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Some Comments of Chinese Silver in 1757 to 1948

There were some confusion on Chinese Export Silver (CES, or Chinese Trade Silver) and Straits Chinese Silver. The introduction of a new phrase, Chinese Domestic Silver, makes things more unclear for some people. I now try to clarify some situations about the gold, silver and jewelry industry in China during middle 18c to 1940s.

1. Commercial gangs / factionalist economy in neoteric China

Ancient China is a typical agrarian society. For different reasons, some people had to leave their hometowns and acted as merchants. They would help their countrymen each other when they went to other cities to peddle goods etc. As the result, regional commercial gangs formed. Although they are called “gangs”, they actually were incompact commercial groups.

In neoteric China, there are two most important commercial gangs, one was made up by the Canton (Guangdong) merchants, and the other was made up by the business men came from Ningbo, Zhejiang. They worked all over the China, and some also went abroad to do their business.

The Canton gang appeared at early Ming dynasty, their noontide is 1760s to 1840s. After the Opium Wars, Shanghai become the largest commercial port, in about 1856, the goods imported and exported through Shanghai increased to 6.8 times as what traded in Canton. The Canton gang became less and less important from then on.

Most Canton merchants were only traders. They forced on selling goods, but didn’t attempt to found factories. But the members of Ningbo-gang are mainly industrialists. This gang formed in later Ming dynasty, became the most important business men group in later 19c to mid 20c. Their businesses involved water carriage, manufacture, financial and even entertainment industries.

2. Gold & silver manufacture industry during 18c to middle 20c

The neoteric gold, silver & jewelry firms in China appeared in middle 18c. Most of the earliest ones were set up by Ningbo merchants in Zhejiang and Jiangsu including Shanghai, namely in the regions south of the Yangtze RiverThe climax was during the end of 19c to 1930s, thousands firms were founded in that period. At that time, over a half of important firms were still under the control of the Ningbo merchants or managers. Local merchants also imitated or at less referred Ningbo people’s firms to set up theirs in their hometown. Some were registered as “Companies Limited” to the Republic China government during 1920s to 1930s.

This kind of gold, silver & jewelry firms/companies generally have four independent departments - a store or show shop, a workshop, a storehouse and a accountant's office, though they generally shared the same building. In the workshop there were a headman, some engaged workers and apprentices. Some large firms had more than one groups of silversmiths in the workshop, each group had a leader. The group leader may have an assistant and a vice assistant, they were all skillful craftsmen, to help him organize production. In some workshops, there was even a group of people producing wrapper boxes or wooden parts. A few larger companies also had a couple of affiliated workshops which had exclusive contracts to work for them.

The marks struck on an item were typically the town name, the firm name (generally made up of a brand name and a branch name), a fineness mark (in most case, it's a word meaning pure silver or gold), and may also one or two separated marks implying the silversmith group (has one or two characters) and the year the piece was made (it's a single-character mark). For an item outsourced to another workshop or silversmith (less to see, but independent workshops did exist in some cities), it might be stamped a maker’s mark instead of the internal craftsmen group mark.


Some silver companies use all of these marks, though most of them only beared a part of these marks onto their products. For example, leading comanies in Shanghai generally didn't stamped a "pure silver" mark on any silverware and silver  jewelry. Items sold by small stores only had a mark of the brand name (store name).


Most items manufactured by these companies are bracelets, different kinds of hair pins, finger rings, ear pins, neck pendants, lock-shaped pendants, hat ornaments etc. These kind of traditional jewelries were very popular with domestic customers. A large amount of them were made and sold. They are the main products of most companies, especially hair ornaments. After the starting of the New Life Movement in 1934, many women in large cities cut short their hair. As the result, the revenue of some companies decrease a lot, a few leading companies had to close.


Hollowware and cutleries were only a small part of their products, and mainly made in port cities between the end of 19c to ca.1947. A majority of these non-jewelry silverware are western-type items such as tea service sets,  trophies, flatware, napkin rings, shields, tazzas, comports, center pieces and a great deal of spoons in western type. A large part of western-type items were sold to foreigners came to China, or presented to them as gifts. From some people's point of view, they were a part of Chinese Export Silver.


These companies also made some traditional utensils for local residents, especially after 1934, including some traditional types of spoons, tongue scrapers, tradition-style teapots, wine warmer, vases, tea cups, powder bowls, censers, figures of Buddha and so on. Though a few traditional vases and teapots were also bought by or presented to foreigners - they were familiar with these types of items since China export porcelains have had the same kind of things for a long time. Traditional types of silverware is less and that's why they are far expensive than western type items. A part of traditional jewelries and utensils were gathered and resold to western countries to obtain foreign exchange during 1972~1990s. But now, Chinese collectors are taking over 10 times of money to purchase them back.

3. CES and western-style items made in Canton

When foreign traders, missionaries etc. came to China, they brought some silverware. A part China export porcelains also referred to these silver items. Neoteric silver firms have not sprung up in Canton. The main products made by the silver workshops in Canton and nearly places should be traditional jewelries. They might also produce some hollowware such as bowls, vases, censers and teapots for rich people.


One day, some Canton merchants found they can order customized silverware from the local silversmiths, and sold them to those foreign merchants came to China, or export directly. The earilest export goods including silver parts made are filigee fans, card cases and boxes etc. made in 18c to middle 19c. Most of they were not beared any mark, the store names such as Cumshing were printed on the wrapper boxes which are less left. From then on, the Canton silversmiths started imitating the silverware brought by foreigners, and added Chinese elements a little later. We can imagine, duo to the large demands, more and larger workshops founded, some silversmiths coming from vicinal towns also gathered in Canton.

However, Canton merchants didn’t consider having their own workshops. They only worked as intermediate traders, and sold or exported silverware via their stores or export companies in Canchou (Guangzhou) and Hong Kong, such as Wang Hing (宏興), Wing Nam (永南), Kwan Wo (寬和) and Sing Fat (生發).

From the last half of 19c, more Canton (including Hong Kong) merchants came to Shanghai to find new chances (a few may went to other cities such as Tianjin/Tientsin). A part of them got involved with silver industry. Some jewelry stores in Canton and Hong Kong set up new benches in Shanghai, such as Hung Chong (鴻昌 or 宏昌). Some Canton merchants founded stores from scratch in Shanghai, such as Luen Wo (聯和), Luen Hing (聯興), Zee Wo (時和), Zee Sung (時昇), Yok Sang (朱煜生), Wo Shing (和勝) etc.  A couple of foreign merchants also set up this kind of stores, such as Tuck Chang (德祥). Some Canton or Hong Kong based department stores opened new benches in Shanghai as well, such as Sincere (先施百貨) and Wing On (永安百貨) selling different kinds of goods including silverware and jewelries. 

Based on the craftworks, styles and chopmarks, we can sure almost all products sold by these stores mentioned above were made by Canton-gang silversmiths. Some Canton silversmiths might come to Shanghai or near cities and provided their products to these stores. I don’t have any evidence shows that Shanghai local silversmiths or workshops_ produced for them. However, some items do show the influence of Ningbo (Zhejiang) silversmiths.

So what is CES? In the very narrow sense, only silverware (including few goldware) made by Canton-gang silversmiths and sold by Canton-gang merchants can be called CES. A big part of these silver items were transported oversea for reselling, some might be sold to foreigners who came to China and bought for themselves, a few might be sold to Chinese people as a gifts to their foreigner friends etc. It’s no way to know whether the direct customer of a specified piece was an exporter or an end user, was a foreigner or a Chinese. It’s also unnecessary. We can simply classify them as CES depending on the marks. They were generally stunk a Latin mark and a chopmark on each item, some also had marks like SILVER, STERLING, 85, 88, 90, 95, 97, and even 99% [on some Tack Hing (德興) pieces]. In this way, the scope of CES is a little too narrow but the boundary is clear.

In a broad sense, any silver piece which is a western-style item and made in main export port cites are CES. Although a few fashionable Chinese people bought this kind of silver products to use as well, I think over 80% were purchased by foreigners.

If we choose the narrow sense, some silver firms such Tu Maoxing (塗茂興) in Jiujiang, Jiangxi will be exclude from CES manufacturers. However most people including Crosby Forbes, Chait and Chan did deem that Tu Maoxing was CES related. If we choose the broad sense, hundreds of neoteric silver companies will then get involved, though a larger half of their products were made for native Chinese clients.

4. Straits Chinese Silver and CES in South Asia style

A lot of Chinese people immigrated to Southeast Asia during Ming and Qing dynasties from Fujian and Canton. Some of them were silversmith. Their products have obvious signs of Fujian and Canton craftworks. However many of them were influenced by the local culture, so that sensitive people can distinguish their products from native Chinese silver. This kind of silver items made in Malaya and Singapore are so-called Straits Chinese Silver, those made in Indonesia and nearly countries are also counted in by some people.

Straits Chinese Silver was mainly made for straits Chinese families. That’s why most were only stamped a chop mark with two or three Chinese characters without any Latin letter. A few of them might be exported to Netherlands or France, though I don’t have enough data to affirm.

In the board sense, Straits Chinese Silver also includes those silver pieces having Chinese elements made in Thailand and Indochina. There were more immigrants and merchants came from China in the long history. In Bangkok, people of Chinese origin involved almost all the commerce activities, and hold some important positions regarding to commerce and trading in the Thailand government traditionally until 20c. Vietnam has been influenced by China in culture through its whole history. Those CES-like silver pieces made in Thailand and Indochina were produced by either Chinese/half Chinese silversmith family or their imitators, but they mainly sold to local customers including foreigners came from western countries. I saw dozens of Indochina silver items stamped a French import mark, but I’m not sure whether they were made for direct export or brought to France later.

Some CES were in South Asian style (such as rosewater sprinklers), and some early pieces even had evident Indian or Arabic elements. As we known, they are no relationship with Straits Chinese Silver. The marks stamped on those items also definitely show they were sold by Canton-gang merchants and made by Canton silversmith. Comparing with Europe and U.S, India and Middle East countries were very small markets, but many Canton merchants were still active there. Canton silversmith imitated these India items as they did for the western silver. They are all CES but produced for different markets. Wynyard Wilkinson has mentioned how CES transited to India for selling there.


Tags: 银器 中国外销银 金银器 银器知识 首饰 English

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双提梁壶偶见有人英译为loop-handled teapot,并不普及。



- 特征 -




- 用途 -












- 存世量 -









































Tags: 银器 双提梁壶 杨庆和 银器知识

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(二)来看一根翻书杖:1780年,英国纽卡斯尔,玛瑙柄银刃,长34.2 cm






·标记:代表925银的英格兰狮徽,带皇冠的豹子头标志,代表纽卡斯尔鉴定所的三个城堡标记,表明检验年代为1780年左右的印刷体字母O,无税标(英国从1784年才开始向金银制品征税),制作者标记IL IR。可能是因为刃表面中间高两边低,部分标记没有打得很完整。

·制作者:John Langlands I & John Robertson I,最常见的纽卡斯尔银匠之一,也是少数同时在伦敦鉴定所登记的纽卡斯尔银匠。John Langlands I于1753年在纽卡斯尔鉴定所注册,1754年至1757年间与John Goodrick合伙经营,后者于1757年去世,此后John Langlands I独立经营了一段时间。与John Robertson I的合伙是从1778年开始的,1793年Langlands去世,其妻子遂继承其在工坊中的权益,与John Robertson的合作最终止于1795年。Robertson也是纽卡斯尔本地银匠,与Langlands家的合作结束后,曾在1795年到1796年间与另一银匠David Darling 合作,后独立经营直到1801年去世,工坊可能由其妻Ann Robertson接手,其子John Robertson II在1799年成为Thomas Watson的学徒,1811年起与John Walton合伙经营。





这事儿说来很简单……其实吧,那个啥,就是……就是……英格兰议会的老爷在制定1719议会相关法案时,把一贯低调的外省鉴定所们给忘了…… …… 

以至于在法案中竟然写这么一句:(对于所有经化验纯度达标的器物)shall be marked with the workman's mark..., and with the the figure of the Lion Passant, and the figure of a Leopard's Head(必须打上工匠标记……,以及脸朝正面向右行走的狮子图案和豹子头图案)。




(完……THE END)


Tags: 翻书杖 银器 鉴定所 法学 英国 银标 银器知识 器物展拍

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自1886年德国规定使用800等千分比数字的纯度标志以来,挪威、芬兰、意大利、苏联/俄国(1954起)等先后在金银制品上改用千分比数字,保守的英国人也最终通过了《1973年大厅标志法案》(Hallmarking Act 1973),开始在所有贵金属制品上全面使用了千分比数字。


最近就有人问,说美国马里兰州巴尔地摩市最著名的Samuel Kirk & Son公司的早期银标很奇怪。较晚期(即南北战争结束的几年之后)的银标基本就是公司名,然后跟
“925/1000”或“STERLING”来表示925银。但早期的银标是这样的“S. Kirk & Son  11 OZ”。美国很多银制容器会带有个表示器物容积的数值标志,比如“3 PINTS”(3品脱),那这个11 OZ是说这样东西重11盎司么?显然不是,因为不管东西多重,凡是这一时期的Kirk制品都打“11 OZ”。








(左边的“双头鹰下的К.ФАБЕРЖЕ”为彼得·卡尔·法贝热的公司的商标,右边的“84 头巾女 ИЛ”应该是当时圣彼得堡鉴定所化验师Yakov Lyapimov在化验后打的鉴定标志,其中84为纯度值。)

同理,在神圣罗马帝国范围内的高地德语地区(基本相当于现在的德国和奥地利)及其统治下的东欧地区(如波西米亚和匈牙利),长期使用12、13这样的数字来表示纯度。其中13代表了13 Löth,其含义是“每一马克至少含纯银13 Löth”。由于在上述地区1磅(Pfund)=2马克(Mark)=16盎司(Unzen)=32 Löth,因此1马克合16 Löth。由此可知,数字13代表该器物的纯度为13/16,即812.5。依此类推,12就相当于千分比纯度750。

再次思考“11 OZ”这个标志的含义,也就豁然开朗了。根据英美重量标准,1金衡磅为12金衡盎司,因此这个11盎司其实是说每金衡磅含银11盎司。11/12合千分比916.6(6循环),也就是一般资料上常说的Kirk公司硬币银(Coin Silver)纯度917。


正好,币改失败后的1719年的议会法案Act for Laying a Duty on Wrought Plate同时表述了这两种标准,翻它的原文最方便,里面是这么说的“From and after 1st June , 1720, all silver vessels of plate or manufactured of silver shall not be less in fineness than that of 11oz. 10dwt. of fine silver in every pound troy, or of silver less in finess than 11oz. 2dwt. of fine silver in every troy pound”——从1720年6月1日起(当时6月1日是鉴定所新一年的开始,从那天开始换日期标志),对于所有银制容器或其他银制品,每金衡磅必须含有不少于11盎司10英钱的纯银,或每金衡磅不少于11盎司2英钱的纯银



Tags: 金银器 银器 纯度 法学 鉴定所 银标 银器知识

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内战以前,美国没有公认的纯度标准,除了马里兰州在1814到1830年间有鉴定所和相关法规之外(1830年以后不再强制实施),美国也没有相应的纯度规定和管理制度。南北战争之前大部分美国银匠制作的器物的纯度在850~900之间。1794年,美国银币的法定纯度为892.4后于1837年提升为900,因此从18世纪晚期开始,绝大多数银匠的制品都能达到900左右。这些一般被统称为硬币银(Coin Silver),但也有一些公司使用纯度更高的材料,比如Kirk曾一度使用917(类似于黄金的22K,也可以纳入广义的硬币银范围内),Ball Black则使用更高的950,也有一些使用925(即英国纯银,甚至打上English Sterling标志)的。从南北战争前后开始,美国大部分的银匠和公司逐渐统一使用925,由此形成了美国银器的习惯性标准。


经过半个多世纪的发展,到了1860年前后,美国的金银制品工业逐渐成熟,一批业内有影响力有代表性的企业在此时期出现或成名。南北战争之前,美国虽然也有诸如Paul Revere之类的著名银匠,但总体工艺一般。1860以后美国银器的艺术水平逐渐达到甚至在一些方面超过了西欧同行,与英法俄共同组成了西方银器的第一集团。目前拍卖会上常有其制品露面的公司,主要是Tiffany和Goharm两大巨头,以及Ball/Black、Dominik & Haff、International Silver(由Rogers Brother等合并而成)、Kirk(后与Stieff合并)、Reed & Barton、Shiebler、Tuttle、Wallace、Whiting(后并入Goharm)等10来家,数量不多,耳熟能详。这些公司大多不光制作销售金银制品,而且也制作珠宝首饰,代表了历史上美国本土金银珠宝类奢侈品行业的最高水平。

Tags: 银器 美国 历史 银器知识

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