New Napkin Rings Copy Antique Originals
inDecember 20, 2012 - 8:16am
A number of reproduction figural napkin rings have been made over the years. Some are so-called “fantasy” items because they are an entirely new design with no genuinely old counterpart. Other new napkin rings, though, are virtually exact copies of very specific originals.
The three reproduction figural napkin rings discussed in this article, for example, are all based on genuine Victorian era originals made by Meriden Silver between about 1875 and 1895. All three new rings were sold in the 1970s by International Silver as part of what was marketed as a “Collectors Series of Authentic Reproductions.”
Only one of the International Silver reproductions—the double cherub piece (Fig. 1)—is permanently and clearly marked as a reproduction. The other two, Kate Greenaway styled boy and girl figures, are not permanently marked. These pieces are now widely offered as originals on online auction sites as well as public venues such as on site auctions, flea markets and antique malls.
All three were originally sold in hinged boxes with the pieces’ titles and background clearly printed inside the lid. The double cherub piece, the first in the series, was also permanently marked in the metal “Original Made by Meriden Britannia Co. Circa 1875”. The permanent mark (Fig. 2) includes a facsimile hallmark.
There are no permanent marks on the Kate Greenaway style girl and boy (Figs. 3 & 4) which were the second and third pieces respectively in the three piece series. The inside lids of boxes with the girl and boy were clearly marked “Authentic Reproductions” like the cherub box but the boy and girl figures themselves were not permanently marked. The only mark on the girl and boy figures themselves was the paper label “Original made by Meridian Britannia Co 1884, International Silver”. If the boy and girl figures are separated from their boxes and the paper labels fall off—or intentionally removed—the rings can be confused with, or deliberately represented as, the 19th century Meriden originals.
Experienced napkin ring collectors probably wouldn’t have any trouble separating the International reproductions from the Meriden reproductions. The Meriden Victorian originals have much finer detail, are lighter weight and made of white metal (Britannia metal) with true silver plating. The reproductions are much heavier, lack the detail found in originals and are rather crude pot metal castings with a silver colored surface finish, not a true silver plating.
All original Meriden pieces are clearly marked with the company’s name and usually one of several different company trademarks that varied over the years. While there are some more sophisticated figural napkin reproductions which include a forged Meriden mark, most Meriden marks should generally be considered as a positive indication (but NOT a guarantee) of age. All original Meriden marks were die stamped into the metal almost always leaving a sharp clear distinct mark. Almost all forged Meriden marks are molded, not stamped, and are almost always far less distinct than original die stamped marks.
Written by Mark Chervenka
Fig. 1 box.jpg Reproduction double cherub figural napkin ring in original box; the first piece of a three part series of new napkin rings sold by International Silver Co., ca. 1970s.
Fig. 2 mark.jpg Permanent molded mark on base of reproduction double cherub napkin ring only. The mark does not appear on the boy and girl napkin rings shown in Figs. 3 & 4.
Fig. 3 girl.jpg This Kate Greenaway style girl was Number 2 in the series of new napkin rings by International Silver Co. No permanent mark; marked only with paper label inside ring, “Original made by Meridian Britannia Co 1884, International Silver”.
Fig. 4 boy.jpg Number 3 in the International Silver Co. series was this Kate Greenaway style boy. No permanent mark; marked only with paper label inside ring, “Original made by Meridian Britannia Co 1884, International Silver”.