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Tiffany & Co. Antique Sterling Silver Tankard (aka Claret Jug), New York City, 1880-91, design attributed to Charles Osborne

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This is a stunning example of Tiffany silver in an unusual form. A multi purpose covered pitcher with a gilded interior, it was most likely used for serving wine. The undulating surfaces in various areas portray wonderful movement.

The applied spout with wavy neck mimics the ribbed interior of the handle. The form-fitting hinged cover consists of a shaped thumb piece and a slightly domed surface. Notice how the engraved decorative elements are masterfully incorporated between the spout and the body.

The front of this vessel is decorated with extraordinary classical decoration.

This large urn with a wonderful display of various flowers is applied decoration whereas the rest of the scene is slightly raised and chased. The urn rests on a plinth covered with a hanging tapestry complete with tassels.

The chased decoration on the sides is spectacular. Once again, flowing movement is incorporated throughout. The handle splits at the bottom and extends along each side being incorporated into the lavish arabesques.

Another example of this tankard, or covered pitcher, resides in the collection of the Museum of The City Of New York. "Originally catalogued and published as a claret jug, this form is identified in a surviving undated drawing in the Tiffany & Co. Archives as 'Tankard 5981'".(1)

Charles Osborne was one of the great American silver designers working in the late 19th century. He worked for Whiting most of his career and Tiffany & Co. on a contract basis for a decade or so starting in 1880. He is best known for his undulating designs of the 1880's that include swirling pearl-like beaded decoration. He also had a fondness for swirling arabesques and floral decoration as seen on this covered pitcher. Check out his 1883 cover of the Jewelers' Circular for a display of his design virtuosity.

This magnificent tankard is marked underneath 'TIFFANY & Co/ 5981 M 6223/ STERLING-SILVER/ 21/2 PTS'. It measures 11 inches high to the top of the thumb piece, weighs 28.40 troy ounces, has never been monogrammed and is in excellent antique condition retaining its original gilt interior.

  1. Deborah Dependahl Waters, Elegant Plate: Three Centuries of Precious Metals in New York City, (New York: Museum of the City of New York, 2000), plate 386, p. 562.