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Establishing A Date And Place Of Origin
For Egg Form Silver Nutmeg Graters:

Egg form silver nutmeg graters are prevalent among present-day collections, yet, when constructed using
the silversmith's technology of the eighteenth century, they were challenging to create. Handcrafting small,
Egg Form Nutmeg Grater by Joseph Taylor 1795fine silver objects was a delicate and precise task
accomplished only by highly skilled artisans.
Evidence suggests that a smattering of English
silversmiths specialized in these products, and that
these "smallworkers" acquired expertise only after
replicating these processes many times over years
of practice. Research also reveals that the majority of
these English products bear only a maker's mark, or
have no marks at all.

Starting with a plain flat piece of silver, an eighteenth century silversmith shapes his work using a hammer and stamping tools. By striking round-tipped chisels against the flat surface, this force thins the silver's thickness, while spherically splaying the material both outward and upward. Much mastery was required to perfectly create egg-shaped halves that would align perfectly together to form a silver egg.

Today, many major American museums and historical societies continue to misattribute silver nutmeg graters within their collections as "American", inaccurately claiming that "English silver" required a full set of hallmarks [being a: date mark, maker's mark, standard (fineness) mark, assayer's office mark, etc.] and unreliably assign an American maker based on a donor's interpretation of a sole, existing maker's mark. In light of this, scientific and evidence based research methods might resolve this quandary to accurately identify these small silver objects.

A Framework for Evidence Based Analysis: Total Count of 131 English and Unmarked Egg Form Silver Nutmeg Graters for analysis

~ Data Analysis Gleaned From The Study of 131 Egg Form Silver Nutmeg
         Graters.
~ Historically Significant Data: The English Statutes at Large.
~ Genealogical History of Silversmith's and Their Marks.
~ Styles That Time-Lock An Era, for Circa Dating Unmarked Examples.
~ Analysis Though Scientific Measurements & Technology.

Using Data Analysis Gleaned From The Study of 131 Egg Form Silver Nutmeg Graters:

These findings were compiled following 30 years of data collection gleaned from: public auction sources, text books & periodicals, public & private collection, and represent the study of more than 3000 silver nutmeg graters.  Important to note, these data are derived in part, using secondary sources which are subject to error by those who initially reported inaccurately due to the complex nature to interpret marks on silver.  Therefore, it is recommended that readers perceive these results in a general way, as "nearing accuracy"

This study identified a total of 131 English and Unmarked Egg Form Silver Nutmeg Graters for analysis. Observing this total, (Fig B) graphically displays that:
    ~ 54 examples or 41 % (shown in green) displayed a maker's mark only;
    ~ 45 examples or 34% (shown in tan) bear a full set of English hallmarks; &
    ~ 32 examples or 24 % (shown in pink) were unmarked.
A total of 99 items or 76% of all egg form silver nutmeg graters bear a maker's mark (alone or in conjunction with other marks) and therefore, have potential for accurately identifying its maker. The majority of these nutmeg graters, totaling 86 examples or 66% of items, are without date marks.

All examples in this study (to include unmarked items) are probably of English origin and that any disparity from the English practice to fully hallmark silver is accounted for within ongoing revisions of the English Statutes at Large (Fig C), which is discussed within the following segments. English Statutes at Large

Comparing Historically Significant Evidence With The Study of 131 Egg Form Silver Nutmeg Graters: A Review of the English Statutes at Large of 1739: English Silver Statutes of 1739

British Statutes and Ordinances regulating English silver began in 1238 and underwent continuous additions, amendments and revisions to tax, levy fines and "prevent frauds and abuses in gold and silver wares". The English system of hallmarking was implemented to regulate, document and control silver fabrication, yet the majority of egg form silver nutmeg graters in this study are either unmarked or bear only a maker's mark. To account for this, one must review the English Statutes at Large.

In 1739, the English Statutes at Large exempted from hallmarking a lengthy list of silver or gold small wares including nutmeg graters (Fig D). Items "by reason of the smallness or thinness thereof are not capable of receiving the marks" . . . "eggs or urns" . . . "without damaging, prejudicing or defacing the same" were not required under law to be marked. In this study, 86 examples (or 66%) of egg form silver nutmeg graters are unmarked or with only a maker's mark.


Genealogical History of Well Documented Silversmith's
~ Their Maker's Mark & Dating By Styles:David Field Daniel Field Egg Silver Nutmeg Grater

Many early egg form nutmeg graters were unmarked, or marked merely with a maker's mark. Based on known maker's marks, such as Daniel (David) Field (Circa 1710~1770) and Samuel Meriton I (Circa 1715~ After 1770), evidence confirms that non-date marked, egg form silver nutmeg graters, bearing their maker's mark, originate from mid-eighteenth century London.

Daniel (David) Field and Samuel Meriton I are two well documented London "smallworkers". Field entered into his own business about 1727. Meriton apprenticed in 1731, becoming an independent "smallworker" in 1739. Records show an interpersonal relationship between these two families because when Field died in 1770, two witnesses, Samuel Meriton and William Justis, attested to the validity of Field's unsigned will. As contemporaries, both silver shops made a variety of small wears, including several forms of nutmeg graters. Meriton's sons continued these product lines until the early 1800's.

Silversmith of eighteenth century with chased decorationThe Rococo style was fashionable in England from 1735 to 1770, and many products from both the Field and Meriton shops were in this design, including egg form nutmeg graters. Daniel Field's nutmeg grater (Figs E1~E3) features Rococo details including natural motifs of asymmetrical flower clusters and animals (a rabbit and squirrel) surrounded by swirls of S and C scrolls. This small masterpiece was adorned by chasing (hammered from the inside) and repoussé (reshaped by hammering from the outside). Notice a silversmith from this period is working in repoussé. He extends one foot against a leather belt, holding his work in place [SEE: Image to the left]. Field's unique script-style maker's mark (Fig E4) was lightly struck inside the top cover, enmeshed and camouflaged amidst the chased decoration. So nondistinctive is the maker's mark on this piece, that it required more than 40 close-up photo attempts to capture a suitable image using a super macro lens. Typical to this period, no other marks are present on this nutmeg grater. English Egg Silver Nutmeg Graters by Makers

As shown in (Fig F), the current study examined maker's marks (alone or in combination with other marks) on 99 egg form silver nutmeg graters and identified their primary known producers as: Samuel Meriton II (with 44 examples), Daniel (David) Field (with 15 examples), John Turner [or ? Joseph Taylor ?] (with 7 examples), Samuel Pemberton (with 5 examples), and 28 examples by miscellaneous makers (each maker with 3 or fewer examples).

Samuel Meriton II registered two marks (first in 1775 & second in 1781) and Samuel Pemberton registered several silver marks at the Birmingham Assay Office (ranging from 1773 to 1801). Only one of Pemberton's marks is shown here. All four families are well documented "smallworkers"; a trade also referred to as "toymakers" in silver ("toy" meaning "small"; as in "toy poodle"). The maker's marks shown in (Fig F) were confirmed, in part, using Grimwade 3rd edition.

Comparing Historically Significant Evidence With The Study of 131 Egg Form Silver Nutmeg Graters: A Review of the English Statutes at Large of 1790:

In 1790, English Statutes at Large amended the "Exemption of certain Silver Wares from being Stamped", eliminating nutmeg graters from this category. Based on this new amendment, nutmeg graters were no longer exempted from assay marking. Also of importance, the 1790 statutes "indemnified" silversmiths who in prior years had not strictly adhered to the 1739 statutes, forgiving those who failed to assay nutmeg graters larger than the law had allowed. This stipulation serves as proof to acknowledge that "smallworkers", prior to 1790, were skirting the law. This provision infers that in the past, "smallworkers" often failed to "assay" their smaller wares (such as nutmeg graters), stating misleading claims that assay marking would potential damage their products, while actually having the underlying motive to evade taxation. Becoming effective on May 28, 1790, the new law forgave past indiscretions, but described stiff penalties, fines and imprisonment against future violators.

English Egg Silver nutmeg Graters with date mark

The current study examined 131 egg form silver nutmeg graters and identified 45 examples bearing date marks [as taken from (Fig C) {shown in tan}]. Graphically illustrated in (Fig G), these 45 date marked items cluster with production dates ranging from 1789 to 1817, and with two later outliers that date 1853 and 1906. While fabrication of the 1853 and 1906 examples appear to be cast silver, all examples dating 1817 or earlier were "raised by hammering" from a single flat sheet of silver. [Noteworthy, date marks denoting a specific year actually straddle into the early portion of the following year and it is wondered if the nutmeg grater assay marked for 1789 was actually produced after the law was introduced in 1790.] The study of 45 date marked examples makes clear that the 1790 Statutes at Large created effective regulation regarding the manufacture of small silver items.

Using Scientific Technology And Solid Research To Analyze Unmarked & Maker Marked Nutmeg Graters:

Silver nutmeg graters that are either unmarked or bear only a maker's mark are assumed as being of English origin, dating before 1790, unless otherwise proven.

A primary scientific measurement method is energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence analysis (ED-XRF), [iEnergy dispersive x-ray fluorescence analysis measures]. This is a nondestructive form of X-ray used to measure metal elements. Early silver contained impurities such as "gold" and "lead" which, after 1840 ~ 1860, were fully extracted during the refinement process of silver. Therefore, identifying these impurities indicates that an item's fabrication was prior to this time. Secondly, the degree of "fineness" (or, percentage of silver verses other metals) varied among different countries. Early English standards usually measure 9.25 pure silver, and American standards usually measure 9.00. French standards are higher, and Dutch standards are lower. By determining a nutmeg grater's "fineness" of silver aides to support knowledge of its place of origin.

In addition, attribution of egg form nutmeg graters bearing only a maker's mark require sound, supporting evidence to attribute a non-English origin. Examples include, but are not limited to: the documentation of nutmeg graters manufactured as entered into a silversmith's log, the mention of its manufacture within correspondence of the period, a statement of manufacture within an advertisement, etc. These details are necessary to support an origin of manufacture for a nutmeg grater being other than of English origin. Although this information is rare, such supportive documentation does sometimes exist.

Overview:

The early creation of egg form silver nutmeg graters requires painstaking craftsmanship. Unless proven otherwise utilizing scientific techniques (such as energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence analysis) and rigorous investigation, examples bearing no identifying marks are assumed as English in origin, dating before the English Statutes at Large of 1790.

Ascertained from genealogical study of well documented English "smallworkers" in silver, egg form silver nutmeg graters originated in London during the mid-eighteenth century. Early examples were typically in the Rococo style, until consumer tastes changed in the 1770's, giving rise to the simple "plainish" decoration (a smooth finish, as seen in (Fig A)) or simple bright-cut engraving. Egg form silver nutmeg graters remained popular until about 1815. Sporadically produced into the early twentieth century, a few later egg form examples were fashioned reflecting advances in the silversmith's technology.

Spanning from the mid-eighteenth century into the first quarter of the nineteenth century, egg form nutmeg graters were also popular in other materials, such as enamel, silver~form brass, ivory (both whale ivory and elephant ivory), and tunbridge ware / treen.
                                                                                                                                                                                    [KLOPFER article © September 2014]