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Gorham Antique Sterling Silver and Enamel Special Order Cup, Providence, RI, 1870

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This rare and wonderful cup is one of the earliest examples of enameling from Gorham. Beautiful rich green and purple champleve enamels are inlaid in horizontal fashions to create a lovely decorative and visually striking display. Hand-engraved designs surround the enamels.

Applied, classic bands of beading decorate the areas around a section of swirling ribbon. The stunning handle features a casting of a lion mask. The front is engraved "Selina/ to/ Uncle Bernard," and the opposite area is engraved "Thomas Mark Lownes."

Gorham's records do not survive for this enameled cup. Only two other enameled pieces by Gorham from this era are currently known; they all appear to be very rare special orders (or samples). One vase is in the collection of the Newark Museum (see Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance, p.129), and a somewhat similar cup appeared at Sotheby's on January 24, 1995, lot 1394.

In the 1860s, silver companies did not typically enamel their silver. Instead, enameling was done by small independent specialist firms and some jewelers. These three Gorham pieces, made about 1870, appear to be their first pieces decorated with enamel. Most likely, they were enameled by an outside company.

It is marked with Gorham's trademark and "STERLING/ 725" along with the 1870 "C" date mark. It measures 4.5 inches across the handle by just over 4 inches tall and weighs 9.90 troy ounces. It is in very good condition with wear to the front engraving & minor enamel restoration.