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What Is My Favourite Antique :: George Adams Silver Spoon with Clan Gordon Motto

Updated on April 29, 2011

A Victorian Silver Tea-Spoon by George Adams of London

My favourite antique is a Victorian silver tea-spoon made in London, assayed in 1862, with a beautiful knotted rope design registered in January 1862, stamped with the makers mark for George Adams of Chawner & Co., an eminent London silversmiths, that has a boars' head engraved on the front of the handle with a sword piercing its snout and the motto "Animo non Astutia".

Why is it my favourite (favorite)?

Because it satisfies me on several levels. It satisfies my:

  1. Aesthetic taste. It is a beautiful combination of material, design and functionality. It is balanced of form, shape and weight. It is crafted by masters of their trade. It is shiny and shows little sign of wear. It is as it should be. It can be shown off and it can be utilised. What more could one want?
  2. Senses. It is touchy-feely. It is smooth and tactile. It looks perfect. It conveys that lovely faint smell of silver to the nostrils. It brings tastes to the mouth. It rings. What more could one want?
  3. Curiosity. How many hands have touched it? How many eyes have seen it? How many people have owned it? How many people have sat at a table cleaning and polishing it? Who are they? What have they done in their lives? Where have they taken it? How has it come to me? So many questions. So many answers to find. It could take a lifetime. What more could one want?
  4. Love for History. The answers to the questions above took me on a quest that transported me to London in the Victorian times: delving into the origins of the maker; the person that commissioned the design; the lives of the possible owners. Their stories to be explored further and divulged later. A never-ending tale of questions and answers. What more could one want?
  5. Quest for knowledge. What do all the marks mean on the reverse of the bowl of the spoon? What was the registration mark used for? What was the pattern called? What does the motto mean? Who's motto is it? Who's coat-of-arms is it? What is the meaning of all of the Heraldic symbolism? The result of the quests to be forever in my mind. Oh Joy! What more could one want?
  6. Love of a Treasure Hunt. I found this special item on a trestle table at what is known as a "car boot sale" in the UK. What is it called in the US? (The answer will satisfy my quest for knowledge!). It was sitting there all alone with but a price-tag to keep it company. How long it had been sitting there and how many times it had been offered for sale I do not know. But I knew on first sight that I loved it! The flutters in my heart told me I must release it from it's interminable struggle to find an appreciative owner. I was to be that owner. What joy! What more could one want?
  7. Love of a Bargain. I knew it would be mine. The price-tag, ah the price-tag - how much is being asked? Is that all? But we are obliged to haggle, are we not? So haggle we must! Haggle, haggle, toil and haggle. We agree a price. I am happy. The previous owner is happy. Everyone is happy. What more could one want?

What more could you want?

London Assay Date Letter for Silver of 1862

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London Assay Office date letters from 1856 to 1876 for Silver
London Assay Office date letters from 1856 to 1876 for Silver
London Assay Office date letters from 1856 to 1876 for Silver

How Do I Know the Date of Assay?

One of the marks on the back of the spoon is a lower-case Gothic script "g". It is struck within a shield with rounded edges at the top and the bracket sign "{" rotated 90o at the bottom. Since it was assayed by the London Assay Office, I know this to be the date letter for 1862 as English Law has required a date of assay since the 17th century.

London Assay Marks around 1862

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Assay Office, Sterling Silver and Monarch marks for 1862
Assay Office, Sterling Silver and Monarch marks for 1862
Assay Office, Sterling Silver and Monarch marks for 1862

How Do I Know it was Assayed in London and that it is 925 Silver?

English Law has required the Assay office (or Town) mark to be present since the 17th century together with a mark showing the quality of the silver. In 1862 the silver quality mark was to show that it was 925 silver, that is 925/1000 parts silver. The Leopards Head is the Assay Town mark for London. The Lion passant (standing sideways) is the quality touch mark (925 silver mark) and the head mark shows Queen Victoria's Head, just another sign that it is silver.

Registration Diamond 1842-1867

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Diamond Registration Mark showing Year and Month locations
Diamond Registration Mark showing Year and Month locations
Diamond Registration Mark showing Year and Month locations

How Do I Know the Pattern was Registered in January 1862

The reverse of the bowl of the tea-spoon has a registration lozenge (diamond) stamp (mark) opposite the silver hallmarks. It is of the style that was in existence from 1842 to 1867. The month letter is "C" for January. The year code is "O" for 1862. This does not mean that it was produced in January 1862 just that it could not have been produced before that date. It does not mean that it was designed in 1862, as it would have been some time in the design phase and registration phase before that time. Perhaps up to 2 or 3 years. For each registration mark there is an equivalent record in the Records Office giving all the details of it's design. To date I have not accessed that information - it is a task that will occupy my mind at a later date. However, if anyone has any information on the name of the design, the commissioner, and to whom the service belonged, I would love to hear.

Makers Mark for George Adams

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Makers mark for George Adams
Makers mark for George Adams
Makers mark for George Adams

How Do I Know it was Made by George Adams of Chawner & Co.?

Well actually I don't. Sure, it is marked with G A in conjoined circles, which is the Makers Mark for George Adams. But did he actually make it? I doubt it. Why? Because George Adams was the owner of Chawner & Company. They employed all the skilled craftsmen to complete the task of making flatware to order and for stock. Adams had lots of other things to do running the business. He probably took control at the outset dealing with the client commissioning the service. Oh yes, it was almost certainly a commission as the pattern, as you have seen, was a new pattern for the 1860's. And further evidence is the engraving on the handle which is expanded in the next section. But to have made a particular spoon himself - not likely.

Clan Gordon & Their Motto

What makes this spoon special is the coat-of-arms (crest or badge) engraved on the front of the handle. It consists of a boar's head with sword through the snout. The picture opposite is the general format but lacks the sword element. Underneath is the motto " ANIMO NON ASTUTIA". This is the old clan motto for the Clan / House of Gordon. It means "by courage, not craft". The boar's head alone would be for the Gordon household itself but I have been unable definitively to associate the "boar's head with a sword through the snout" to a particular individual (if anyone can assist in this I would be most grateful), although there are a number of famous possibilities.

  • Charles George Gordon (1833 to 1885)
  • Sir John Watson Gordon (1788-1864)
  • Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870)

Other Antiques Related Articles by Humagaia

The other article about Antiques related subjects is:

  • Decoding UK Product Registration Marks 1840-1965 - During the Georgian Period (1714-1837) the Industrial Revolution had seen the capability for copying items increase exponentially. At the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign (1827-1901) the UK Government...

--- Remarks, Observations and/or Criticisms are Welcomed ---

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    • humagaia profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles Fox 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks guys and gals for all your encouraging comments. I do intend to write more on antiques, especially silver (for jandee), ceramics and antiquarian books - all passions of mine. It is just getting round to doing them - as I have a number of subjects other than antiques that I find fascinating.

    • jandee profile image


      9 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      Hello humagaia, just had to tell you how I enjoyed your description of the 'vicky'Adams spoon and how you brought it to life,silver is my special love,thanks jand.

    • manthy profile image


      9 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Wow - I also share your passion for antiques, I am an auctioneer and my mother had a antique store for many years, my favorite is R.S. Prussia porcelain, anyway thanks again for another superb hub, I may write on on RS Prussia.. after the food contest is over ;0)

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Great information for puzzling out the origin of a piece of English silver. Reading about how to identify the marks can be boring stuff, but you made it come alive. Off to read your other antiques article now.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Wow, you've provided a loft of great info on Victorian Siliver Spoons. Congrats on being selected as one of this week's HubNuggets Wannabe nominees. Good Luck!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Congratulations to your Hubnugget Nomination! The Hubnuggets Team is the one who picks the hubs from among all the wonderful hubs around. :)

      Hubbers and non hubbers: to vote for this hub, please go to this link:

    • humagaia profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles Fox 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Looks as though you just missed voting for this Hub as a HubNugget! Wish I'd been a bit quicker updating the Hub with my plea for votes at the stub.

    • jayjay40 profile image


      9 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for explaining the hallmarks you find on silver, it's always puzzled me. You must have done a lot of reserch to write this hub and know your subject very well. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm.

    • humagaia profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles Fox 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      See my recent post about UK Registration marks. If you collect British pottery, porcelain glass, silver etc then this could be invaluable. If you have a particular request for information particularly about any British or European ceramic manufacturers and how to identify their work I would be happy to respond. Also if you have problems identifying silver makers marks I can probably help. This is an open invite.

    • Jane@CM profile image


      9 years ago

      wow - great answer! Very detailed hub & you do know your antiques!


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