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  • Place of origin:

    Sheffield (possibly, made)
    Birmingham (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1923 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Copper alloyed with lead and zinc; sheet silver and iron wire

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 1 []

Object Type
This is a demonstration sample of a Sheffield plate ingot at the stage just prior to being heated in the furnace to fuse the silver sheets with the copper ingot. Silver sheets were embedded into the copper ingot by a hydraulic press. Then copper, or sometimes iron or brass plate, covered in a chalk paste (to prevent it fusing to the silver sheet) was placed on top to protect the silver surface from fire damage in the furnace. The pieces of metal were then tied together by iron wire at regular intervals along the ingot, and the exposed edges, where the silver and copper came into contact, were swabbed with a borax solution. The block was now ready for firing.

Materials & Making
The process developed by Joseph Hancock (1711-1790) for large-scale production of fused (Sheffield) plate has 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 (4 by 6 by 20 centimetres). 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 to 12 ounces of silver were used for every 8 lbs of copper.

After about 1760, it became the practice to plate two sides of the copper ingot so that the resulting sheet was plated with silver on both sides. In 1830 Samuel Roberts (1763-1849) patented a variation (no. 5963), whereby a sheet of German silver (an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel) was inserted between the silver and the copper block. This produced a laminate of far greater durability.

Place of Origin

Sheffield (possibly, made)
Birmingham (possibly, made)


1923 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Copper alloyed with lead and zinc; sheet silver and iron wire


Height: 7 cm, Width: 6 cm, Depth: 4.5 cm

Object history note

Possibly made in Sheffield or Birmingham

Descriptive line

Copper ingot with silver sheet before firing

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. 60 ill.
Eric Turner, Book Review, "Old Sheffield Plate: A History of the 18th Century Plated Trade by Gordon Crosskey", Journal of the Antique Metalware Society, Vol. 20, June 2012, p. 78

Labels and date

British Galleries:
In the second stage of production sheet silver was placed on the copper ingot and the two were pressed together to eliminate the air and moisture between them. Up to about 1760 the copper was plated on one side only. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

made as a display sample




Metalwork Collection

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