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Mary Catherine Knight Hand Wrought Arts & Crafts Pierced Sterling Silver Plate, Boston, MA c. 1915

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This is an exceptionally rare example of American arts & crafts silver. The border is extraordinary on many levels. The pierce-work is some of the finest and most intricate we have ever seen. Approximately 1630 piercings decorate the border leaving extremely fine silver details that give the effect of finely woven lace.

The outermost rim is reinforced underneath with an applied band of silver. Just inside the edge is a pierced row of flowers separated by plain, circular decorations which are slightly domed. This band is bordered with finely tooled rows of circles.

The next section encircling the plain interior of the dish is a breathtaking display of flowers separated with pierced circular devices. The irregular surface is due to these sixteen circular designs having domed centers. The look resembles that of bulls eye mirrors as they exhibit the same reflective qualities. The floral and foliate design displays exceptional skill.

Knight's work is unique. A gifted designer, Knight completed a four year design course at Philadelphia's Drexel Institute. After working in Gorham's design department, she left to run the the Handicraft Shop of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, an early outgrowth of Boston's Society for Arts and Crafts. After leaving in 1911, she continued on her own until at least 1927 although her output seems to have decreased after the First World War.

Inspired both by medieval designs and those found on colonial silver, her decoration is at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts design. Her chased decoration is highly unusual in that it is comprised of strikes from small leather working tools, rather than the traditional chasing tools of the silver trade.

Typically, Knight's silver is punch decorated and then sometimes enameled. Her pierced pieces are extremely rare. A plate nearly identical to this was photographed in the November 1915 issue of The House Beautiful on p.184. About the same time, noted collector George G. Booth acquired another plate with different decoration and gave it to the Detroit Institute of Art.(1)

Pieces by female silversmiths are uncommon and highly sought after by museums and collectors today.

This stunning sterling plate measures 10.75 inches in diameter and weighs 14.40 troy ounces, is in very good/ excellent antique condition and has never been engraved or monogrammed. The decoration is in nice, crisp condition. It is marked on the back with the Mary Knight's trademark and 'STERLING'.


  1. George G. Booth, 'The Place of Industrial Arts in Art Museums' in the Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, November, 1919, p. 25.


Wendy Kaplan, Ed., The Art that is Life (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1987), pp. 272-73.

Jeannine Falino and Gerald W. R. Ward eds., Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000: American Silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2008), pp. 352-54.