Prestigious Dining

Ornate silver soup tureen embellished with petal shapes, scrolls, and floral fittings, photographed on an angle

When it comes to design sensibilities today, I think many would describe this tureen as somewhat gaudy – particularly because any extravagant covered dish for serving soup would be a strange addition to modern dinner tables. However, this style of decorative art was once considered the height of refinement. Emerging from the salons of early […]

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An Alchemical Ornament

Silver goblet etched with a placid illustration of a refinery

One step removed from the sweltering heat of the forge, smoke billows from a chimney between towering trees. Small figures are at work around the refinery – surveying, shoving, and squatting. Steep slopes of earth disappear into the distance of a spotless sky. This sterling silver goblet was made by William Edwards (1819-1899) and retailed […]

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A Lucky Few

Close up of simple silver mug, slightly oxidised, with an inscription "HERE'S LUCK"

Before the 1850s, Australian silverware was incredibly scarce. The nature of settlement, including a low population and lack of materials, meant silversmithing was an extravagance. That is, until the discovery of silver, especially in Broken Hill, made it possible for a few talented craftsmen to become prolific manufacturers. Joachim Wendt (1830-1917) was one of the […]

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Fortunate Babies

Slightly oxidised, silver cup with a small circle handle

This little silver mug, with its matching porringer bowl, might have been presented to the parents of a fortunate baby in the early 1900s. Baby-sized sets of silver tableware have been popular christening gifts since they were first introduced in Stuart England. Given by godparents, they were a kind of good-luck charm, invoking prosperity and […]

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Power and Perfume

The mid-nineteenth century gold rush brought smiths and jewellers to Australia intent on reaping the benefits of a newly prosperous Australia. In 1858, Henry Steiner (1834-1914), a German silversmith, immigrated to Adelaide, South Australia, for that very reason. Now known as one of Australia’s most prolific silversmiths, much of his success was made possible by […]

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Fit For a King

Close up of Elegant silver jug with pointed spout and slender handle which stretches upwards

The tables of wealthy colonists in Australia benefited greatly from the immigration of Danish and German silversmiths in the 1850s. Immigration programs to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, coupled with discoveries of gold, lured many young men to the colonies after they had completed their apprenticeships. Joachim Wendt was one of them, alongside Christian Qwist, Julius […]

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‘Always Ready To Row Himself to Exhaustion’

Competitive rowing events on the Birrarung, or Yarra River, in Melbourne began in 1860.  The annual regatta was a feature of the social calendar by the time this Grand Challenge cup was presented to Melbourne Rowing Club in 1868. The event attracted crowds of picknickers to the banks of the upper river to cheer the […]

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Table Heirlooms

These napkin rings belonged to the Wilson family of Berry.  James C Wilson (1834-1901) emigrated to Australia in 1857 and found work on the Berry Estate, before co-founding Wilson and Co. Store, establishing other business interests that included coal mining, and becoming Berry’s first Mayor.  Around 1880, with wife Robina nee Tait (1849-1918), the Wilsons […]

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Madeira, my dear?

In the days before the twentieth century’s marketing of alcohol with distinctive bottles and branded labels, alcohol was decanted at home into glass decanters. Wine labels, or ‘bottle tickets’ as they were sometimes known, were hung on the necks of decanters to identify the contents within – in this case, madeira and brandy. Decanters and […]

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Winners and Losers

The jockey atop this impressive silver racing trophy has lost his more than his whip; he has lost his place in history. It’s not known who won this cup, or indeed, if it was ever presented as a trophy. The cartouche (ornate frame), which would customarily be engraved with the name, date and place of […]

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