Gorham Antique Sterling Silver Unique 'Japanese' 7 Piece Coffee Service chased by Subero Yamamoto, Providence, RI, 1906
This unique coffee service is exquisite. Each piece is a work of art and quite an achievement in design and silversmithing skill.
The service consists of a kettle on stand with its original burner, a coffee pot, teapot, creamer, covered sugar bowl, a waste bowl and massive two-handled waiter.
All the pieces are hand-raised and are very similar in their look to Gorham's famous 'Martelé' line. The bodies exhibit a shimmering hammered finish from which exotic foliage and an array of flowers emerge. The kettle is very impressive with the unusual form and execution of details. The flowing leaves and flowers convey great movement throughout. The stand is fantastic with flowers adorning the tops of the curved feet with hanging leaves. The curved side of the stand is pierced and incorporated into the design. Even the handles to the pins which hold the kettle to its base are executed as leaves. To give you a better idea of the amount of detail and care went into creating this, it took just over 181 hours to create just the kettle and stand. The chasing alone accounted for 80 hours. That is a remarkable amount of time.
The coffee pot, like all the other pieces, is stunning. Various flowers and foliage decorate the body, spout and handle. The finials to the domed lids are blossoming flower buds. Once again, the tea pot is beautifully shaped and decorated. The interior of the creamer and waste bowl have a soft, gilt interior.
Due to their flat surfaces, trays are some of the hardest objects for silversmiths to create. This waiter is of exceptional quality as it would need to be heavy to be able to carry the weight of the service. It has a decorated raised edge and applied handles with floral decoration. All the pieces in this service bear a 'G.' initial which is engraved underneath all the pieces and in the center of the waiter.
This service is unique. 'Samples,' or internally generated special orders, are examples of Gorham creating their very best art.
Subero Yamamoto worked for Gorham from December 1903 until March 1907, a little over three years. (1) He was one of their finest chasers earning $30.00 a week; only three chasers earned more. (2) Larry Pristo has documented that he chased 35 Martelé pieces. (3)
Unknown until now, we have documented that Yamamoto was hired to chase 'Japanese Chased' or 'Japanese Work' pieces.
This service is the most important documented piece he helped create. Gorham records indicate he worked 847.5 hours chasing and finishing this service (over three months at the standard 60 hours a week). The service was hand raised and took 433 hours to 'make' (raise and assemble). It had a net cost of $1500.00, comparable to, and more expensive than many, Martelé services. (4)
For a brief period during 1897 and again during Yamamoto's employ from 1903 to 1907, Gorham created 'Japanese Work' pieces of the very finest quality. They are all unique 'samples,' and some of the finest silver Gorham ever created.
This stunning service is marked underneath with Gorham's trademark along with 'STERLING' and the 'I/JZ' and 'I/KA' Sample codes. The tray measures 30 inches across the handles by 18.75 inches wide. The total weight for the service is an impressive 387.85 troy ounces. It is in exceptional condition with light scratching on the interior of the tray from use.
Samuel Hough, Roster of Craftsmen, last accessed Sept 2015.
Robert Bain, George Sauthof and David Wilmot. See above.
Larry Pristo, Martelé: Gorham's Art Nouveau Silver, (Phoenix Publishing Group, 2002), p. 36.
Costing records I/JZ-K/AB tea service, Gorham Company Archives, Brown University Library.