A SMALL COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE SILVER
AND OBJECTS OF VERTU
an article of David N. Nikogosyan
for
ASCAS - Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
a small collection of antique silver and objects of vertu
The list of articles on European continental silver plate marks collected by David N. Nikogosyan

(click on photos to enlarge image)
ARMAND FRENAIS SILVERSMITH COMPANY
A RIVAL OF CHRISTOFLE


Part I. History of Armand Frenais company.

Anyone who starts to collect or to study French silver plate, inevitably starts with the CHRISTOFLE company, the world-known pioneer for the industrial application of galvanic silver deposition [1]. However, CHRISTOFLE silver & silver-plate products are well described and very much sought after and therefore are often quite expensive and/or rare (especially hollowware in a good condition). At the same time, besides CHRISTOFLE another twenty (or thirty) prominent French jewellery companies are known [2], who manufactured good-quality, beautiful and relatively cheap (nowadays) silver-plated products at the end of XIXth/beginning of XXth century. The main disadvantage with collecting such objects is the nearly complete lack of any information concerning their history and marks. Today I want to present one of such companies, the ARMAND FRENAIS foundry.

Fragment of Art Nouveau silver-plated tray made of nickel silver in 1903
Fragment of Art Nouveau silver-plated tray made of nickel silver in 1903.

Just five years ago I started to purchase the silver-plated hollowware and cutlery of this French producer. From the early beginning, the only available information about the ARMAND FRENAIS company was the date (13 September 1877) when its silver mark (the anchor with the initials A.F.) was patented, and the date when this mark was crossed off (8 September 1927) from the state list of patented marks [3]. Similar information is given in the book "French Silver Cutlery of XIXth Century" written by David Allan [2].

Armand Frenais anchor silver mark for items made of sterling silver Armand Frenais anchor silver mark for items made of silver-plated hollow/flat ware
Armand Frenais anchor silver mark for items made of silver-plated standard cutlery Armand Frenais anchor silver mark for items made of silver-plated standard cutlery Armand Frenais anchor silver mark for items made of silver-plated standard cutlery
Armand Frenais anchor silver marks: (above) for items made of sterling silver and for silver-plated hollow/flat ware;
(below) for silver-plated standard cutlery, the digits 72, 84 and 100 refer to the amount of silver in grams, used for
silvering two dozen spoons (or forks) of about 21 cm length.
A colour advertisement of ARMAND FRENAIS company, issued around 1880
A colour advertisement of ARMAND FRENAIS company, issued around 1880.
Property of David N. Nikogosyan.

Interestingly, the above-mentioned patent application was filled for the firm under a slightly different name (FRESNAIS instead of FRENAIS). However, in French the pronunciation of these two different family names sounds the same and this is probably the reason for such a confusion. Even today, about half of all FRENAIS pieces presented on ebay are sold under the FRESNAIS name. Nevertheless, the right name of the company, which is used on all the marks of both hollowware and cutlery is ARMAND FRENAIS (or, more correctly with the accent, ARMAND FRÉNAIS). However, in this communication we will limit ourselves to the more frequently used in English literature name ARMAND FRENAIS or A.FRENAIS. It should be noted that on the firm's own marks the correct French version is also used very rarely.

The title page of an ARMAND FRENAIS catalogue, issued in 1890
The title page of an ARMAND FRENAIS catalogue, issued in 1890.
In the centre is the famous anchor mark, used on silver-plated hollow ware.
Property of David N. Nikogosyan.
Fragment of a cheque, issued by Edouard Frenais in 1925
Fragment of a cheque, issued by Edouard Frenais in 1925.
Property of David N. Nikogosyan.

According to the fragment of the cheque shown above, the ARMAND FRENAIS manufacture in Paris was founded in 1858. Most likely (indeed, it is obvious if one will take into consideration the death/retirement date of Armand Frenais, 1913), the jeweller purchased the foundry, founded in 1858, which was however functioning under different name just before 1877. It could be connected with the transfer of his own business to Paris.

Indeed, I found two similar Armand Frenais knives: one of the blades bears the two-line inscription A.FRENAIS/ORFÈVRE, while the other bears the slightly changed inscription A.FRENAIS/PARIS. If someone wants to emphasize his new Paris location, then he probably does it after his settlement.

Two similar ARMAND FRENAIS knives with different inscriptions
inscription on ARMAND FRENAIS knive inscription on ARMAND FRENAIS knive
Two similar ARMAND FRENAIS knives with different inscriptions.

When applying for his factory's silver mark with the anchor and the initials A.F., Armand Frenais states his firm's address as 77, Boulevard Richard Lenoir, Paris. The same address is given on the early ARMAND FRENAIS advertisement, given above, and on the recently purchased 1882 invoice of the firm (see below). Before 1890, Armand Frenais moves his foundry to the new address (65, Boulevard Richard Lenoir, Paris, see catalogue title page above), which was valid until at least 1925.

Fragment of an ARMAND FRENAIS invoice issued in 1882
Fragment of an ARMAND FRENAIS invoice issued in 1882.
Property of David N. Nikogosyan.

From the above-presented materials it follows, that around 1877 the name of the firm was Manufacture d'Orfèvrerie & Couverts Argentés et Argent Massif ARMAND FRÉNAIS (Foundry of Silver-Plated & Sterling Silver Jewellery and Cutlery Products ARMAND FRENAIS). According to a recently acquired invoice of the firm, in 1882 the name of the company was Manufacture d'Orfèvrerie & Couverts in Argent Massif, Mailechort et Métal Blanc ARMAND FRÉNAIS (Foundry of Sterling Silver, Nickel Silver and Silver-Plated Jewellery and Cutlery Products ARMAND FRENAIS). Sometime before 1904 the name of the firm was shortened to Manufacture d'Orfèvrerie et de Couverts ARMAND FRÉNAIS (Foundry of Jewellery and Cutlery ARMAND FRENAIS).

In 1913 Armand Frenais died or retired (this fact follows from my studies of ARMAND FRENAIS cutlery, see below) and his son Edouard inherited his business. He kept the anchor mark with the initials A.F., but removed the first letter "A" from the factory name A.FRENAIS. After that the factory name on the marks became FRENAIS (not E.FRENAIS). The full name of the foundry in 1925 sounded Manufacture de Couverts & d'Orfèvrerie EDOUARD FRÉNAIS (Foundry of Cutlery & Hollowware Products Edouard Frenais), see the fragment of a cheque above. Later, probably in 1927, Edouard Frenais sold a part of his business to a man called Franche, and the new anchor mark with the initials F.F. (FRANCHE & FRENAIS) was registered. But it is another story, yet to be investigated.
>

A silver-plated visit-card tray made from nickel silver around 1885
detail of Rocaille style on a silver-plated visit-card tray detail of Rocaille style on a silver-plated visit-card tray
A silver-plated visit-card tray made from nickel silver around 1885 in a Rocaille style and its details.

According to the 1890 catalogue of silver plate [4], the activities of the ARMAND FRENAIS foundry were concentrated in the following directions:

1) production of cutlery ("couverts") and small jewellery ("petite orfèvrerie") items. Silver-plating was performed under the high voltage (galvanic approach) using "métal blanc" (white metal) or "métal ordinaire" (ordinary metal) as the base metal in the case of cheap cutlery, or more expensive "métal extra-blanc" (extra-white metal) for higher quality products. It should be emphasized that here the original ARMAND FRENAIS terms are discussed. We should remember that, according to terminology used by CHRISTOFLE since 1878, the term "métal blanc" was equivalent to "alfenide" (in English literature "nickel silver"), nickel-copper-zinc alloy with the composition about 12 % nickel, 60 % copper and remaining 28 % zinc. Exactly that composition corresponds to the alloy which is very similar by its external look to real silver [5]. In the case of FRENAIS, "métal blanc" (or "métal ordinaire") corresponds to the alloy with minimal amount of nickel (nearly zero), that means brass, and "métal extra-blanc" corresponds to the alloy with the higher content of nickel, still under 12 % (low-quality nickel silver).

2) production of large hollow ware ("grosse orfévrerie") pieces and flat ware (trays), using galvanic silver deposition on base metal, usually brass (metal ordinaire), but sometimes also nickel silver (métal extra-blanc).

3) production of silver-plated hollow ware, using a tin-containing alloy, so-called "MÉTAL PARISIEN" (Paris metal), as a base metal for the high-voltage galvanic silvering. Similar metal was used at the same time by MANUFACTURE d'ALFÉNIDE [6] under the brand name "métal anglais" (English metal). Both these alloys were of "bright white" colour, allowing the preparation of initial metal bases (before silvering) by simple pressure procedure, but had much smaller thermal stability than i.e. copper [4].

4) production of cheap cutlery and hollow ware made from polished "métal extra-blanc" (nickel silver) without any silvering.

5) in addition, ARMAND FRENAIS proposed a repair service, so-called "réargenture", that means galvanic re-silvering of stirred silver layer on the used silver-plated objects.

Of course, inside the catalogue of silver-plated products, the pieces made of sterling silver were not mentioned.

A richly decorated silver-plated fish-knife
A richly decorated silver-plated fish-knife
A richly decorated silver-plated fish-fork
A richly decorated silver-plated fish-fork
A richly decorated silver-plated fish-set: the knife (32.0 cm long) and the fork (28.8 cm long)
manufactured from brass around 1885 and its details.

I possess also the 1891 catalogue of MANUFACTURE d'ALFÉNIDE, a branch of CHRISTOFLE [6]. It is interesting to compare these two catalogues, issued at the same time. They -are practically of the same volume (ARMAND FRENAIS - 250 pages, MANUFACTURE d'ALFÉNIDE - 226 pages) and contain exactly the same "repertoire of production", see all 5 directions, listed above. This proves that the ARMAND FRENAIS company was a serious competitor of CHRISTOFLE in around 1890, both in the number of proposed products and their assortment.

Art Nouveau butter knife (16 cm long) made of sterling silver
detail of an Art Nouveau butter knife
An Art Nouveau butter knife (16 cm long) made of sterling silver and its detail.

Due to their good taste and original elaborated design, the silver-plated and sterling silver objects, produced by A.FRENAIS, were very fashionable during most of the "Belle Epoque" period in French history (1871-1914). The designers working with FRENAIS preferred to use the Rocaille and/or Art Nouveau styles (the latter after 1895). These products competed well with the products made by the main CHRISTOFLE factory in St. Denis as well as with the products of the CHRISTOFLE branch at 66, rue des Marais, Paris, known under the name MANUFACTURE d'ALFÉNIDE, which produced the items of the famous GALLIA line. To justify this statement, I am presenting in this paper a few ARMAND FRENAIS pieces from my collection.

A silver-plated teapot (20 cm high) made of low-quality nickel silver before 1902
A silver-plated teapot (20 cm high) made of low-quality nickel silver before 1902
A silver-plated teapot (20 cm high) made of low-quality nickel silver before 1902.



Studying cheap, but best-selling ARMAND FRENAIS cutlery, I was lucky to make an important discovery. We will remind the reader that the cheap silver-plated cutlery of this company used the "metal blanc" (brass) designation for the base metal. This was reflected in the designations "MAL BLANC" [originally, the letters AL are given as a superscript], "METAL BLANC", simply "METAL" or simply "BLANC", each was used together with other marks of the firm, see full description of the ARMAND FRENAIS marks below. In the latter case the word "BLANC" was combined with the digit, running from 93 (in my collection) through 95, 97, 98, 99, 0, 1, 2, etc., to 13, that means designation of the year of issue from 1893 to 1913 (see list of marks below).

A slightly different system of dating was used on flat/hollow ware. Contrary to the case of standard brass-based cutlery, for pieces made from the métal extra-blanc (low-quality nickel silver) the year digit (digits) was (were) set after the factory name "A.FRENAIS". As a proof of my statement, I can point to the tray in my collection with the inscription "Le Conseil de la Vigilante à Mlle Verny 8 Juin 1909" (From the council of Vigilante gunboat to Miss Verny on 8th of June 1909) and the accompanying mark "A.FRENAIS.9".

A silver-plated tray made from low-quality nickel silver
nscription made on a silver-plated tray made from low-quality nickel silver mark with the factory name A.FRENAIS and the digit 9 on a silver-plated tray made from low-quality nickel silver
A silver-plated tray made from low-quality nickel silver, the inscription made on the tray and the
accompanying mark with the factory name A.FRENAIS and the digit 9, referring to the year of issue 1909.

For the flat/hollow ware pieces made from the métal blanc (brass), the year digit (digits) as before was (were) set after the word "BLANC", but this was always accompanied by the dated "A.FRENAIS" inscription, see below.

In my recent work [7], I have established that the CHRISTOFLE factory dated all its silver-plated cutlery between 1845 and 1899, and the VEUVE CHARLES HALPHEN foundry did the same between 1878 and 1888. In the current investigation I have established that ARMAND FRENAIS also dated his silver-plated cutlery starting from at least 1893 and until 1913.

A silver-plated fruit-stand (6.8 cm high) made of low-quality nickel silver in 1907
A silver-plated fruit-stand (6.8 cm high) made of low-quality nickel silver in 1907
A silver-plated fruit-stand (6.8 cm high) made of low-quality nickel silver in 1907. Views from above and from the side.

My next discovery was indeed due to a failure to find the cutlery piece with the inscriptions A.FRENAIS and "BLANC 14". Instead, my collection was filled up with 7 (!) pieces with the inscriptions "FRENAIS" and "BLANC 14". After some thinking, I understood that in 1913 Armand Frenais died (or fully transferred the management of his company to somebody else). It was Armand's son Edouard Frenais, who took over from his father the leadership of the company. Interestingly, I didn't find any dated cutlery of Edouard Frenais, issued in 1915 or later; probably, the dating was interrupted.

When Armand Frenais was registering his anchor mark in 1877, he was already an experienced jeweller of about 30-35 years. If this is correct, then in 1913 he should be at the age of 66-71, which is probable. His son Edouard appeared to be a rather modest fellow, he slightly modified the company name (only removed the father's initial), but kept untouched the anchor mark with the initials A.F. This mark was used another fourteen years until the end of the Twenties, when Edouard organized another firm, FRANCHE & FRENAIS.

A strawberry spoon (22.4 cm long, silver-plated brass) made in Rocaille style in 1909
detail of a strawberry spoon (22.4 cm long, silver-plated brass) made in Rocaille style in 1909
A strawberry spoon (22.4 cm long, silver-plated brass) made in Rocaille style in 1909 and its detail.
Part II. Marks of ARMAND FRENAIS company.

1) Marks of silver-plated standard cutlery (forks & spoons - 21 cm long), manufactured using métal blanc (brass) as a base metal for silvering.

a) early period (before c.1890)


The disposition of all the designations for the marks shown below starts from the one most distant from the handle (with the exception of the marks which were set on the oval part of a spoon or on the prolonged part of a fork). The earliest mark of ARMAND FRENAIS cutlery possesses the data of its issue (the digit 78 in a rectangular box), which means the year 1878. This mark doesn't contain the name of the factory, only the anchor rectangle with the initials A.F. The later marks bear the foundry name, on two lines, "ARMAND FRENAIS" (the length of the FRENAIS word 3 mm) or in one line, "A.FRENAIS" (the length of the FRENAIS word 4.0 x 4.2 mm). The designations of base metal are also different: "MAL BLANC" [originally, the letters AL are given as a superscript] (around 1878), simply "METAL" (old), "METAL BLANC" (in two lines, the length of BLANC (or METAL) word varies between 2.1 mm and 2.8 mm). The silver-plating designation, a rectangular box with an anchor, A.F. initials and two digits (84 or 72) shows the amount of silver (in grams), used for silvering of two dozen spoons or forks. The size of AF box varies between 1.8 mm x 2.0 mm and 2.0 mm x 2.1 mm. According to the 1890 ARMAND FRENAIS catalogue, the silvering with 100 g silver was also possible, but I am lacking the corresponding items in my collection. The box with the designation of the amount of silver used (84 g or 72 g) is also present, the size of the box varies between 0.9 mm x 2.0 mm and 1.1 mm x 2.2 mm.



A silver-plated 10 cm long mustard spoon made from low-quality nickel silver in Empire style
A silver-plated 10 cm long mustard spoon made from low-quality nickel silver in Empire style
A silver-plated 10 cm long mustard spoon made from low-quality nickel silver in Empire style.


b) intermediate period (c.1890 - 1899)

During this period, the cutlery marks for silver-plating, using the brass base, keep exactly the same sequence of designations, like the cutlery marks discussed above (note that each silvering process, 84 g or 72 g, is characterized by its specific order of designation). The important difference from the previous period lies only in the base metal designation. It now consists from one word "BLANC" (the length of BLANC word varies between 2.4 mm and 3.0 mm). This word is given alone (before c.1893) or together with the two digits, indicating the year of production (since 1893). Starting from 1898, a dot at the half-height of the line between the word "BLANC" and two digits were used.

In this period, depending on the available space, there were four or two designations inside each mark. In the first case, four marks were put on the central part of a fork (or spoon) from behind. In the second case, two designations are set on the oval part of a spoon or on the prolonged part of a fork. The firm's name "A.FRENAIS" (the length of FRENAIS word is 3.9-4.0 mm) is applied only in the first case. The same refers to the box with designation of the amount of deposited silver (84 g or 72 g), the size of which varies between 0.9 mm x 2.0 mm and 1.1 mm x 2.2 mm.

The designation of silver-plating, a rectangular box with the anchor, A.F. initials and two digits (84 or 72), corresponding to the amount of silver used (in grams) per two dozen spoons or forks, is applied in both cases. The size of the AF box varies between 1.5 mm x 2.1 mm and 2.2 mm x 2.2 mm. According to the 1890 ARMAND FRENAIS catalogue, the silvering with a very high amount of silver (100 g) could be also ordered, but such items are rare and therefore I am lacking the corresponding marks in my collection.



An Art Nouveau silver-plated spoon for ragout made of alfenide metal
An Art Nouveau silver-plated spoon for ragout made of alfenide metal
detail of an Art Nouveau silver-plated spoon for ragout made of alfenide metal
detail of an Art Nouveau silver-plated spoon for ragout made of alfenide metal
An Art Nouveau silver-plated spoon for ragout (27.8 cm long) made of "alfenide" metal and its details.



c) late period (1900 - 1913)


The cutlery marks for silver-plating (using a brass base) for this period keep exactly the same sequence of designations, like the marks discussed above. As before, each silvering process, 84 g or 72 g, is characterized by its specific order of designations. Amongst the pieces from my collection, I have only one item with 100 g silver-plating. Though it possesses a special form anchor designation with the initials A.F., the sequence of designations for 100 g silver-plating follows the one for 84 g silver-plating process.

As in the previous period (see above), there are four or two designations inside each mark. In the four-designation mark, the designation of base metal "BLANC" is given together with one or two digits, indicating the year of production. In all cases (except years 1904 and, partly, 1909), a dot at the half-height of the line between the word "BLANC" and the digit (digits) is used. Starting from 1903, the factory name and the designation of base metal are often given together as a two-line inscription in a box. Any of the inscriptions could be either in the upper (or in the bottom) line. For example, the designation "BLANC" with one digit (or two digits) in the years 1903, 1910-1912 was given in the upper line, while in the years 1905-1909 it was put in the bottom line. For the inscription "A.FRENAIS" it is vice versa. The length of the word "BLANC" in one-line (or in two-line) inscription is practically the same (2.7-3.1 mm and 2.8-3.1 mm). At the same time the length of the word FRENAIS in one-line inscription (3.9-4.3 mm) is noticeably larger than in two-line inscription (3.2-3.5 mm).

The silver-plating designation, a rectangular box with the anchor, A.F. initials and two digits (84 or 72), corresponding to the amount of silver used (in grams) per two dozen of spoons or forks, is applied in all the cases. The size of AF box varies between 1.9 mm x 2.1 mm and 2.4 mm x 2.5 mm. In the case of high amount of deposed silver (100 g), a special box of sophisticated form (size 1.6 mm x 3.1 mm) is used.

The box with designation of the amount of silver deposed, (72 g or 84 g), is used in the case of four-designation mark, the size of the box varies between 0.9 mm x 1.9 mm and 1.4 mm x 2.3 mm. For 100 g designation the size of the box is larger, about 1.4 mm x 2.8 mm.



A silver-plated bread knife made in Russian style
detail of a silver-plated bread knife made in Russian style
A silver-plated bread knife made in Russian style.

2) 1914 EDOUARD FRENAIS mark for silver-plated cutlery (forks & spoons - 21 cm long), manufactured using métal blanc (brass) as a base metal for silvering (given for comparison).

The inscription "FRENAIS" (not A.FRENAIS!) is combined in one box with the designation of base metal "BLANC". The length of the BLANC word is 2.7-2.9 mm, while the length of the FRENAIS word is noticeably larger, 4.2-4.4 mm. The designation of base metal "BLANC" is given together with two digits, 1 and 4, which corresponds to the year of production 1914.

The silver-plating mark, a rectangular box with the anchor, A.F. initials and two digits (72 or 84), is applied. The digits correspond to the amount of silver used (in grams) per two dozen spoons or forks. The size of the AF box is 2.1 mm x 2.2 mm.


3) Marks for silver-plated ladles (31.1-34.3 cm long), manufactured using métal blanc (brass) as a base metal for silvering.

In my collection there are 7 ladles, issued by ARMAND FRENAIS foundry. One ladle refers to the early period, one to the intermediate period (issued in 1893), and five remaining refer to the late period (issued in 1900, 1903, 1906, 1908 and 1913). The ladle marks correspond to the marks of standard dining cutlery, described above. The main difference is the amount of silver used for deposition. In the case of ladles it is 10 g per item (early period) or 12 g per item (all other ladles). The size of the AF box with the amount of deposed silver varies between 2.0 mm z 2.2 mm and 2.5 mm x 2.7 mm. The length of BLANC word is 2.1-3.7 mm, while the length of FRENAIS word is noticeably larger, 3.4-4.1 mm.



A 32 cm long ladle (silver-plated brass), issued in 1900
A 32 cm long ladle (silver-plated brass), issued in 1900
detail pf a 32 cm long ladle (silver-plated brass), issued in 1900
detail pf a 32 cm long ladle (silver-plated brass), issued in 1900 detail pf a 32 cm long ladle (silver-plated brass), issued in 1900
A 32 cm long ladle (silver-plated brass), issued in 1900 and its details.


4) Marks for large/special pieces of cutlery manufactured using métal blanc (brass) as a base metal for silvering.

a) early period (before c.1890)


I haven't purchased too many large cutlery pieces, however, I can state that all the marks on the large cutlery pieces from my collection are similar to those described in Section 1 (Marks of standard silver-plated cutlery). The oldest mark consists of four different designations (see below). The length of the "FRENAIS" word inside the factory mark "A.FRENAIS" is 4.0 mm, which corresponds to the values 4.0-4.2 mm, mentioned above. The length of the word "BLANC" inside the two-line inscription "METAL BLANC" is about 2.0 mm which corresponds with the range 2.1-2.8 mm, given above. The size of AF rectangle varies between 2.3 mm x 2.4 mm and 2.6 mm x 2.6 mm. The size of the box with the designation of the amount of silver used (10 g) is around 1.3 mm x 2.3 mm.


b) intermediate period (c.1890 - c.1903)

The next period is characterised by the use of one-word inscription "BLANC" to mark the choice of métal blanc (brass) as a base metal for silvering. This mark is usually applied together with a rectangular box with the A.F. initials and an anchor. Another characteristic feature for this period is the way of showing the amount of deposited silver (in grams) using a digit (digits) in a box (boxes) without the letter "g". Sometimes, the secondary mark with the amount of deposited silver is missing.


c) late period (c.1903 - 1913)

Starting from 1903 (or maybe even earlier), the word "BLANC" is used together with one (or two) digit (digits), indicating the year of production. Starting from 1905, a dot at the half-height of the line between the word "BLANC" and one (or two) digit (digits) was used. The length of the "BLANC" word varies between 2.8 mm and 3.9 mm. The size of AF rectangle varies between 1.8 mm x 1.9 mm and 2.0 mm x 2.2 mm.



A silver-plated Art Nouveau fish-set made of brass and partly from low-quality nickel silver (blade) in 1903
A silver-plated Art Nouveau fish-fork made of brass in 1903
A silver-plated Art Nouveau fish-set made of brass and partly from low-quality nickel silver (blade) in 1903.

5) Marks for large/special pieces of cutlery manufactured using métal extra-blanc as a base metal for silvering.

If you look inside the 1890 catalogue of Armand Frenais company [4], you will find that while the standard cutlery was made exclusively of silver-plated métal blanc (brass), the large/special pieces of cutlery were proposed both in métal blanc (brass) and métal extra-blanc (low-quality nickel silver). I was looking for many years for a special mark/designation which would indicate the use of métal extra-blanc as a base metal, but in vain. Only recently I understood that the absence of the inscription "BLANC" or "BLANC" with the following digit (digits) indicate the presence of métal extra-blanc.

Armand Frenais factory used two ways to mark the presence of métal extra-blanc in the large/special pieces of silver-plated cutlery. It was either the combination of the factory name "A.FRENAIS" accompanied by a box with the designation of the amount of deposited silver (sometimes, also with AF rectangle).

or the combination of the AF rectangle with a box with the designation of the amount of deposited silver (in grams)..

It should be underlined, that in the above-discussed combinations no inscriptions like "BLANC" or "BLANC" with the following digit (digits) were present. The size of the AF rectangle varied between 1.7 mm x 1.9 mm and 1.9 mm x 2.0 mm. The length of the "FRENAIS" word varied in the range 3.1-4.0 mm.

A silver-plated spoon for sugar powder made of nickel silver before 1902
A silver-plated spoon for sugar powder made of nickel silver before 1902
A silver-plated spoon for sugar powder made of nickel silver before 1902.

6) Marks for large/special pieces of cutlery manufactured using alfenide as a base metal for silvering.

The "métal blanc" used by Armand Frenais as a base metal for silver deposition on standard cutlery pieces is a usual yellow-colored brass. The "métal extra-blanc" used as a base metal for silver deposition on large/special pieces of cutlery is of course a more whitish substrate. But to which extent?

In an old book [5], devoted to the famous Christofle manufacture, it is stated, that the most silver-like base metal is "alfenide". The great advantage of this alloy is that after prolonged usage of the silver-plated item (items), despite the stirring of thin silver layer in some places, the external outlook of the item (items) due to silver-likeness of the base metal changes very little. The "alfenide" alloy contains 12 % nickel, 60 % copper and remaining 28 % zinc.

Sometimes at the beginning of the XXth century, this alloy was used by the ARMAND FRENAIS company in production of silver-plated cutlery. The mark for the items, using "alfenide" alloy (we will translate it as high-quality nickel silver) as a base metal for silvering, is very rare.

During five years I managed to purchase only four items with such a mark, one fork, one large spoon for ragout, one ladle and a 4-piece set for French sweets. This mark is partly similar to the mark, which has been applied on the standard brass-based cutlery items, however in this case, no indication of the year of issue was made. The inscription "A.FRENAIS" is combined with the designation of base metal "BLANC" in one box. The latter is given together with the strange inscription "o2O" (sometimes it looks like "o2C"). The designation for silver-plating, a rectangle with the anchor, A.F. initials and two digits, corresponding to the amount of silver used, is also applied.

Now, concerning the meaning of the inscription "o2O" (or "o2C"). In the case of the "o2O" inscription, this means simply 0.2 or 20 %. In the case of the "o2C" inscription, it refers to the composition of base metal "alfenide". It is easy to calculate that for "alfenide" (we will translate it as high-quality nickel silver) the percentage of nickel (Ni) equal to one fifth (0.2 or 20 %) of the percentage of copper (Cu, in French cuivre). So, the "o2C" inscription means that the content of nickel is 0.2 of the content of copper.

The size of the AF box with the amount of deposed silver varies between 2.1 mm x 2.1 mm and 2.6 mm x 2.7 mm. The length of BLANC word is 2.5-2.6 mm, while the length of "FRENAIS" word is noticeably larger, 3.7-3.8 mm.



A silver-plated ladle made of alfenide metal (high-quality nickel silver
A silver-plated ladle made of alfenide metal (high-quality nickel silver
A silver-plated ladle (31.9 cm long) made of "alfenide" metal (high-quality nickel silver).

7) Marks for silver-plated hollow ware and flat ware pieces manufactured using métal blanc or métal extra-blanc as a base metal for silvering.

a) early mark for hollow ware and flat ware items produced using métal blanc (before c.1895)

The early marks for hollow ware items found on the pieces from my collection are lacking the year of issue. The characteristic feature is the presence of the inscription "ML BLANC" [originally, the letter L is given as a superscript], together with the inscription "A.FRENAIS". This circumstance inevitably points to the use of the métal blanc (brass). The length of the word "BLANC" is 4.6 mm, while the length of the word "FRENAIS" is 7.1 mm. The size of the AF box is about 2.4 mm x 2.5 mm.



An old silver-plated beaker made from brass before 1890
An old silver-plated beaker made from brass before 1890.

b) early mark for hollow ware and flat ware items produced using métal extra-blanc (1885 - c.1900)

The main characteristic feature for this mark is the absence of the word "BLANC". Only the "A.FRENAIS" inscription is applied. This circumstance inevitably points to the use of the métal extra-blanc (low-quality nickel silver). The length of the word "FRENAIS" is 3.9 - 7.1 mm. The size of the AF box with the amount of deposed silver varies between 1.8 mm x 1.8 mm and 2.6 mm x 2.6 mm.

The early versions of this mark possess a box with designation of the amount of deposited silver (i.e., 10 g), the later versions possess no "G" letter, see photos below.



dustpan for table cleaning made from low-quality nickel silver c.1890
detail of a dustpan for table cleaning made from low-quality nickel silver c.1890
brush for table cleaning made from low-quality nickel silver c.1890
detail of a brush for table cleaning made from low-quality nickel silver c.1890
A set of dustpan and brush for table cleaning made from low-quality nickel silver c.1890 and its details.

c) late marks for flat/hollow ware pieces made from métal blanc after c.1902.

The late marks for hollow/flat items made from brass indicate the year of production. Similarly to brass-based silver-plated cutlery, the digit (digits) pointing to the year of issue are given together with the inscription "BLANC" in one box. Contrary to brass-based silver-plated cutlery, such marking is always accompanied by the factory name "A.FRENAIS", also given in a separate box together with the digit (digits), corresponding to the year of production. The dot between the word "BLANC" and the digit (digits) is placed at the bottom of the line (sometimes at half-height of the line). The length of the "BLANC" word is 3.9 mm. The dot between the word "FRENAIS" and the digit (digits) is always placed at the bottom of the line. The length of the "FRENAIS" word is 3.1-3.5 mm.

The silver-plating designation is given in a rectangle with anchor and the A.F. initials. The size of the AF box varies between 1.8 mm x 1.8 mm and 1.9 mm x 2.0 mm. The amount of silver deposited is given in one (or two) rectangular box (boxes).



A small coffee-pot (12.3 cm high) made of silver-plated brass in 1913
A small coffee-pot (12.3 cm high) made of silver-plated brass in 1913.

d) late marks for flat/hollow ware items made from métal extra-blanc after c.1902.

The late marks for hollow/flat items made from métal blanc (brass) indicate the year of production. Similarly to the case of large/special pieces of silver-plated cutlery discussed above, the digit (digits) pointing to the year of issue are given together with the inscription "A.FRENAIS" in one box. The dot between the word "FRENAIS" and the digit (digits) is always placed at the bottom of the line. The length of the "FRENAIS" word is 3.1-3.8 mm.

The silver-plating designation is given in a rectangle with anchor and A.F. initials. The size of AF box varies between 1.8 mm x 1.8 mm and 1.9 mm x 2.1 mm. The amount of silver deposed is given in one (or two) rectangular box (boxes).

A rare and very interesting mark is presented below. To underline the use of métal extra-blanc (low-quality nickel silver), the explanatory inscription "METAL EXTRA BLANC" was added under the factory name "A.FRENAIS".



A silver-plated visit-card tray made of low-quality nickel silver in 1913
A silver-plated visit-card tray (13.7 cm x 18.7 cm) made of low-quality nickel silver in 1913.

8) Small marks for silver-plated items produced by Armand Frenais company.

In case of shortage of space for marking, a special "small" mark was applied, namely, a rectangular box with anchor and A.F. initials, but without any digits, corresponding to the amount of silver deposited. The size of AF box varies between 1.5 mm x 1.6 mm and 2.0 mm x 2.0 mm.



An Art-Nouveau salt cellar with a cobalt-glass inlet and a spoon inside
An Art-Nouveau salt cellar with a cobalt-glass inlet and a spoon inside.
Both the salt cellar and its spoon are marked by small marks.

9) Mark for the items made of polished pure "métal extra-blanc" (low-quality nickel silver) during 1890-1913.

This mark is very simple, there is only one inscription "A.FRENAIS" without any digit. No anchor mark, no designation like "BLANC METAL" or "BLANC o2C". The length of the "FRENAIS" word is 6.9 mm.



A teapot made from polished pure métal extra-blanc (low-quality nickel silver)
A teapot made from polished pure "métal extra-blanc" (low-quality nickel silver).
The handle is not genuine and was added during later restauration.

10) Marks for the silver-plated ARMAND FRENAIS items made of tin-containing alloy "PARISIEN METAL" during 1890-1913.

This wide-spread mark consists of the full firm name "ARMAND FRENAIS", a silver-plating designation, namely, a rectangle with the anchor and A.F. initials, one or two rectangular boxes with digits, showing the amount of precious metal used for silvering (in grams), the designation of tin-containing base metal "METAL PARISIEN" (Paris Metal), and the model number (if any). The size of the box with the rectangular anchor mark with A.F. initials varies between 1.8 mm x 1.8 mm and 2.6 mm x 2.6 mm. The length of the "FRENAIS" word is 10.9-11.3 mm.



A silver-plated coffee-pot) made from tin-containing Metal Parisien
A silver-plated coffee-pot (22.8 cm high) made from tin-containing Metal Parisien.

It should be noted, that another mark for silver-plated items with tin-containing base metal was also developed by this company. It consists of three parts: 1) a rectangular box with the anchor and the A.F. initials; 2) one or two rectangular boxes with digits, showing the amount of precious metal used for silvering (in grams); and 3) the designation of tin-containing base metal "ETAIN ALLIE", which means "TIN ALLOY". It is not yet clear when it was used. Very rare.


11) Marks for ARMAND FRENAIS sterling silver items

There were two marks used on sterling silver items produced by ARMAND FRENAIS: the rhomb anchor mark with the A.F. initials (registered in 1877) and the French state designation for sterling silver, so-called box with the Minerve head, containing a digit, 1 or 2. Digit 1 corresponds to the 95% silver content and digit 2 to the 80% silver content. The size of the rhomb with A.F. initials varies between 2.2 mm x 3.0 mm and 2.4 mm x 3.4 mm, while the size of the box with the Minerve head was between 2.2 mm x 2.3 mm and 2.3 mm x 2.7 mm. A beautiful and widespread mark.



A cheese knife made from 95 % sterling silver
A cheese knife made from 95% sterling silver.


A cheese knife made from 95 % sterling silver.
A beaker made from 95% sterling silver.

Conclusion.

To the best of my knowledge, this investigation is the first attempt to describe the life, achievements and cultural heritage of the outstanding French jeweller Armand Frenais. The numerous marks on his silver products have been studied and systematized by the author. All photographs of Armand Frenais objects are taken of the pieces from my collection.

Some of the results, summarized in this article, were also reported by me on 20th Meeting of Cutlery Collectors and Friends of Table Ware, held on 15th March, 2015 at the Klingenmuseum (Blade Museum) in Solingen, Germany. A short version of the first part of this paper was published in the USA in 2016 [8].

The author is indebted to his wife Danielle Morizot for her help and endless patience.


LITERATURE

1. David N. Nikogosyan, "Christofle: History and Marks", Silver Magazine, 44, (January/February 2012), 28-35.

2. David Allan, French Silver Cutlery of XIXth Century (Dijon: Editions Faton, 2007), 1-430.

3. Data base of French Ministery of Culture, devoted to registered trade marks of French Jewellery firms,
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/marque_fr

4. Orfevrérie Armand Frénais (Paris: 65, Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, 1890), 1-250.

5. Turgan, Les Grandes Usines de France. Orfèvrerie Christofle (Paris: Librarie Nouvelle, 1860), 273-320. English translation of the title: Great French Foundries. Christofle Silversmith Company.

6. Manufacture de L'Alfénide Tarif General (Paris: 66, Rue des Marais, 1891), 1-211. English translation of the title: Manufacture Alfenide Catalogue of Products.

7. David N.Nikogosyan, "Marks of French Silver-Plated Cutlery in the XIXth Century. Christofle, Veuve Charles Halphen, Gombault-Desclercs and Manufacture d'Alfenide",
http://www.silvercollection.it/ASCASCHRISTOFLEMARKS.html

8. David N. Nikogosyan, "Armand Frenais Silversmith Company; A Rival of Christofle", Silver Magazine, 48, (July/August 2016), 30-37.



Dr. David N. Nikogosyan
Bonn, Germany
- 2017

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