Material and Medium: Sterling silver and paste
Dimensions: Overall: 110 x 112 x 112mm (4 5/16 x 4 7/16 x 4 7/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1940.17
This circular, lidded box is by Alwyn Carr (1872-1940), a leading designer in silver during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Carr was born in Pitsmoor and he went on to study at the renowned Sheffield School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.
Much of Carr's work was produced in partnership with Omar Ramsden. Ramsden and Carr registered their first joint sponsor's (maker's) mark in 1898. They worked from a studio at Albert Bridge in London and were later based at South Kensington. Ramsden seems to have been the entrepreneur in the business and Carr the primary designer. It is generally believed that Ramsden, who was born and trained in Sheffield, did not produce any objects during their partnership, except for an initial design when the partnership was first founded. The making of objects was largely carried out by a staff of silversmiths, designers, chasers, engravers and enamellers.
This box is made from Sterling silver and was hallmarked in London in 1922. It was produced shortly after the Ramsden and Carr partnership had formally dissolved in 1919.
The box has a circular, bulbous body decorated with fluid, curving lines. The domed lid is decorated with four green cabochon stones. Each stone is held in place with a circular mount. These are made from twisted wire and resemble a small rope. Cabochon is a technique of shaping gems or stones into a rounded, convex shape, rather than cutting the surface into facets.
Alwyn Carr remained active as a silversmith and designer in wrought iron until his death in April 1940. He made provisions in his will to fund the building of a Roman Catholic Church in Little Marlow, having been a devout follower of the religion throughout his life.
The box was exhibited in an exhibition held at the City Museum and Art Gallery in 1973 to mark the centenary of the birth of Omar Ramsden.
Revealing the object's Hidden History…
As part of the DCF funded Living Metal project, we invited a number of silversmiths to view items from the collection in order to reveal their 'hidden histories'. Sue Lowday and Peter Perry examined the box and were able to offer insights into its manufacture and design.
Hidden History: how was it made?
The box has been created using the techniques of hand raising, repoussé, chasing and wire work.
The body of the box was hand raised from flat sheet and shaped using repoussé to hammer it out in sections. The sweeping lines on the body were then 'chased' back in using chasing punches. The piece would have been rested on a sandbag or set into a bowl of pitch to secure it while being chased. The top edge has been turned over onto the outside of the body to create a lip.
The lid was hand raised and hand chased from flat sheet. Half round wire has been used to form the centre knob. The box and lid were hand polished.
The semi precious stones mounted on the lid are also hand polished. Small facets are visible on their surface under a magnifying glass.
Hidden History: the silversmiths' thoughts on the box…
"Looks quite arts & crafts. Attention to detail, nice hammer marks. The colour added using the cabochon stones all make it a nice balanced piece" (Sue Lowday).
"A good piece of work, well made" (Peter Perry).