A Georgian Sheffield Plate wine funnel, early 19th century, 15.…
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A Georgian Sheffield plate wine funnel, early 19th century, 15.5 cm long

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  • Sheffield Plate - Sheffield plate was the first commercially viable method of plating metal with silver. The method of plating was invented by Thomas Boulsover, a Sheffield Cutler, in 1743 and involved sandwiching an ingot of copper between two plates of silver, tightly binding it with wire, heating it in a furnace and then milling it out in to sheet, from which objects could be made.

    Originally used by its inventor to make buttons, 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.

    Although there was a considerable saving in the amount of silver used, Old Sheffield Plate manufacture was more labour intensive than solid silver, meaning higher labour costs. This meant that Old Sheffield Plate was very much a luxury product, and only available to the very wealthy.

    The thickness of the silver means that many 18th century Sheffield Plate pieces still have a good layer of silver, while electroplated pieces (EPNS), may have been replated several times over their lifetime. Where the silver has worn off the Sheffield plate the soft glow of the copper base can be seen underneath. However this is not an infallible guide that the piece is Sheffield Plate, as many EPNS items were also plated on to a copper base.

    Most Sheffield plate items are unmarked, whereas most elecroplated items display manufacturers names or marks, quality indications such as "A1", "EP", together with pattern or model numbers.

    Sheffield plate was made commercially between 1750 and 1850.
  • Georgian - As an English stylistic period, Georgian is usually taken to cover the period from George I (1714) to the Regency of Prince George (1811-20), although the period from 1800 to 1830 is sometimes designated as the Regency period. During the Georgian period the great English cabinetmakers and designers such as Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Adam Sheraton etc., were all active.

    Therefore there isn't a single 'Georgian style' as such and to say something is 'Georgian', usually means it was made between 1714 and 1830. This assumes we discount George V and George VI, both being from the 20th century.

    The styles popular at the time of each reign were:

    George I (1714-1727) saw out the last years of the Baroque period.

    George II (1727-1760) reigned during the Rococo period.

    George III (1760-1820) saw the last gasp of the Rococo, all of the early Neo-Classic 'Adam style' and most of the later neo-Classic 'Regency style'.

    George IV (Prince Regent 1820-1830)encompassed the last of the 'Regency' style.

    William IV's reign (1830-1837) was something of a no man's land (stylistically) and he wasn't a 'George' anyway. He covered the last glimmerings of 'Regency' and the start of the 'Victorian' style.

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