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Stunning Gorham Silver Martele Plate
Per several web sites on the internet Martele started in the late 19th century (actual internet dates differ) & continued to approx. 1930. Production counts differ on the internet but a book, by L.J. Pristo PHD that is considered the most comprehensive accounting of Gorham's Martele silver that has been written to date, contains specific production information on approximately 4,800 items of Martele accounting for 8,200 individual pieces. But a few websites estimate that only 1500-1700 pieces are still in existence today due to people having the pieces melted down for the 1980"s high cost of silver. What a shame!!! Silver content marks also differed- 925/1000, 950/1000 & .9584. One site said the .9584 mark (silver content on our plate) started in 1905-I have not been able to verify this-we don't own Pristo's book.
Our plate is in excellent condition with no rips, tears, chomps, dents, deep scratches or repairs. Even that wonderful ruffled like rim appears original with no chomps or dents from being dropped. The top of the plate does have very light surface scratching from use most evident in the top's unpatterned center (see photo # 8) & more evident in bottom base surface from table usage. This very minor wear flaw is expected. Remember back then Martele was bought for actual use by wealthy people. The higher areas in the pattern can have little or none of the faint, soft, hand hammered effect. Since we never saw this plate new we can't be certain if it was manufactured this way or if the high area's surface lost some of it's faint effect due to old style, abrasive silver cleaners. We believe it to be a combination of both as these areas DO HAVE faint surface scratching from use. The pattern has a mix of soft concave & convex curves on the flower petals, buds, leaves & cherries giving the motif dimension. There is a swirling engraved initial in the pattern area that I believe to be an "S" - photo #3. The center of the 9 1/4" dia plate is approx 5 1/2' with that beautiful patterned rim being approx. 1 3/4" wide. The backside has the marks (see photo # 9 ). The silver content mark is .9584 for 9584 parts silver per 1000. The HRR is the production code.
For those of you who would like a little extra info on Martele the following excepts were taken from L. J. Pristo Ph. D.'s book "Martele-Gorham's Nouveau Art Silver" "Martele is a limited production line of fine silver that was fabricated under the direction of William Christmas Codman by the Gorham Silver Company of Providence, Rhode Island. The line began in the late 19th century, and was continued until the 1930s. Each piece is different in that they were individually designed, and then hand raised (made) and chased (decorated) which by nature produces uniqueness, where no two pieces can be the same. The hammer was the tool of manufacture, and very little machine work was utilized in the process of completing the Martele. The hammering produced a certain look, a surface that "is the soft misty finish of innumerable little hammer blows, overlapping each upon each like fairy footprints upon moonlit sands" (Stuart, 1912)." "The creation of a piece of Martele was a process that included several steps. In order to keep track of each piece, all of the items were uniquely identified by a numerical or letter code, with the code indicating whether the particular item was a Sample (a piece produced by Gorham as general inventory or a salesman sample to show customers examples of completed pieces) or a Special order (a piece of Martele that was specifically designed for or ordered by a client)." "Martele is arguably the best silver of the 20th century, and possibly of all time, as evidenced by numerous international awards won during its heyday, when the competition and the contemporaries were the likes of Tiffany and Company in the United States, Liberty and Gilbert Marks in England, Georg Jensen in Denmark, Christofle and Puiforcat in France, and others. In an analogy for the silver collector, the production quality, special orders, and sometimes later presentations of Martele can be likened to the "Royal Silver" of the Europeans, with a large amount of Martele ownership by the American equivalence of aristocracy." "Today Gorham's Martele silver work represents one of the significant expressions of the American decorative arts. The pieces are highly collectable, and because of the variety of forms available (candlesticks, coffee items, desk items, jewelry, etc.), an example of the silver or gold work is avidly sought by collectors from many different fields."
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Richard W. Bell Owner - Christine Clark Mgr., Orange, CA
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