Searching for Silver
Portland, Oregon silversmith James Mackie is making a series of new figural napkin rings nearly identical to Victorian era silver plated originals. This article will features Mackie's rings and provide some general background on original figural rings.
Since the 1970's, a number of modern sterling figural match safes have been made in England. At least 27 different new match safes are available including a Toby dog, 3 versions of Punch, claw and ball, an owl, moon face, mouse, bear, cat, fish, violin, horse, shoe, dog's head, elephant's head and rooster's head (see photos). All of the new figural safes are reportedly made from molds taken from Victorianera originals.
More new match safes are appearing in the American market. Some are copied directly from old safes while others only imitate the look or style of the old. For the purposes of this article, the term "match safe" includes English vesta boxes.
A U.S. west coast jewelry and gift wholesaler recently introduced an extensive line of Victorian look-alike sterling silver items at a major summer gift show. This line is being promoted as "Antique Reproductions - where the past meets the present." There are about 60 individual items ranging from jewelry to novelties that have been copied from or made to resemble Victorian era originals such as chatelaines, sewing items, needle cases, tape measures and novelties.
The new sterling matchsafe on the left is shown with its Made in Thailand paper tag. It was copied from the American Art Nouveau original on the right.
The 7-inch sterling silver figural cat rattle with bells is also a whistle. Other similar figurals exist, all are made in Mexico. New sterling silver ball-shaped rattles are marked JEM, both about 3 1/2 inches.
New silver-plated objects in the Art Deco or Art Moderne style are now in the market. The new items are made in India and sold in the United States by a west coast importer.
A business in New York is currently selling reproductions of figural napkin rings bearing trademarks and model numbers of original manufacturers. The companys 1997 brochure showed nine different figural rings available. Price is 55 each or four for 200. Originals of the reproductions sell for 200500. The new rings are being marketed by the manufacturer as limited edition collectibles with original markings.
Another group of figural sterling matchsafes has begun to show up at shows, malls and Internet auction sites. Unlike previously reported sterling figural reproductions, this group does not have the DAB touchmark or correct English hallmarks to identify and date them as new. All of the new safes are copies of well known and relatively expensive originals.