If you happen to be in central Texas for the holiday season, take the time to visit the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, where a beautiful exhibition of Martelé silver will be on display beginning December 16th.
Martelé, from the French marteler, "to hammer," was manufactured by Gorham from the end of the 19th century until the 1930s. Objects made for the Martelé line were crafted from a single sheet of 950 silver (purer and thus softer than standard 925 silver), which was hammered into the desired shape before it was chased (decorated). Because every object was hand-wrought, it took an enormous amount of time to produce Martelé ware: a single coffee pot required about 140 hours of raising and chasing. An admirer of Martelé silver characterized its unique finish as "the soft misty finish of innumerable little hammer blows, overlapping each upon each like fairy footprints upon moonlit sands."Each piece of Martelé silver is unique, and only 1500-1700 Martelé silver items are still in existence.
The set is fully hallmarked with the Martelé maker’s and standard mark, .9584 and I/BB series mark. This three-piece set is documented in L. J. Pristo’s book, Martelé, Gorham’s Art Nouveau Silver, page 357. It is listed as a 3-piece set, I/BB, made 1905/1915, consisting of a coffeepot, sugar bowl and creamer. The set is beautifully handmade, with evidence of the hand-hammering indicative of Martelé silver. The coffeepot is quite unique in that it not only has the amorphic undulating plant life decoration, but there is a beautifully executed figure of a woman with a floral headband emanating from the pot’s mid-section. The woman emerging from the waves is one the finest examples of figural hand made silver we have ever seen. The sugar and creamer are in the exact naturalistic pattern of the set. This set is truly a collector’s dream. For more information on this set, click here.