an article of Christophe Ginter,
for ASCAS - Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
a small collection of antique silver and objects of vertu
The list of articles about Antique French Silver, its Silversmiths and Marks

(click on photos to enlarge image)

The example of Paris, 1768-1774

Among the objects of the French "Ancien Régime", the production of the long reign of King Louis XV (1722-1774) is the most frequent victim of forgeries and fraudulent attributions. This phenomenon, interesting particularly the furniture, widely affects also the silverware, with a special predilection for the prestigious production of Paris.

Fortunately, the forgers rarely have a deep knowledge of the characteristics of the object that they falsify. The results of this ignorance, combined with the limited time available, are the numerous errors present in their forgeries.

The example below illustrates a manifest error committed in the imitation of a French hallmark. The object interested to the forgery is a cup with a heavy chasing decoration (quite far from French taste of that period), attributed to Paris 1768-1774 production.

The cup bears also a 19th century French import mark. A meager consolation for the unfortunate owner of this piece. Through this mark he obtains only the confirm of the silver fineness (sterling) of his object.

The mark that allows the identification of the fraud is the "poinçon de Charge de Paris", used in Paris from 1768 to 1774. The "Charge" is a tax mark engaging the silversmith to pay the fee when the piece is finished and ready to be sold.

Various images of authentic marks are illustrated below.

Scheme of the "poinçon de Charge", Paris 1768-1774

Since 1672, when was introduced the tax on the silverware (the "Droit de Marque"), Paris used in its mark the letter "A", crowned and highly stylized. This mark was subject to changes every six years, in its shape and calligraphy. Here below are illustrated various marks used in the period 1768-1774.

Authentic marks (examples)

Fake mark

A superficial examination of the mark could, in good faith, attribute the object to Paris, 1768-1774 production.
Unfortunately it is a fake, as can be demonstrated at a closer look.

In the pictures below I put side by side the schemes of the authentic and of the fake mark (anyway do not forget to refer also to the photos of the authentic hallmarks):
vrai poinçon faux poinçon
vrai poinçon
faux poinçon
the first evident defect (sufficient in itself to identify the fraud) is the absence of the small foliate scrolls on the left leg of the letter "A";

- the "crown" in the authentic mark has on the top a small "fleur-de-lys". The forger omitted this detail;

- the proportions of the crown do not respect the scheme and it results oversized high. On the contrary, the five "fleur-de-lys" on the base are much smaller than the reference pattern.

References and Comments

For a deeper examination of the authentic hallmarks, the reader can refer to my other article "Silver Hallmarks of Paris (1723-1774)", published in ASCAS web site (November 2008, n. 103)

Ultimately, this is a fraud less dangerous of other forgeries involving the chiselling (instead of the punching) of well known French hallmarks. The latter are more difficult to identify!

Christophe Ginter
- 2010 -
Christophe Ginter is the author of the book LES 6000 POINCONS DE L'ORFEVRERIE FRANCAISE SOUS LOUIS XVI (1774/1791)
(click here for book review in ASCAS sweb site)

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