Ramsden & Carr, 1898-1919
Material and Medium: Sterling silver
Dimensions: Overall: 114 x 83 x 83mm (4 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 3 1/4in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1940.12
This goblet is by Omar Ramsden and Alwyn Carr, who were leading designers of silverware in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The goblet bears the London hallmark for 1917. It has a plain bowl and circular base. The stem is decorated with bands of silver wire and a raised knob with vine patterns, perhaps symbolising wine. The silver wires extend across the base. The goblet is inscribed with the words 'OMAR RAMSDEN ET ALWYN CARR ME FECERVNT'.
They established a workshop at Albert Bridge in London, and later relocated to South Kensington. In 1898 they registered their first joint sponsor's (maker's) mark at the London Assay Office. It appears that Omar Ramsden was the entrepreneur in the business and Alwyn Carr the designer. The actual manufacture of objects was mostly carried out by a staff of silversmiths, designers, chasers, engravers and enamellers.
Omar Ramsden and Alwyn Carr were keen followers of the Arts and Crafts movement. This goblet has been designed in the Arts and Crafts style, which often featured naturalistic motifs such as vines or foliage.
Ramsden and Carr's partnership was dissolved in 1919, after which both continued to work independently.
Ramsden and Carr were both devout Catholics and religion often influenced the commissions they undertook. This goblet may have been intended to be used as a chalice for serving communion wine during a church service. If this was not the intended function, the design of the goblet was certainly influenced by traditional chalice forms.
Revealing the object's Hidden History…
As part of the DCF funded Living Metal project, we visited Ken Hawley and Joan Unwin at the Hawley Collection Trust to find out more about how the goblet was made. The Hawley Collection is an internationally important collection of primarily Sheffield made edge-tools and cutlery.
Hidden History: how was it made?
The goblet has been made in three parts; the bowl, stem and foot. Each of these was dealt with separately. There is a lot of work that has gone into the piece. Ken described the work as "quite a complex business of building up the section to its form".
Hidden History: how were the bowl and base made?
The bowl was hand raised. You can see the marks on the surface that are a result of this process, particularly on the interior, which has been polished less. The silversmith starts of with a circular sheet of silver. For this goblet, the sheet would have been about five inches in diameter. A stake (like an anvil) is used to raise the bowl.
Firstly, a centre point is marked on the sheet and a series of increasingly large concentric circles are drawn radiating from the centre point. The flat sheet is placed on a piece of tooling such as a 'horse's head', 'cow's tongue', or similar.
The silversmith uses a raising hammer with a curved striking surface to form the piece. Starting at the outer edge, the hammer is used to deform the silver. The outer edge is struck with the hammer at regular intervals until the silver has come around full circle. The same process is then repeated, but starting from the centre, on each increasingly large marked concentric circle. Working the silver makes it harder ('work hardening'), so it is heated to anneal (soften the metal) and make the process easier.
Like the bowl, the base is raised to the desired shape and chased (a type of decoration where small punch-like tools are used to indent the surface to create lines or other patterns).
Hidden History: how was the bowl finished?
When the bowl is fully raised it is planished to smooth the surface. A planishing hammer with a 'soft face' made from hard saw steel is used. Under the soft face is a piece of leather or paper to act as a cushion. This is tied around with wire to hold it together. Some hammer marks are left to give a nice finish - spinning is cheaper and would give a very smooth surface, so some marks are desirable to identify it clearly as hand raised. The lip of the bowl is a piece of wire soldered on and filed smooth.
Sometimes articles were spun for cheapness and then 'gone over' with a planishing hammer to give a hand raised effect, thus hoping to get a higher price for the finished article.
Hidden History: how was the stem made?
The central stem is cast in silver. The main parts are cast in several pieces that were then soldered together. The decoration on the cast pieces includes grapes, swags and flowers. The loops are wires that are wound round and cut to form a loop shape. They have been soldered on separately. The ribs are also soldered on separately. At the bottom of the stem is a piece of twisted silver wire soldered in place.
Hidden History: how was the goblet assembled?
All the separate pieces were made then assembled together, a piece at a time. Because of so many soldered parts, care had to be taken which was soldered first, using the highest melting point solder, then next using a lower melting point solder, and so on until the whole was finally assembled to complete the piece.