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apostle and seal top spoons - updated 2011

The first two pieces were bought from a major London auction house during 2008. To be fair, the catalogue descriptions were ambiguous rather than inaccurate. I know that you, most knowledgeable reader, would never be caught out by such items and so I write this short piece for those without the benefit of your wisdom.

These two spoons are so similar that they could have been altered by the same hand. The first is an apostle spoon with a slightly too large St. Peter terminal. It is 18 centimetres long and weighs 41 grams. The second is a seal top, 17.1 centimetres long and weighs 43 grams. Both bowls are a bit on the small side with hammer marks to the back increasing towards the tip. The hallmarks are genuine but in the wrong place for apostle and seal top spoons. You could expect to see one within the bowl near the stem joint and up to three to the back of the stem. The hallmarks on the apostle are for London 1756, maker Robert Perth. The seal top is London 1771 with a maker's mark too pinched to read. These dates put the apostle about one hundred years out of period and the seal top nearer one hundred and fifty. Both spoons are in fact conversions from Hanoverian pattern table spoons. The terminals soldered on and bowls reshaped. No way of telling when the work was carried out other than to say certainly before 1983 as Ian Pickford discusses both of these spoons in his excellent book 'Silver Flatware English, Irish and Scottish 1660-1980' on page 70, figure 67.

This third piece, from the collection of a customer, has many similarities to the two above and one significant difference. The apostle terminal is similar and could have been cast by the same hand as the two above. The reshaping of the bowl is poor with crude hammer work and the sides and tip have been left too thin so perhaps a different hand involved here. The donor spoon was again a Hanoverian table spoon, this time a William Penstone III, London 1770. The Leopard's Head Crowned punch to the bowl has been struck a bit low in the bowl and is a fake. The mark is too crisp and I would have expected a cross to the centre of the crown. The punch clearly shows to the back of the bowl and so was struck after the hammer work. If it were original, the silversmith would have polished this out after the assay. Although the 1770 marks are genuine, the later mark turns this conversion into a fake.

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