Six months after the most significant hallmarking deception case in living memory, the Assay Office has published a guide detailing many of the Peter Ashley-Russell fakes and forgeries. The document is available to download for free at www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/assayoffice
Information on the case relating to Peter
Ashley-Russell contains a directory of colour images and
descriptions of the items faked by Ashley-Russell. Close-up images
of the marks, created by the fake punches found at his premises,
will allow dealers, collectors and auctioneers to check potentially
The fake maker's marks displayed in the document on the website
include date letters, leopard heads and the lion passant.
The second Ashley-Russell case - he received a custodial
sentence for similar activities in 1986 - has been described as the
most significant involving hallmarking deception since the infamous
Lyon and Twinam case of the late Victorian era. All who have
handled the material describe it as very convincing and the work of
a professional forger.
At Snaresbrook Crown Court in London in September 2008,
Ashley-Russell was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for
offences under the Forgery Act 2006, including four offences
relating to the faking and forging of antique silver.
When, in 2007, the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crime
Operations team raided a property in Beckton, East London, they
seized 55 fake punches that consisted of town marks, date letters
and makers' marks all purporting to be from the late 17th to the
early 18th centuries. Ashley-Russell admitted making them.
The size of Ashley-Russell's fraud is still not known. The
prosecution was formed around 39 pieces, but he is also known to
have had an eBay account, regularly listing silver flatware. It is
thought that more than 450 items were offered on eBay but they did
not form part of the case because the police wished to avoid a
costly and time-consuming High Court appearance to obtain a
production order that would have allowed them to look at eBay and
Dr Robert Organ, deputy warden of Assay Office London said:
"[We] wish to do all [we] can to help the antiques trade deal with
the aftermath of the damage created by Mr Ashley Russell's
deception. It is hoped that the guide, will prove an invaluable
tool in achieving this goal."
Spurious or suspicious items can be sent to the Antique Plate
Committee, the industry-recognised body established in 1939 which
examines suspect silver items and advises Assay Office London on
the authenticity of hallmarks and illegal alterations or
The APC meets on a quarterly basis and charge no fee for
The Ashley-Russell fakes are believed to be one of several
ongoing investigations into antique silver forgeries. Of particular
concern to the silver trade are pieces of suspect 'Georgian'
hollowware, including what purported to be a George I Britannia
Standard bowl and ewer that sold for £90,000 to S.J. Phillips at
Duke's of Dorchester in 2002. It was later returned after it tested
only as sterling.
By Roland Arkell