Old Sheffield Plate was the first commercially viable method of plating metal. The method itself was invented by a Sheffield Cutler named Thomas Boulsover in 1743. The various accounts of his invention are vague and slightly contradictory, but suffice it to say that in the course of his work, by a happy accident, Boulsover discovered that applying sufficient heat to contacting silver and copper the two metals fused. This, in effect, meant that the two metals acted as a single one, and when worked or hammered out the proportions of silver to copper remained the same. The technique Boulsover developed was to sandwich an ingot of copper between two plates of silver, tightly bind it with wire, heat it in a furnace and then mill it out in to sheet, from which objects could be made.
It is not known how other manufacturers learned his technique, but Boulsover never patented it. The potential of the material was quickly realised, and soon it was being used to fashion boxes, salvers and jugs, and not long after that candlesticks and coffee pots, and other traditional tableware.
The renowned Old Sheffield Plate manufacturer and industrialist Matthew Boulton famously said that he wished to make “What all the world desires”, and much of his and other Old Sheffield Plate producer’s output was indeed exported abroad. Indeed, the production and sale of Old Sheffield Plate is firmly rooted in the history of the British Industrial Revolution, as well as that of 18th and 19th century art history and the history of design. For both these reasons Old Sheffield Plate is now keenly collected.
James Baldwin carries an extensive stock of Old Sheffield Plate and here are a few magnificent examples...
These old Sheffield Plate dishes are heavy, and of beautiful quality. They are circa 1805, fire gilt inside, while the borders are applied sterling silver. Each Old Sheffield Plate salt bears a set of engraved initials underneath. They could be used, as intended, for salt or for sauces and condiments, or even as sweet or nut dishes. Offered by James Baldwin Antiques.
This Georgian Old Sheffield plate bougie box was made in circa 1790. Bougie is French for candle, and bougie box is in the same manner as a silver wax jack. The coiled candle is in the case and pulled out through the hole in the rid. This bougie box is very desirable and rare, although the original snuffer is missing. Offered by James Baldwin Antiques.
A rare pair of very early Old Sheffield Plate candlesticks made in Sheffield by John Hoyland & Company. Very attractive and a desirable quality in Old Sheffield Plate. Offered by James Baldwin Antiques.
This Old Sheffield Plate loving cup was made circa 1790, and is typically Neoclassical in design. Loving cups were traditional at weddings, where both the bride and groom held the cup and drank. This cup is an example of lovely quality, and charming design. It is half fluted and flat chased with swags and cartouches. Offered by James Baldwin Antiques.
This charming little Old Sheffield Plate tea caddy was made circa 1800 and is of lovely quality and design. It has the most stunning antique patina, and is crisp, elegant yet understated. Offered by James Baldwin Antiques.
This is a rare example of French Old Sheffield Plate. The fact that some Sheffield Plate was made in France is a little known fact, and this beautiful French silver plate coffee pot is a rare example. It was made circa 1810, in the Empire Style popular at the time. Offered by James Baldwin Antiques.
Read the full article about Old Sheffield Plate by James Baldwin here: Old Sheffield: An Introduction. Or read the second edition of Old Sheffield Plate by Gordon Crosskey.