Date Made/Found: around 1958
, 1930 - 2008
, 1907 - 1982
Material and Medium: Pewter
Dimensions: Overall: 260 x 140 x 78mm (10 1/4 x 5 1/2 x 3 1/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 1981.42
This object is a Martini jug and is made from pewter. It was designed by Gerald Benney and manufactured by the firm Viners of Sheffield. Benney had an enduring partnership with Viners and designed holloware, cutlery and flatware for them over a period of thirteen years.
The cocktail jug was originally available with matching pewter tankards. The jug retailed at £4 10s and the tankards at £2 5s.
This object was used to serve martini, a cocktail made from vermouth mixed with gin or vodka. In the 1950s, cocktail parties were glamorous and fashionable events that were less formal than a traditional dinner invitations.
The jug and matching tankards were available with a plain finish or with a textured 'bark finish' on the lower part of the body. This is a characteristic feature of much of Gerald Benney's work. The set was also made in silver as a limited edition.
Modern pewter is an alloy consisting mostly of tin. The highest quality pewter contains up to 95% tin. Other metals (antimony, bismuth and copper) are added in small amounts to give the alloy hardness and strength. Historically, cheaper pewter wares could also contain lead.
Many different processes and techniques can be used to create and decorate pewter objects. It can be cast, spun, pressed, rolled or shaped by hand. The surface of pewter objects can be embellished though engraving, etching, polishing or hammering.
Casting is the oldest and perhaps most common method of forming objects from pewter. It is a particularly effective technique for pewter as it has a very low melting temperature of 232°C. Pewter can also be melted down and recycled without causing deterioration in the quality of the metal.
As part of the DCF funded Living Metal project, we visited Richard Abdy at AR Wentworth (Sheffield) Ltd to find out more about the Martini jug. Wentworth's are one of the most important firms manufacturing pewter goods in Sheffield today.
Hidden History: Richard Abdy's thoughts on the object…
"I like it a lot- a design before its time".
Richard informed us that this item is a very early example of a named designer and pewter manufacturer working together. The jug was "very successful but not successful enough to change the [pewter] trade" from focussing on the manufacture of traditional goods, such as flasks and tankards.
Hidden History: how was it made?
The jug is made from a pewter 'neck'. This is a technical term for a flat sheet bent round to form the basic shape of an object and then soldered up the length. The seam would have been hammered by hand to flatten it. Each hammer strike would have to be identical in pressure to get a perfect finish. An 'Irishman' might have been used to assist the hand shaping process; this is a tool in the form of a steel cone used to help create a round shape.
The jug has not been spun after soldering (which would create a perfect round finish), but has been entirely shaped by hand. Richard told us that there were not many pewter spinners working at the time the jug was made, around 1958. It takes seven years to train as a spinner, as it is a highly skilled process. Richard suggested one reason that there might not have been many spinners around at this time was that there was a lack of skilled worked after World War II.
The spout, handle and ice guard (located inside the spout) have been cast and then soldered onto the body of the jug. The holes in the ice guard have been drilled by hand. The handle has been soldered over the seam to help mask it, which is common practice.
After its assembly, the outside of the jug was polished. The interior has a satine polish, which is carried out with an abrasive polishing mop. The abrasive mop creates fine lines on the surface which can be seen on the interior of the jug. They are perfectly horizontal and perpendicular, indicating the interior has been finished to a high standard.
Hidden History: about Richard Abdy…
"I have been around ARW [AR Wentworth (Sheffield) Ltd] since my childhood, my father having worked for and later owning Wentworth's. After leaving University in 1996 I came to Wentworth's "before getting a proper job" and I never left. My job covers all aspects of the pewter trade with the pursuit of new design in pewter being the best part of the job".