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The appliance of science; CHRIS PROUDLOVE explains the mystery of these beautiful vases.

YES, the designs of the objects pictured here are picked out in silver. And yes, the bodies of them are either glass or porcelain. But how on earth were they made? Could it be that some gifted craftsman spent an eternity cutting out the patterns from sheets of silver? Possibly, but persuading them to then wrap around the objects so perfectly is an impossibility, isn't it? Perhaps the glass or porcelain was somehow poured inside? Err, I don't think so. Historian and collector Michael Bohring and antiques dealer Michael Lines know the secret and they were kind enough to share their research ahead of next month's Arts & Antiques for Everyone fair. The technique known as silver overlay is all down to chemistry, physics and electronics.

"The design is created by an electroplated coating of silver," Michael explained. "It involved a special flux which contains silver and turpentine oil, painted onto porcelain or glass, which are both nonconductive surfaces. "The object is fired under relatively low heat, quenched, cooled and cleaned, and then placed in a solution of silver. When a low voltage current is run through the solution, the silver binds to the design, creating a permanent fusion with the glass or porcelain."

The history of silver overlay dates from around 1870, although who pioneered the process has yet to be determined, Michael explained.

The best known patent holders are Frederick Shirley from the USA, whose patent dates to 1879; Erard and Round, working under the auspices of Stevens & Williams Ltd, whose patent is from 1889; John Sharling, also of the USA, whose patent is from 1893 and Friedrich Deusch, the German inventor whose name is most associated with silver overlay today.

The latter patented the process in 1895 and displayed his work in 1907 at an exhibition in Bordeaux. Deusch returned to Schwabisch Gmund in southern Germany, founding his firm Deusch & Co in 1912. He won the Gold Medal at the World Exposition in Ghent the following year.

Thanks to Deusch, Schwabisch Gmund, a town with a tradition of artists working with gold and silver dating back to the 16th century, became the centre of German silver overlay production.A school for applied arts existed there, and from 1907 onwards, teaching was centred around the precious metal industry. By the 1920s, around 190 firms involved in the industry were located there: with the concentration of materials, artisans, and component suppliers in on place, the industry thrived.

Deusch and others applied silver overlay to vases, plates and coffee and tea services. Early items were classical in design, followed by an abstract phase of Art Deco in its purest form. From the 1950s, design was more a defined style with florals being the most popular.

Other companies quickly followed.

Friedrich Wilhelm Spahr is an outstanding figure and there is evidence that he learned his skill from Deusch since both firms employed similar formal designs. Spahr's factory employed about 40 specialist artisans whose outstanding engraved pieces show the company's unrivalled quality.

Alfred Veyhl had a style all his own, mostly a combination of polychromatic painted details of birds, flowers, and similar motifs, framed with silver.

The more abstract designs are rare. Alfred, and later his son Manfred, were the only ones who used a varnish to avoid silver oxidation. Alfred used softer and rounder lines, whereas Manfred had a more angular, expressive style.

"A speciality for this company was that clients could choose from a certain range of porcelain forms and decor. The items were then produced exclusively in a single production run," Michael said.

The three companies bought and used porcelain blanks from several well-known producers such as Rosenthal, Hutschenreuther, Thomas Bavaria, Krautheim & Adelberg and marketed the finished products under their own names.

A large amount of glassware came from WMF in Geislingen, which is not far from Schwabisch Gmund, and from Jean Beck, a famous glass designer in Munich. "Until recently, it was believed Beck created the brilliant silver designs himself and Deusch only produced them," Michael said.

"However, this was not the case.

As with the porcelain, Deusch and others bought the delightfully stylised glass blanks, then decorated them in silver overlay, and sold them under their own names."

Paper labels sometimes survive and are a useful aid to identification for any collector. However, Deusch used the impressed mark "Deusch 1000/1000" on early items, punched directly into the silver.

Later items may have the additional mark "Made in Western Germany".

Vehyl's work also shows the "1000/1000 silver" mark included in the body of the design, while some rare items are signed with a handwritten "MV" monogram for Manfred Veyhl and the word "Handgemalt" (hand-painted).

Spahr mostly used marks impressed directly into the silver.

The very earliest and rarest of Spahr's marks began with "MSG 1000 10" ("MSG" standing for "Manufaktur Schwabisch Gmund").

This mark was followed by "Spahr 1000 10" (sometimes stamped in black letters on a porcelain base), later with "Spahr 1000", and finally with transparent plastic labels on the bottom printed "Spahr Feinsilberauflage 1000/1000".

EXPERTS ON HAND AT ART & ANTIQUES FOR EVERYONE MICHAEL Lines, of John Newton Antiques based in East Yorkshire, will be exhibiting his silver overlay pieces alongside English and continental porcelain and glass at Art & ANTIQUES FOR EVERYONE, at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham from July 18-21. Admission is PS16 with free parking, but readers will get two tickets for the price of one on production of a copy of this newspaper. Objects on sale come from specialist dealers with prices up to PS100,000 to others selling such collectables as scientific instruments, early toys and dolls, vintage fabrics and unusual memorabilia, much of which is priced at less than PS20. Objects are vetted by experts to ensure they are presented professionally and labelled accurately and expert seminars and talks by well-known celebrity figures from the art and antiques world take place daily.


Unusual PMR Jaeger porcelain lemon ground vase decorated with flowers in silver overlay, the design repeating on the reverse. Deusch studio, 1950s

Hutschenreuther porcelain vase, circa 1940s, decorated with a complex stylised design of flowers in silver overlay and polychrome colours against a black-ground. Signed Spahr 1000

A scarce silver overlay vase decorated with a Taoist inspired design in silver overlay on a black and white ground. It dates from about 1950 and was made in the studios of Friedrich Spahr

A fine blue glass vase, decorated with a delightful Art Deco overlaid silver design from the studio of Friedrich Deusch. Marked 1000/1000

A large, rare and early deep blue glass vase decorated with flowers in thick silver overlay. Signed Spahr 1000/10

Rare Art Deco Rosenthal porcelain vase with silver overlay by Friedrich Deusch on a coral red-ground. The silver stamped 1000/1000 with the year code for 1923
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Jun 15, 2019
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