Daily Archives: August 28, 2014

Gold & Silver Hallmarks On Pipes – Alan Chestnutt

logoI receive Alan’s newsletter from reborn briar and also follow his blog so I read what he has written with expectation that I will learn something new and so far I have never been disappointed. (You can access his blog by clicking here.) Often he clarifies things for me that I have long believed to be true but have not done enough research on or thinking about to make conclusions. In the case of this blog post Alan has given us a very useful tool on interpreting hallmarks in the gold of silver work on pipes. I have used many of the sites that Alan has linked but never seen them in one place like this. I wrote Alan and asked if I could post it here on rebornpipes. He responded that he would be glad to have it posted here. Thanks Alan for doing the hard work for us and giving us access to what you have learned.

Hallmarks have been around in the UK for over 800 years. They were originally introduced by a law in 1300 to protect the public from being defrauded into being sold an item not made of the purity of the precious metal that was being advertised. Hallmarking is a legal requirement in the UK as well as in many other countries, mostly in Europe. The countries in which it is a requirement have formed a Convention of hallmarking, and if the item has been hallmarked in one of the Convention countries, then it is officially recognised in any other Convention country. Many countries do not have any hallmarking requirements, the USA being one. But what exactly is hallmarking?

Background to Hallmarking

Hallmarking is the guarantee that an item of precious metal has been officially assay tested. It is a legal requirement that any item of precious metal in the UK is officially hallmarked before it is offered for sale. If no hallmarks exist then it is unlawful to describe an item as silver, gold or platinum and the item can only be referred to as white or yellow metal. The relevant Act of parliament governing hallmarks in the UK today is The Hallmarking Act 1973 which states:

Prohibited descriptionsof unhallmarked articles.
(1)Subject to the provisions of this Act, any person who, in the course of a trade or business –

(a) applies to an unhallmarked article a description indicating that it is wholly or partly made of gold, silver or platinum, or

(b) supplies, or offers to supply, an unhallmarked article to which such a description is applied, shall be guilty of an offence. hallmarks
The process of hallmarking means that every single item of precious metal has to be sent to an officially recognized Assay Office which is a member of the British Hallmarking Council. There were a number of these around the UK in the past, though some have now closed and the remaining offices are London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh (plus Dublin in the Republic of Ireland – relevant for hallmarking of Peterson pipes).

In the Assay Office, a sample of the metal is scraped from an inconspicuous part of the item. This sample is then chemically tested to verify its purity of precious metal. Items are hardly ever made purely of the precious metal alone (bullion excepted). They are normally alloys with other metals or contain other impurities. The standard for Sterling Silver is 925 which means that 925 parts in every thousand are pure silver. Purity of gold items vary from 9k gold (375 parts per 1000), 14k (585), 18k (750), 22k (916) up to 24k (999) which is virtually pure gold. Once the purity of the precious metal has been confirmed by the Assay Office, they hallmark the item accordingly, which is the symbol of guarantee.

Hallmarks consist of at least 4 symbols. The largest of the symbols is usually at the top and is normally referred to as the maker’s mark (read the term maker’s mark loosely as will be explained later). This is followed underneath by 3 further symbols which represent:

1. The official symbol for the Assay office which carried out the testing.

2. The symbol for the purity of the precious metal.

3. A symbol which represents the year in which the test was carried out.

In more recent times an additional symbol has been introduced which is internationally used and recognised throughout the Convention countries to symbolise the purity, which consists of a set of scales with the purity value written below (e.g. 925 for silver).

Hallmarks on Pipes

Hallmarking on the silver and gold decorations of pipes allow us certain advantages. They can be used in (most) cases to establish who made the pipe and when it was made. I state (most) cases as there are certain anomalies that we must take account of. We must remember that it is only the silver which needs to be hallmarked and this need not be (and in 99% of the cases would not have been) already applied to the pipe. It has been said in the past that some Peterson pipes have a silver collar with a date stamp which precedes the introduction of a certain series of designs. On others, the date mark on a silver collar does not match that of the date mark on a silver rim. This most likely occurs by Peterson sending off a large batch of silver collars to the Dublin Assay Office to be tested and hallmarked, which then sit in the factory until they are fitted to a pipe sometime later. In these instances it is more accurate to use the introduction date of that series of pipes than the date letter on the official hallmark. Or in the case of a mismatch of dates between a collar and a rim to use the later date mark. Why would this happen? It is a simple case of economics of scale. There can sometimes be anomalies in the maker’s mark too.

The “Maker’s” Mark

I stated above to read the term “maker’s mark” loosely. It was called this in the past, but as the law relates to the sale of these items, the legal liability for hallmarking ultimately lies with the retailer. This is an important issue to remember. The mark is officially called the Sponsor’s Mark and is referred to in the Act as such:

3 Sponsors’ marks.

(1)Before an article is submitted to an assay office to be struck with the approved hallmarks there shall be struck on the article a mark indicative of the manufacturer or sponsor and known as the sponsor’s mark:

Provided that the assay office and the manufacturer or sponsor of an article may make arrangements for the sponsor’s mark to be struck by that assay office upon submission of the article to be struck with the approved hallmarks.

Every sponsor’s mark in the UK is unique. It is made up of three elements:

1. the shape surrounding the mark (or shield)

2. the string of letters or initials

3. the font used in the letters

The combination of these three elements will make a unique mark for every sponsor. Before an item can be hallmarked, the sponsor must first register their sponsor’s mark with the assay office they wish to use.

tdMy knowledge of hallmarking comes from being involved in jewellery retailing. A number of years ago, my partner and I sold jewellery items online. We imported the items from abroad. They did not have any UK hallmarks on the items, and before we could sell the items as being gold, we had to have them hallmarked. We have a sponsor’s mark registered with the Birmingham Assay Office which comprises of the initials TD in Arial font inside a lozenge shaped shield.

Registering a sponsor’s mark is an expensive business. Firstly you must design a mark which must be unique to be accepted by the The British Hallmarking Council. Then you have the actual cost of registration. Then you must have a metal stamp made to stamp the items. As shown in the above extract from the Act, we had an arrangement with the assay office to hold our stamp on our behalf so that they could stamp the items with our mark whilst hallmarking, so I have never actually ever seen or held it. This involves a further fee. Even though most hallmarking today is carried out using a laser etching service, it is still a legal requirement to have an official metal stamp made!

Large jewellery companies in the UK like H. Samuel and Beaverbrooks do not make their own jewellery. Yet all the jewellery in their stores bears their own mark. This makes perfect sense. If an item is imported, the original maker will never have a registered mark in the UK to begin with, so the task must be undertaken by the retailer to comply with the law. So how does all this relate to pipes?

Confusion Surrounding Hallmarks

Hallmarks are not definitive and can lead to confusion in certain cases. I have already pointed out above some of the confusion surrounding dates. The sponsor’s mark can in certain circumstances lead to even greater confusion as to who actually mad1099-1e a particular pipe.

I was prompted to write this article while I was selling this 1910 Bewlay pipe, which I described as possibly being made by Barling, who were the largest supplier to Bewlay at the time. I received a message from a respected Barling authority – someone who I have the utmost respect for and who has helped me on many occasions. He said that the pipe in question could not be a Barling pipe as it did not have the EB.WB hallmark. He told me that he actually owned a Bewlay pipe from 1900 made by Barling. The shank was stamped Bewlay, but the silver band was hallmarked with the EB.WB hallmark. He rightly pointed out that other manufacturers also made pipes for Bewlay and that he could not quite make out the “maker’s mark”, which might show who actually manufactured the pipe.

I will digress for a moment. As I have my own registered sponsored mark, I could send off a pipe to the assay office to have the silver band hallmarked. However, the cost of sending over a single pipe to be hallmarked is likely to be around £30, which would be more than the value of the silver in the band to begin with. It therefore wouldn’t make economic sense. The cost would be made up of the following:

1. posting the pipe to the assay office

2. a “checking in” fee

3. a “per item” fee for the actual testing and hallmarking.

4. a “checking out” fee

5. The cost applied by the assay office for return shipping which must be fully insured (read expensive!)

The least expensive of these fees is the actual hallmarking fee! It therefore makes sense to send a large number of items to the assay office at the same time to spread out the overall cost of the other ancillary fees – especially for silver items. Obviously Barling as a manufacturer could take advantage of this economy of scale.

Barling made pipes for many pipe retailers around the country. They would in most cases (sometimes exclusively) stamp the shank with the name of the retailer, while the silver band retained the EB.WB stamp which allows us to distinguish them today as a Barling made pipe. So why was this? It was not the case that it was Barling’s responsibility to hallmark the bands. It was simply the case that most pipe retailers were single outlet businesses and the simple economy of scale would mean that it was cost prohibitive for the small retailer to register his own mark and they were happy that the manufacturer had taken the responsibility.

Back to the pipe in question, I already knew what the sponsor’s mark was on this pipe. It was B&Co which was the registered sponsor’s mark for Bewlay& Co. This obviously didn’t help distinguish who made the pipe. Other companies who supplied Bewlay like Loewe and Charatan also had their own hallmarking arrangements, so why was this stamped as B&Co?

At the time, the House of Bewlay was the largest tobacconist and pipe retailer in the UK. It had many outlets all over the country. So why did a retailer who could have bought in all their pipes already hallmarked want to register their own mark? To many small retailers the hallmarking of a few pipes would have been expensive and an administrative burden. But to Bewlay’s, who had the economies of scale, the answer is simple. Having your own mark brought about a symbol of prestige and proprietorship. Not only could the shanks of their pipes be stamped exclusively with their own name, but now the silver bands could be too. I can imagine the minutes of a meeting between Bewlay and the pipe manufacturer’s proceeding as follows:

Managing Director of Bewlay – “From now on, we would like you to supply all your pipes without hallmarking the silver band” (thinking…prestige and ownership).

Managing Director of Pipe Company: (thinking Bewlay is their largest single customer!) “Certainly Sir!” (… also thinking about cost reductions due to the headache of hallmarking being removed)

This though does not explain the 1900 Bewlay pipe which has the silver band hallmarked by Barling themselves. A little investigation into this reveals the most likely answer. Although Bewlay was officially founded in London in 1780 it was not until the early 20th century that it saw its major expansion, having been bought by Imperial Tobacco Company. Imperial also acquired the Salmon &Gluckstein retail empire in 1902 which at that time was the largest tobacconist in the country. Hence a ready made retail network of stores which were re-branded as House of Bewlay in 1902.The sponsor’s mark B&Co was not registered until 1903, hence the 1900 pipe still retaining the Barling hallmark.

In conclusion, the presence of the B&Co sponsor’s mark means we cannot definitively say that the pipe was made by Barling. Likewise we cannot definitively say that it was not! We therefore have to rely on experience of the look and feel of the pipe against what the other manufacturers were producing around that time, and rely upon a best guess analysis.

Giving New Life to a SINA Rhodesian

When I first saw this old Rhodesian on Ebay I wanted it. It had the look of GBD 9242 but was chunkier than normal. I have had the 9242 on my wish list for a long time and have missed many over the years on Ebay. But this one seemed to be under the radar. It was stamped SINA on the shank and the stem and France on the underside of the shank near the stem. It looked to be in rough shape in terms of cake and finish. The stem looked oxidized and the rubber bite guard looked positively ancient. I watched the pipe for several days and there was no action so I bid a low-ball bid on it. No one else bid until the last two hours. Then there was some hot action between one other bidder and myself. I threw the top price I was willing to pay for the pipe in and sat out the auction to see what would happen. I won the pipe and only had to wait to receive it. The seller sent it out on a Friday from New Jersey in the US and it arrived in Vancouver, Canada on Tuesday. I was very surprised when I came home to find that it was already here. The photos below are from the seller. They give an accurate portrayal of the condition of the pipe. Sina1 Sina2 Sina3 Sina4 The photos showed that the condition of the pipe was rough. The cake build up on the rim was like rock. The finish was worn and had hardened pieces of tobacco stuck to the finish. The outer edge of the rim was actually still in good shape and the bowl was still round. The inner edge looked to be fine under the grime. The double ring around the bowl was in fair shape with some small chipping on the bottom edge of the ring. It was minor and would definitely clean up. The grooves of the rings were filled with grit so that they were almost the same height as the rest of the bowl surface in some places on the pipe. There were some fills on the side of the bowl and shank but they were hard to see under the grime. The shank was dirty and the stem did not fit flush against it due to the buildup. The stamping was crisp and showed white paint on both the shank and the stem. There was an ancient fossilized rubber bit guard on the end of the stem so I was hoping that it had protected the stem from damage.

I did a bit of research to find out about the maker of the SINA pipe. I looked on Pipephil’s site and was able to find out that there was indeed a connection to GBD. The connection was with the French branch of GBD. Noname From the screen capture above you can see the two links under the photo on the left. The first connects the pipe to the Marechal Ruchon & Co. factory that made GBD pipes. They eventually sold out to the Oppenheimer group. The French brand was also connected to C.J. Verguet Freres and to Sina & Cie which were sold to Oppenheimer in 1903-1904. In 1905-1906 Oppenheimer merged the two companies. The accompanying chart gives an overview of the twisted trail of the GBD brand and its mergers and sales. The chart also comes from the Pipephil site and was the second link under the above photo. GBD Pipe Connections Armed with that information I knew that the pipe was made before the 1905-1906 mergers. This also fits well with the thick hard rubber stem and the shape of the button and orific opening. The thick shank also fits well with the period as the 9242 shape thinned down considerably in the later years of manufacture. I really like the shape and style of this era of pipe history so this one would be a pleasure to clean up.

I started by cutting off the fossilized rubber bit guard. Underneath the stem was in fairly decent shape. There was a tooth indentation on the top and bottom of the stem next to the button but it was very shallow. The rubber of the stem was clean underneath behind the calcified line on the stem. Sinaa IMG_8184 IMG_8183 Sinaf Sinad I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the smallest cutting head first and then working up to one that fit the bowl. I find that if I use this procedure I am less likely to damage the shape of the bowl and inner rim.IMG_8185 The tarry buildup on the rim was impervious to Murphy’s Oil Soap or even saliva and a hard scrub. It was hard as rock. I sanded it lightly to see if I could remove the tar. It looked like that was the only way this stuff would be removed. I carefully sanded the bevel of the rim to remove the tars and clean it up. I wiped it down with oil soap after each sanding to make sure I was only removing the surface. I sanded the inner edge with a folded piece of sandpaper and reached down into the bowl with the sandpaper as well. IMG_8198 I was able to remove the tar but there was some charring and darkening at the back inner edge of the rim that remained. I sanded it smooth but it is still visible in the photo below. I scrubbed out the shank which was absolutely filthy and smelled of sweet aromatic tobacco. The bowl itself also needed to be cleaned and I found that the back inside wall of the bowl around the entrance of the airway was damaged. It was pitted and the opening was very flared so I would need to use some pipe mud to repair that and reshape the opening. I used isopropyl alcohol 99%, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to clean out the shank. IMG_8200 I mixed a batch of pipe mud – water and cigar ash to repair the inside of the bowl. I put a pipe cleaner in the shank with the tip showing in the bottom of the bowl and rebuilt the wall around the bottom of the bowl next to the airway. I used a dental spatula that Joyal sent to me and it worked perfect for pressing the pipe mud into place and packing it into the rough wall. I was able to reshape the airway so that the wall was smooth and clean. Once it was packed and cured for a short time I removed the pipe cleaner so that the air would move freely through the bowl and shank and allow the mud to cure. IMG_8204 I wiped down the outside of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and tobacco bits from the finish of the bowl. I also scrubbed the hard rubber stem with the oil soap to remove the grime on it. The rubber was not too badly oxidized at all once the grime was gone. I find that this old rubber does not have the same trouble with oxidation as later vulcanite stems. The rim damage is visible in the photos below. I would need to do some more sanding on the surface to smooth it out and remove as much of the damage as possible without changing the shape of the rim bevel. IMG_8207 IMG_8209 IMG_8210 IMG_8211 With the bowl cleaned I set it aside to let the pipe mud cure and turned my attention to the stem. There was a unique stinger apparatus in the end of the tenon that looked like a mushroom cap on the end. It was black with tars and the draw on the stem was quite tight. IMG_8199 I cleaned the stinger with alcohol on cotton pads and swabs and was able to remove the tarry buildup. It took quite a bit of scrubbing but I was also able to push a pipe cleaner through the stem and out the button. I had to guide it around the mushroom cap end but I cleaned it until the metal was shiny. IMG_8201 IMG_8202 IMG_8203 Once it was clean I could see that it appeared to be pressure fit into the tenon and not threaded. I was not certain so I wrapped a cotton pad around the end and carefully turned it by hand until it popped free of the end. The photo below shows the insert clearly. It had to slits on the sides that could be spread open to make a tighter fit if necessary. The end of the tenon was quite open without the stinger. The insert end of the stinger gives some idea of the diameter of the airway. With the stinger out of the way I cleaned the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol until it was clean. IMG_8205 I buffed the stem with red Tripoli and White Diamond and then sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I gave the stem a final buff with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax. IMG_1654 IMG_1659 IMG_1660 I decided not to stain the pipe but rather to give a rubdown with olive oil and let it dry for several days. The photo below shows the pipe after it has been drying for several days. The rich dark reddish brown colour of the briar comes out nicely and the fill areas are well blended into the finish. IMG_8212 I used a correction pen with white out to restore the white in the stamping on the left side of the shank and also on the stem. I applied the white out and then let it dry before rubbing it off with a cloth. IMG_8213 IMG_8214 I gave the bowl a coat of Danish Oil to protect the finish and give it a completed look. I applied the oil with a cotton pad and set it up to dry overnight. The pipe is shown in the photos below after the oil has dried.
IMG_1655 IMG_1656 IMG_1657 IMG_1658 My old camera is slowly dying so I am adjusting to a new camera. I had my daughter help me with the following photos. I like the overall look that the new camera delivers as it is truer in terms of colour and shine of the pipe. I am still learning the ropes with all the settings though. I took two series of photos for the finished pipe. The first series of five photos I used a flat white background to see how that would turn out. The last series of four photos I used the same green background I have used in the past. The photos against the green background actually give a truer picture of the colour of the pipe. Ah well still a lot to learn with this camera. IMG_1661 IMG_1662 IMG_1663 IMG_1664 IMG_1665 The finished pipe is cleaned and ready to fire up with its inaugural bowl. The old soldier from the early 1900’s will once again feel the warmth of the fire and tobacco and the draw of a pipe man enjoying its feel in his hand. I think this weekend will be the time to enjoy a nice bowl of aged 5100 in this pipe. IMG_1666 IMG_1669 IMG_1668 IMG_1667