Old Sheffield

lindacAugust 8, 2005

Old Sheffield silver plate

Before 1740 or so, silver was sterling quality, that is 925 parts out of 1000 pure silver, and only available to the very rich.

Around 1740, a method was developed of fusing a block of copper and a block of sterling silver and rolling the block into a sheet from which hollow ware items could be made in much the same way sterling could be made.

A great deal of this ware was made in Sheffield England, so it got the name "Sheffield Plate".

With the invention of electro plating of pure silver over a nickel silver base about mid 19th century, Sheffield plate was no longer made.

But there was also lots of electro plated silver which was made in Sheffield and stamped "Sheffield" or "Sheffield Plate"Â.Those items are not old Sheffield plate and do not command the price that old Sheffield plate does.

There were also items that were electro plated over copper that were stamped "Sheffield"Â.but are not Old Sheffield. And there were ( and are) items made in Sheffield England that are not made out of silver but of pewter and other metals like Britannia ( which is another subject!)

Since the time frame of Old Sheffield silver was roughly 1740 to 1840, it is mostly Georgian in style. And because it was "poor manÂs sterling" it often has a side of the silver sheet from which the item was made that is covered with tin and not silver.

Often the decorations that may have been applied were pure silver and wore faster than the sterling out of which the body of the piece was made.

Here are 4 items that I own:

There is a tray and wick trimmer, a candle stick and a ewer of some sort, probably part of a communion set.....or perhaps a syrup jug. The only marks are on the wick trimmer and are an anchor and a word I can't read clearly "pernell"?....and that causes me to doubt that it is Old Sheffield....but everything else about it is right.

However Old Sheffield was seldom marked.

This picture shows the underside of the tray and the inside of the ewer. Notice the dull oxidized lead alloy on the inside of the ewer and back of the tray.

This view shows the bottom of the candle stick. Notice that the candle stick has shiny tin on the bottom.

Old Sheffield is often worn and showing copper. That is called "bloody Sheffield" and really doesn't detract. But Old Sheffield that has been replated ( and the lack of that dull interior or back side is a sure sign!) has lost a considerable amount of it's value.

Any questions?

Linda C

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Was any of this silver ever used on a glass item??? I have a syrup jug (?) that is cut glass with a spout and lid made of worn silver...slightly dull on the inside, but a combination of shiny and worn in lots of places on the outside.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 5:24PM
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I don't really know. I have never seen it....but that's not to say it couldn't be.
But.....cut glass....if you mean of the brilliant period, classic cut glass, came after Sheffield plate stopped being made...
To be sure you need to make a judgement based on the design of the glass.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 11:12PM
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I REALLY need a camera.....maybe Christmas!! I'll try to catch a kid and get a picture of this thing!!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 1:15PM
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You wrote, "But Old Sheffield that has been replated ( and the lack of that dull interior or back side is a sure sign!) has lost a considerable amount of it's value." Can you please give your definition of what "dull" is? Since your photos don't show here any longer, I cannot look at your examples to see what you mean. Also, I collect OSP and have tons of books on the subject and the dull oxidized lead alloy you refer to has never been mentioned in any of my books. OSP that is not sterling silver fused onto copper on both sides would be either bare copper or quite dark dull tin that looks like lead. I would love to see your photo of the shiny tin on the base of the candlestick, as I have never heard of such a thing, and I would like to know more about the pure fine silver decorations you refer to as that is also never mentioned in my books. Is this perhaps a reference to the solid silver patches that were sometimes set in for engraving? When you say that a lack of dull insides and undersides is proof of replating, is a silver underside that is not brightly polished like a perfect mirror dull enough to qualify as being not replated in your opinion? I have a box I am trying to date which bears no marks. I think it is electroplate but the silver inside is not quite as highly polished as the silver outside. That might be due to several different factors. My pieces of known electroplate have the same exact level of shininess on all sides. Okay . . . I need to quit here and have some dinner!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 12:44AM
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When I spoke of fine silver decorations, I was referring to a snuffer tray and snuffer. the decorations are badly worn....while the tray is not.....wish I could refer you to a book adressing this....but alas, over the years I have borrowed so many books and had so many lessons and searched the web so much my sources are forgotten.
I will repost the pictures...
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 3:20PM
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Sorry I deleted these....the thread had sunk so fat, I assumed there was no interest.
Here we go again!

Linda C

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 3:23PM
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This outta be fun .. resurrecting one of your old posts Linda! 8)

Just wanted to ask you .. If Sheffield plate was never cast, How did they make a base such as this?

This 'water kettle' was verified as being true Sheffield plate and it's maker was James Dixon, circa 1835.
The kettle itself is Much lighter than the base.
I have no idea how or what the base was made.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Glad to see you reposted your pictures, or some of them. I know nothing about any kind of silver but the posts are interesting. Maybe many of us didn't post because, in my case, I had nothing to add. But any information is good for people who like antiques. Besides, some of us were busy hunting easter eggs.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 7:02PM
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I finally found a definitive article on the web....saves my typing fingers.
Wonderful kettle! The base could have been made of "solid silver" and filled with a baser metal, or it could be that the mounts are sterling...but I think not as it is showing copper.
I have searched and can't find the mark you showed as being one that James Dixon used for Sheffield plate.
Have you sent a picture to silver-collector.com?
There are lots and lots of very knowledgable people who can give advice and imformation.
Linda C

Here is a link that might be useful: Old sheffield Plate

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 10:17PM
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Hi Linda.
Here is a picture of the mark taken from Wyler's book of old silver.

I know that it looks like copper showing on the kettle but after shining it up .. No more copper look.

The thing actually goes through two or three different color changes as it sits over a years time.

Another thing that bothers me is that the base itself isn't marked.(at least I've never found any)

Wouldn't you think that it should have been marked, being a set?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 7:48PM
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Well....you sent me to the book shelf for my copy of Wylers ( should have done that in the beginning)....there it is!
I would think the bottom should be marked too....is there any evidence that they were not always together? does the bottom have a burner? Any parts of the burner marked?
Are you in an area where you could take it to a museum with a resident sliver expert?
If it is a perfect condition, never been replated, signed piece....it's worth a little bit!!
Post pictures on silver-collector.com....they'll have more knowledge than I do...
Then come back and tell us what they say.
It's a very special piece!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Post here for information

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:00PM
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Here are some pictures of the base and burner.
The pictures are much clearer when you click on them. (You can then enlarge them as big as you'd like)
I can find no markings on the burner or the base.
The person from the Silver Vaults had said that the reason could be that since it was a set, Dixon didn't feel the need to mark all the pieces.
Since you had mentioned it .. I am really at a loss as to How they could have 'pounded' a base out of Sheffield plate!?
Maybe I can take it to a jeweler and see if the base is all silver or not.
I wonder just how many jewelers today even know what Sheffield plate is? lol

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 9:09PM
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I forgot to mention that the person at the Silver Vaults did say that the base was original.

I'm guessing that he thought so because the decorations on the kettle and base are pretty much a match.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 9:14PM
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And you say that the gold-ish coppery stuff I see in the pictures is not worn plate with the copper showing through??
It's a beautiful piece no matter what it is.....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 12:02AM
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Hi linda

Nope, that is just one of the two or three colors that it goes through over a years time.

The sixth and seventh pictures that show the left side of the kettle is an example.

I had just enough polish left to clean/shine that one side of the kettle itself to show what the rest of the metalwork would look like when polished.

Believe it or not, that side of the kettle was just as copper colored as the rest.

When I am able to get out and get some more of Wright's silver polish .. I'll post some pictures when it's completely done.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 3:31AM
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bumping this up for linda

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 6:06PM
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