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31 years ago, May 24, 1986

Salerooms and dealers fall for fakes

A self-taught goldsmith who made fake 17th century gold and silver spoons and forks which came on to the market priced at several thousands of pounds was jailed in Knightsbridge Crown Court last week.

A gold rat-tailed trefid spoon and three-pronged fork with the marks of William Mathew, 1689, were estimated at £20,000-30,000 when they were offered by Christie’s on July 11, 1985. They were knocked down for £48,000 to Spink & So, bidding on behalf of an overseas client. The client asked Goldsmiths’ Hall to examine the pieces, which were discovered to be forgeries.

They had in fact been made a few months earlier in the Bethnal Green workshop of 38-year-old Peter Ashley-Russell.


Ashley-Russell’s 1980s fraud caused fissures through the spoon market. Not all fakes were traced and it took many years for the market to recover.

And, remarkably, he repeated the deception again two decades later.

In 2007, following a police raid on a property in east London, Ashley-Russell admitted making fake punches for town marks, date letters and makers’ marks purporting to be from the late 17th to the early 18th centuries, selling on eBay. He was jailed for three years.