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British Silver has had fastidious rules in place for centuries regarding the stamping of sterling silver, including the Assay Office from which the silver quality was verified, the maker’s mark and the date of the piece, owing to the date letter, any piece of British sterling silver can be exactly dated.
Old Sheffield Plate and Electroplated silver were not under the same laws or rules of practice, and the regulations that were passed regarding electroplate and Sheffield plated silver were concerned with assuring that people were not being misled by a set of hallmarks which was not standardised in the same way as their sterling silver counterparts.
The origins of Walker & Hall began with John Harrison metal worker who took out the first licence in Sheffield during 1843 to make electroplated pieces.
He employed George Walker to learn electroplating while in Birmingham.
Until 1974, the hallmark for the city of Sheffield was the Crown, although this was decided upon by the same counsel of silversmiths and businessmen that chose the anchor to represent Birmingham- the origins of these symbols and their connotations with their paired cities are not entirely clear.
There is anecdotal evidence that the discussions regarding their burgeoning Assay offices in Sheffield and Birmingham were held in a public house named the Crown and Anchor- however we have no substantial record of this.
The nature of this type of silverware - being far more practical than many items - means that the demand and repurchasing of these pieces is high.
It was wildly successful; because it could be used to produce a host of items - from a delicate button to grand candelabra - at a fraction of the cost of the solid silver equivalent.
Sheffield became the forefront of this new plating method after the developments of Thomas Bolsover in 1743, a Sheffield cutler, who – whilst working to repair a knife – found that under the correct circumstances of heat and pressure, copper and silver become inseparable.
Mappin & Webb was founded by Joseph Mappin in Sheffield in 1810.
Although Mappin and Webb is not the oldest Sheffield Silversmith still operating, it has a rich history and reputation for quality and for famous customers.
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He began to use this new process to create small items such as buckles, buttons and novelty wares.