carats; unlike in Germany, finenesses of 9 carats (375/000), 15 carats (625/000), 18 carats (750/000) and 22 carats (916/000) are common. From 1784 to 1890, a fifth stamp with the profile head of the respective king or queen, the so-called "Sovereign's head", was sometimes added, serving as a tax hallmark.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


OUR PROMISE

We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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