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The Edwardian silver pepperette modelled as a Suffragette – £3200 at Dix Noonan Webb on June 18.

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While obviously sympathetic to the Woman’s Social and Political Union, what may be less clear is why it was stamped with hallmarks of the Chester Assay Office.

Without doubt it was made, as marked, by the well-known firm of Saunders & Shepherd in 1908 either in their new Birmingham workshops or their huge manufactory just off Holborn Circus. Why then was it not sent to either the Birmingham or London assay offices for testing and hallmarking?

An article in the trade magazine The Jeweller and Metalworker of 1897 throws some interesting light on the question.

Charles Pare, their principal correspondent, laments: “We give to Chester what by rights belongs to Birmingham and create for the former city among the general public a reputation as a producer of finished articles of jewellery and plate; for does it not stand to reason that the buyer who is acquainted with marks will conclude that the mark denotes the town of origin?

“The reason given by the trade for sending work to Chester in preference to Birmingham is that the prices charged are lower.”

The Chester Assay Office closed on August 24, 1962.

Edward Eldred

North London