The definition of “Georgian silver” refers to objects made out of sterling silver (mostly household silver such as tea ware and tableware, centrepieces, cutlery, objects-de-vertu, collectables, etc.) produced in England during the consecutive reigns of King George I (1714-1727), King George II (1727-1760), King George III (1760-1820) and King George IV (1820-1830).
The style and technique in manufacturing silver during this era (over 100 years) changed radically, reflecting the variations in taste, society, costumes, economic and political situations.
The early Georgian pieces (from the early until the late 18th Century) are usually characterised by simple forms. The plain and linear design is never meant to compromise the object’s usefulness.
Obvious exceptions can be found in the highly decorative Rococo pieces, a taste introduced in England by Huguenot silversmiths (French Protestants that came to England to flee religious prosecution in France).
This type of silver is usually characterised by elaborate and very ornate designs, profusely chased, embossed and often embellished with figural and sculptural elements.
The most famous Huguenot is without a doubt Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751), the greatest silversmith working in England in the 18th Century.
The silverware produced during the second half of the 18th Century is defined by a plainer and more linear design, inspired by the elegant and measured Neo-classical style. The forms became simpler and clearer, rarely chased and often engraved in a technique called “bright-cut” (realised with a series of short cuts into the metal using a polished tool to reflect the light and give the engraved decoration a particular brightness).
Popular motifs such as floral and foliate swags and festoons, rosettes and grotesques are taken from the “classical” art - Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome - inspired by archaeological discoveries such as those made at Herculaneum and Pompeii.
One of the key figures of this period is the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), who played a major role in introducing Neo-classicism into Britain. His style, known as “Adam Style”, applied to all elements of interior decoration, from architecture to furniture and silver.
One of the greatest silversmiths operating in this style is Hester Bateman (1708-1794): she is the most renowned and appreciated female silversmith of all time. Following the death of her husband she successfully ran the business for thirty years and gave origin to a family business that lasted until the mid-19th Century.
At the opening of the new Century the style gradually changed, introducing a new variety of highly decorative patterns.
Edward Farrel (1779-1850), for instance, produced incredible sculptural pieces, embossed in high-relief, often gilt, decorated in a variety of original revival styles inspired by 17th Century Flemish, German or Italian paintings. The most known and popular pattern used by Farrel on tea services features tavern scenes, re-inventing Dutch genre paintings by David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690).
The Georgian period ends with the Regency era (1811-1837), an age characterised by distinctive trends in British architecture, art and culture. The major source of inspiration was found in Greek and Roman antiquity, from which designers borrowed ornamental patterns.
Paul Storr (1771-1844) was the most important silversmith operating during this period, and is considered the greatest English goldsmith and silversmith of all time. His range varied from tableware to magnificent sculptural pieces made for royalty.
He initially studied with the Swedish born silversmith Andrew Fogelberg, he later associated with the Royal silversmiths Rundell & Bridge and is universally known for a wide range of silverware produced for British and foreign Royalty and aristocracy. Paul Storr produced some of the most exceptional silver pieces ever made, often inspired by ancient Roman silver or in Rococo style.