January 10, 2018 2 min read
Gorham had two types of special orders, a complicated system that often confuses people.
They had special orders from outside the company which they called "Specials". These came from retailers and jewelers from across the country (and world). To confuse matters, they also took special orders "Specials" from the 'Retail Division', or their own stores, principally the flagship store at Broadway and 19th Street. (It later moved to 5th Ave.)
"Samples" were internally generated special orders, meaning they were projects initiated by management and the design team. Many of these "Samples" were meant to be unique designs that were exclusive to Gorham and represented Gorham at their artistic best.
Both "Samples" and "Specials" are limited in number (although that can be a large number) and they are often unique. Sometimes "Samples" become prototypes for production lines and many "Specials" are made to match previous designs.
Before 1888, there is no real system in use for numbering these pieces. However, when Edward Holbrook assumes control of Gorham in 1888, he develops a system for numbering "Samples" and "Specials". Both are stamped with sequential numbers, from 1 - 9999, "Samples" in an oval, "Specials" in a rectangle.
This system works well until the turn of the century when both series begin again at 1. It does not take long to figure out this system is no longer working and a system of marking with letters is developed. Both series start using two letters, then use three. Some "Specials" are stamped vertically, some "Samples" are stamped horizontally in two lines. Once again, it gets very confusing.
For "Samples" and "Specials" from 1888 - c. 1900, Gorham is using one of its few numbering systems that is straight forward and easy to understand (except, of course, for the repeated numbers at the end).
Some mistakenly assume that if a Gorham piece has a "Special" or "Sample" number or letter code that it is unmarked Martelé. The Martelé line is separate. While not all Martelé is marked "Martelé", unmarked pieces must be checked against the ledgers to see if they are actually Martelé.
Examples of "Samples" include:
Examples of "Specials" include:
Sign up to get the latest updates and current musings in our occasional newsletter…