Design Families

Common Features, Scaled and Elaborated

After I learned how plique-à-jour enamel was made, and could identify most of the maker’s marks, a primary question remained: how could these skilled worker-labor intensive pieces be sold profitably in a tourist’s souvenir market?

As the collection matured, occasionally I was able to unite spoons I found at different times and places with others with a related design. Certainly they had been all together in the same showcase over 100 years ago. Here was part of my answer. Production costs for a family were lower because common jigs, fixtures and molds could be used, and the designs were simply scaled, not derived from scratch. More importantly, it not only provided more showcase appeal, but it encouraged the buyer to “buy up,” that is, to buy more than intended.

Design Families

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The three groups in the top row are the work of Marius Hammer in Bergen, Norway. The first two share a common finial design, scaled up in size and elaborated. The larger bowl in the center elaborates the bowl of the smaller. The three dragons illustrate another element of the answer. Hammer here twists the dragon’s tail differently in the two spoons, but creates a new product by embellishing a lady’s buttonhook for her long gloves.

The five spoons at the bottom left were made by Georg Adam Scheid in Vienna, Austria. The first four feature bowls made from medallions of different sizes depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The medallions have been pierced to set out the figure, and filled with enamel. The fifth of this group substitutes a Swiss historical medallion for St. George while using the same stem and bowl shape.

The four spoons at the bottom right were made by George W. Shiebler in New Youk City. They build on a basic bowl design by scaling and elaboration. See also Giants of the Genre, far right, for the largest member of this family.

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