Spoon of J E Bingham

Hi there friends.
I might be guilty of partiality towards the spoons I own. I happen to consider this J E Bingham spoon to be beautiful indeed, in more respects than one. Please see the pics.
Some might have an altogether different opinion. I respect that.

Length: 17,9 cm. Bowl width: 3,9 cm. Weight: 43 g. Maker’s mark JEB = John Edward Bingham. Date letter G = 1874. Crown assay office = Sheffield. That’s now if I have assessed the spoon correctly; however, everything seems to tally up nicely. (Phil knows I have in the past erred greatly!)
I have a question bugging me, and I ask your help:
The main attraction this spoon has for me (besides its lovely proportions and balanced feel in the hand) lies in the intricate but pleasing pattern impressed upon it. I am wondering exactly how this was done by the smith Bingham. I’m sure the pattern was not bright-cut by hand into the silver. It’s too finely executed and regular for that to be true. Am I right when I think it was rather some kind of die stamping? But how that is possible taking all the curves of the bowl into consideration! My question is: how could they have done it?


If you were going to invent bright cut work today it would probably be done using pattern systems first devised by the lacemakers but it was a decorative system for silverware invented when light was low and created by candles, mirrors and lustres and labor was both skilled and cheap.

Channel Island silversmiths had a problem in the Victorian era; it was cheaper to buy silver coming out of the large shops in the UK, including Sheffield than to make it themselves. The implementation of the rolling mill and stamping machines for both cutlery and hollowware created this inequity and the Islanders just didn’t have the capital to buy the rolling mills.

Elsewhere on this site I have posted examples of fiddle pattern cutlery made in London by Elizabeth Eaton – daughter of prolific maker William and overstamped by a Channel Island smith.

Exactly why the Channel Island buyers preferred their flatware bright cut to plain I don’t know but it wasn’t until 1897 Guernsey got its first public power generators and that was only for street lights.

Now I don’t know your spoon ever went to the group of Islands offshore St Malo, France but it is highly likely it was made for export to there and yes, it’s done freehand out of a marked pattern possibly in Sheffield and possibly in the Islands. The decorative designs are created by making a series of short cuts into the metal, using a polished engraving tool that causes the exposed surfaces to reflect light and give an impression of brightness.

The technique was most frequently used in England and countries influenced by the work of English silversmiths during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is sometimes used in diamond settings to make the stones appear larger.

Like cut glass it really had to be done by hand and cut rather than stamped out of a mound. Those sharp edges to the cuts are what throws the light back at the diner.

Sometimes you see it done on holloware in combination with embossing or hammering out the silver.

It first appeared with frequency on English silver in the rococo period heralded into London by the Huguenot smiths fleeing France. Porringers, salt and spice boxes and shakers appear with regularity at auction and are sold today at prices dwarfing those we achieved 20 years ago.

Your spoon is unusual for its overall dual-sided decoration and for the lack of love shown to it. And by love I mean that ultimate enemy of all silver the diligent butler with his silvo-saturated polishing rag.

Guildhall Antiques