James Dixon & Sons
Date Made/Found: late 1800s
, founded 1806
Material and Medium: Electroplated Britannia metal
Dimensions: Overall (A: Teapot): 150 x 260 x 155mm (5 7/8 x 10 1/4 x 6 1/8in.)
Overall (B: Coffee pot): 240 x 240 x 140mm (9 7/16 x 9 7/16 x 5 1/2in.)
Overall (C: Sugar basin): 115 x 175 x 120mm (4 1/2 x 6 7/8 x 4 3/4in.)
Overall (D: Milk jug): 130 x 120 x 80mm (5 1/8 x 4 3/4 x 3 1/8in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 1983.108
This is a sugar basin, part of a four piece tea and coffee set. It was manufactured by James Dixon & Sons of Sheffield in the late 1800s.
Our records indicate this piece is made of Britannia metal, a pewter-type allow consisting of 93% tin, 5% antimony and 2% copper. It has been silver plated and has a gilded (gold) interior. In order to discover the amounts of each metal present we visited Sheffield Analytical Services at Sheffield Assay Office. We were able to have the sugar basin tested to find out exactly what metals are contained in the alloy.
The sugar basin was tested using a technique called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). This is a non-destructive method, meaning that objects are not in danger of being marked or damaged in any way. An x-ray is fired at the sample which penetrates the top layer to a depth of 0.01 - 0.1 mm beneath the surface. The material then itself generates x-ray radiation that varies according to its composition.
The results showed that the body of the basin is composed of 73% tin and 27% silver. Silver plated tin is quite an unusual combination. The handle is 48% silver, 50% Tin and 2.1% antimony. Antimony would have been used to strengthen the handle. Inside is 93% tin, 5.3% silver and 1.8% gold, reflecting the gilded surface.