This monumental English Old Sheffield Plate (OSP) hot water urn on stand is absolutely fabulous! The silver is decorated with a fluted design on the lower part of the body and on the dome of the lid with a horizontal ribbed band around the shoulder. The on/off control is very decorative and turns to open or close the spout. Above the spout is an engraved Armorial with an elephant with tusks and trunk in up position surrounded with a leaf garland wreath. The two side handles are shaped as large lion's heads with each holding a large ring in its mouth. Urn sits on four short round feet. This stunning urn dates to the late 18th or early 19th Century. Unmarked.
Dimensions: 17 1/2" high, 12 1/2" wide (at spout), 11 1/2" wide (at handles), base is 7" square (at feet) and the top opening is 8 1/2" in diameter. Weighs 12 pounds.
Condition: Urn is in very good to excellent Estate condition with very few flaws and reflecting only minimal signs of normal wear. The silver plating shows wear on upper part of lid with soft copper "glow" from the copper interior layer and silver will polish beautifully. There are a couple of minor flaws as follows: (1) there is a small sliver of silver missing on the edge/rim of the top, (2) there is an old thin solder repair down the center of the spout and (3) the two left feet (front and back) are slightly bent and do not sit with the center seam totally horizontal with possible old solder repair at corners behind feet, however, the urn does sit level.
Although "Old Sheffield Plate" is actually a plated silver, the process of making this silver is completely different than the electroplating process we know today. The process of "fusing" silver and copper was discovered in 1743 and the process was used to make "silver" items available to those who could not afford solid silver "Sterling" items being produced by silversmiths of the late 1700s and early 1800s. This silver was produced by placing a thin sheet of Sterling silver over a thicker sheet of copper and then heating the two to fuse the layers together. The composite "block" was then hammered or rolled to make it thinner in order to work into the desired designs. This process was very labor intensive but produced a product more economical than using solid silver. The manufacture of Old Sheffield Plate was generally discontinued in 1840 with the discovery of the electroplating silver-plating process still used today.
One distinctive feature of Old Silver Plate is that the outer edge of the item often has a mellow glow with the exposure of the copper under layer. On pieces with both sides to be exposed, the copper layer was often "sandwiched" between two layers of Sterling. This beautiful old silver should be properly labeled "Old Sheffield Plate" and not confused with "Sheffield" silver plate. This category of silver is highly desired by collectors today and choice pieces are getting harder to find.
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