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Goblet

Goblet

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1790 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Sheffield plate (silver-plated copper)

  • Credit Line:

    Chaplin Gift

  • Museum number:

    M.654-1936

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This goblet or wine cup was probably used for drinking wine. The plain beaker-shaped bowl, stem and trumpet foot are based on a silver model which first appeared in the late 16th century. However, this piece was made about 1790 of Sheffield plate, a less expensive alternative to sterling silver consisting of a thin layer of silver fused to a copper core.

Sheffield plate originated in 1742. A Sheffield cutler, Thomas Boulsover (1704-88), discovered that bars of silver and copper, in unequal proportions, could be fused by heating under pressure, rolled into sheets of laminated metal and worked like silver. The Sheffield plate industry flourished for approximately one hundred years until superseded by electroplating in the 1840s.

Physical description

Goblet or cup of traditional egg-shape, on trumpet-shaped stem with square stepped base, the lip and applied silver band with chased and engraved wreaths, the body containing a let-in circular cartouche that has been left blank

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

ca. 1790 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Sheffield plate (silver-plated copper)

Marks and inscriptions

SILVER.EDG'D
Stamped on base

Dimensions

Height: 18.1 cm, Diameter: 10.8 cm

Object history note

This goblet was probably intended as a small presentation item or a cup for proposing a toast. It is a little too monumental for everyday use. Its shape is quite a traditional oval, a form used on presentation cups from the late 16th century

Historical significance: Sheffield Plate embodies the manufacturing innovations and industrial energy of 18th-century Britain. This goblet has two features which reveal both the pitfalls of the material and the ingenious improvisations used to combat them. Firstly, the lip of the goblet is marked SILVER.EDG'D: the plating on the sharp edges of Sheffield Plate was always prone to wear and tear which might reveal the red copper beneath. Adding a silver edge to this goblet no only reinforced it but was turned into a marketing tool by adding a suggestion of extra quality. Secondly, engraving an owner's crest onto Sheffield Plate might also cut through the plating and reveal the red copper. In this case a circular silver cartouche has been 'let in' to the body by removing and equivalent amount of copper and replacing it with silver. The seam can be seen clearly from the inside.

Historical context note

Sheffield plate originated with the discovery in 1742 by a working cutler of Sheffield, Thomas Boulsover (1704-88), that bars of silver and copper, in unequal proportions, fused by heating under pressure, could be rolled into sheets of laminated metal and worked like silver. The industry this material created, flourished for approximately one hundred years until superseded by electroplating in the 1840s.

The process Joseph Hancock (1711-1790) developed for the large-scale production fused plate (Sheffield plate) differed little throughout the course of the industry. An ingot of copper was covered with a thin sheet of sterling silver. These ingots were approximately 1½ to 1¾ inches thick and 2½ inches wide by 8 inches long. This could vary according to the weight and size of the plated sheet that was required to be made. Generally speaking however, the thickness of the silver sheet was 1/40 that of the copper block which meant that 10-12 oz of silver was used for every 8 lbs of copper.

Sheffield plate had great commercial advantages over earlier attempts to imitate silver: French plating, close plating and silvering. It was easier and cheaper to make and gave the consumer the appearance of silver without the expense. There was no social stigma attached to buying Sheffield plate rather than silver, but its durability was questioned. In 1774 Horace Walpole wrote critically to Horace Mann, `Birmingham covers for dishes ... All plated silver wears abominably and turns to brass like the age. You would not bear it six months.' To which Mann replied,`I am sorry to see you disapprove of the double plate covers for dishes. I was persuaded to get them by those who assured me they could not be distinguished and for such use would be as lasting as silver.'

By 1800, factories operated in Sheffield, Birmingham, London, Paris and St. Petersburg. Powerful machinery made the process more efficient. Improved flatting mills rolled the plated copper into thinner, cheaper sheets. Advances in the steel industry provided better equipment for stamping out decorative patterns. Dishes and tureens were produced in great quantities at a fraction of their cost in silver.

Traditionally, metal goods were produced in a network of small, complementary workshops. An object might pass through several of these before it was finished. From the mid-eighteenth century this changed, as entrepreneurs created large factories where all the skills could be contained under one roof. Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) claimed that his Soho factory in Birmingham had: `seven or eight hundred persons employ'd in almost all those Arts that are applicable to the manufacturing of all the metals... I have almost every machine that is applicable to those Arts. I have two Water mills employed in rolling, polishing, grinding and turning various sorts of laths.' (letter to James Adam 1 Oct. 1770)

These new manufactories which grew up outside London, in Birmingham and Sheffield exploited new technology to create cheaper products. A significant technical innovation for the 18th-century metalworker, pre-dating Sheffield plate, was the rolling or flatting mill. By producing uniform sheet metal, these mills eliminated the need to raise silver by hand. The result was thinner gauge, cheaper silver. Manufacturers not only employed this technology but developed a number of highly successful new techniques for making and decorating Sheffield plate, some of which spread to silversmithing. Machines such as the fly press for pierced work on baskets, cruets, inkstands and salts, and steel dies to stamp designs on sheets of Sheffield plate or silver sped up production and opened up silver-style goods to a broader market.

Sheffield plate had great commercial advantages over earlier attempts to imitate silver: French plating, close plating and silvering. It was easier and cheaper to make and gave the consumer the appearance of silver without the expense. There was no social stigma attached to buying Sheffield plate rather than silver, but its durability was questioned. In 1774 Horace Walpole wrote critically to Horace Mann, `Birmingham covers for dishes ... All plated silver wears abominably and turns to brass like the age. You would not bear it six months.' To which Mann replied,`I am sorry to see you disapprove of the double plate covers for dishes. I was persuaded to get them by those who assured me they could not be distinguished and for such use would be as lasting as silver.'

By 1800, factories operated in Sheffield, Birmingham, London, Paris and St. Petersburg. Powerful machinery made the process more efficient. Improved flatting mills rolled the plated copper into thinner, cheaper sheets. Advances in the steel industry provided better equipment for stamping out decorative patterns. Dishes and tureens were produced in great quantities at a fraction of their cost in silver.

Traditionally, metal goods were produced in a network of small, complementary workshops. An object might pass through several of these before it was finished. From the mid-eighteenth century this changed, as entrepreneurs created large factories where all the skills could be contained under one roof. Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) claimed that his Soho factory in Birmingham had: `seven or eight hundred persons employ'd in almost all those Arts that are applicable to the manufacturing of all the metals... I have almost every machine that is applicable to those Arts. I have two Water mills employed in rolling, polishing, grinding and turning various sorts of laths.' (letter to James Adam 1 Oct. 1770)

These new manufactories which grew up outside London, in Birmingham and Sheffield exploited new technology to create cheaper products. A significant technical innovation for the 18th-century metalworker, pre-dating Sheffield plate, was the rolling or flatting mill. By producing uniform sheet metal, these mills eliminated the need to raise silver by hand. The result was thinner gauge, cheaper silver. Manufacturers not only employed this technology but developed a number of highly successful new techniques for making and decorating Sheffield plate, some of which spread to silversmithing. Machines such as the fly press for pierced work on baskets, cruets, inkstands and salts, and steel dies to stamp designs on sheets of Sheffield plate or silver sped up production and opened up silver-style goods to a broader market.

Descriptive line

Goblet, Sheffield plate, silver-edged with let-in cartouche, ca. 1790

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Angus Patterson, "A Timely Acquisition: The V&A's Matthew Boulton Pattern Book, ca. 1779", Journal of the Antique Metalware Society, Vol. 17, June 2009, pp. 58-75, p. 61 ill.

Production Note

Probably Sheffield or Birmingham

Reason For Production: Retail

Materials

Sheffield plate; Copper; Silver

Techniques

Rolling; Raising; Plating; Engraving

Categories

Drinking; Metalwork; Tableware & cutlery

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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