Help on Identifying a possible 18thC American Mark

Request assistance on identifying a possible 18th century American Silversmith’s mark. I recently acquired a pair of shuttle shaped openwork silver shoe buckles that appear to date to about 1760-1780.

I am at my wits end, and despite searches in all of the major works both English and American, I cannot identify this mark. I need some advanced regional help

These buckles came from a family from Central Point, Caroline County, Virginia, and the buckles have been in the same family until a recent estate sale

They appear to be coin silver. There are maker’s marks: the initials JA (large pellet between). No no sovereign head or duty mark, no city mark, no date mark. The only other marks present are scratch marks for weight in roman numerals representing 46 Dwt. I weighed them and they match the scratch marks with the deduction of the weight of the iron chape (the mechanism that fastened the buckle to the shoe).

The basis of thought that these may be of American origin are the scratch marks in roman numerals, which is a feature that I have been told is exclusive to 18th century American silver. The other is the lack of the other hallmarks normally present (I know that on small piece that this is not uncommon), however these are significant pieces.

The other reason I believe that these may be American is that there was no legal requirement to mark pieces of this size in England during the approximate date of manufacture

Any assistance that can be provided will be gratefully accepted.

Bob M, Massachusetts

This buckle, by English or Irish style dates to around 1780 or a little later. As you say numerals in Roman Numbers tend to found on American made buckles, numerals in normal ( Arabic) numerals on Irish assayed ones .
I would have thought that one of these buckles without chape would weight more than 46dwt, but I’ve never managed to tie up any of the weights to the numerals of either type.

The chape is almost certainly English ( I refer to the type it as Rugby Post -lungs - pattern) and it’s normally found post 1785.

It may be unassayed Irish - I’ve a pair with the undoubted mark of Owen Cassidy without any assay marks and with Roman numerals . I’ve always assummed this was made for the American market.
In theory ALL English silver buckles of this period should be assayed and duly stamped, but there is adequate evidence that this was often ignored by English silversmiths exporting to the States. Especially after duty was imposed in 1784 ( althought they could recover the duty on export) as a portrait of King George on your buckles may not have been regarded as patriotic by the average American at this time !

Workmanship and design suggest a non-London origin unless it is actually close plated - are you totally sure it is solid silver ? Try a magnet on it - well way from the chape !

The only major English silver bucklemaker of this period with a JA mark was James Atkins, but virtually all his marks were in an oval
I’ve not looked at Irish makers , where the shuttle shape was exceedingly common


Thank you for taking the time to reply. I have observed many of your posts over the years and recognize you as one of the foremost subject matter experts on 18th century shoe buckles.

Unbeknownst to you, your posts on this and other forums have greatly expanded my meager knowledge regarding Shoe buckles, bucklers, chape makers, buckle ring makers and much more.

I have been collecting shoe buckles in the United States for many years; very seldom do I find any of silver. I did as you suggested and checked the buckles with a magnet, it is non magnetic. I examined the buckles very closely and they appear to be solid cast of silver, not close or Sheffield plate.

I know that most of the shoe buckles in North America were made in England or Ireland but had hope for this to be an American pair-not just for the great increase in monetary value but rather for the history of the set and the significance to my collection.

I will take heart however in that I have found a pair of silver shoe buckles, which, on this side of the Atlantic, is quite a rare event.

I send along a few more pictures in the hope that you may recognize features which may suggest the place of origin. I have not cleaned this pair and they are extremely dirty, the dark spots you see in the hollow voids of the casting of the buckle obverse are the dirt of ages.

The ones that are clean show as silver, it does appear to be cast and then hand finished and chased in some portions.

Thank You for your kind assistance,


Bob M.
Virginia Buckles_Marked_JA_03.jpg
Virginia Buckles_Marked_JA_02.jpg
18th Century Silver Shoebuckles_01.jpg

Thanks for your kind words.
The view of the back of the buckle suggests either an American or a Continental European origin, But mark of JA makes me suspect that your intial idea that they are American may well be the correct one .


Many thanks for your valued opinion.
My next step is to find some references for Virginia silver and see if I can find a match for this mark-I may never trace this mark but will keep on hunting.

Best Regards,

Bob M, Massachusetts