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- All About Antiques
- Silver marks and labels
- Collecting Any Silver Requires Knowledge
A collection of silver wine labels has both artistic and
- Such a collection is not too expensive for the collector
of average means, and it is a safe investment, for the value
of good marked silver never depreciates. England is the best
hunting ground, but there is also a quantity of English silver
in U.S. and Canadian shops, and while wine labels are not plentiful
there are enough to make collecting them an interesting hobby.
- Remember, however, that collecting any article of silver
requires a knowledge of silver marks.
- Although wine labels are small, they were made by important
silversmiths. Their designs and shapes are usually of artistic
worth and their workmanship as fine as that of larger pieces
- The first wine labels were made in the period between 1740
and 1760. Before this date, white bottles of British Delft were
used, sometimes with the name of the wine painted on in blue.
- In the middle 1700s, Zachariah Barnes of Liverpool
made fine wine labels in Delftware to hang on kegs. But it was
not until crystal decanters came into use that silver labels
- The earliest labels were narrow, rectangular and unadorned,
except for the name of the wine, which included many old types
such as, Mountain, rare Methusen, Colcavella, Madiera, Tinta,
Boal and Holland, as well as English, Meade and Cowslip.
- Such names as these are rare and usually indicate an early
date. Later, the rectangular shape became broader and the ends
were often rounded or the corners cut to form an octagon.
- Early labels were also made in a shield shape and these are
found plain or engraved with a grape and leaf design. The crescent
shape and the kidney shape were also examples of some of the
first wine labels.
- On the earliest labels, only the initials of the maker and
the lion passant were used. In 1784, an Act of Parliament required
the marking and gave wine labels the official name of "Bottle
- Sometimes the label was hung from the bottle by a ring of
silver wire instead of a chain.
- Another means of placing the label on the bottle was a splayed
- Later, Hester Bateman (1790) introduced a new type
of design, which included a shield above the rectangular label.
This shield was usually engraved with a family crest, or crest
of a regiment. These are very rare. Leaf designs were introduced
in the late 18th Century. These consisted of a single grape leaf
in various designs, or a group of several leaves or leaves with
- Wine names on leaf designs include Port Sauterne, Burgandy,
Sherry, Medoc and Hock.
- Other wine label designs came into being during the early
19th Century, and included a lion's head, shells, fruit and flowers,
and a few rare labels in the shape of a clam or conch shell.
- Mathew Boulton made the first wine labels in Sheffield
plate, to be followed by John Winter & Co., plus many others.
- They rarely originated a design and the wine labels seldom
have marks. Old Sheffield labels are usually in poor condition
with the silver worn off, showing the copper.
- Wine labels, and whiskey labels are still made today, but
the early ones were not made in Canada, nor were many made in
the United States. Early dated pieces from England can be worth
a lot and are easily identifiable by their intricate design.
- So, if you're looking to start a collection, this might be
a good, and somewhat unusual, place to begin.
- Peter Green, founder of Asheford
Institute of Antiques, an antique and appraisal home-study-school,
and owner of South Meadow Farm Antiques in Muskoka, ON, is a
syndicated antique columnist.
- Other columns: Issue
80 - Issue 79 - Issue 78 - Issue
76 - Issue 75