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Silver Armada Dishes

This range of dishes sometimes known as Armada or Harris dishes are hand-spun from a heavy gauge of sterling silver. A pair of turned lines near the outside edge with staggered hallmarks is a feature of this dish, together with a raised centre in the base. This is a reproduction piece from the 1500s and is part of the JA Campbell 'Classic' collection. It is available in a range of sizes from 3 and a quarter inches to 16 inches.

These sterling silver dishes are ideal when entertaining, whether it is in the dining room or al fresco. Your friends and family are sure to be impressed without a doubt.

The smaller sizes of these silver dishes are particularly suitable for serving a selection of nuts or sweets, maybe savoury biscuits or similar little nibbles. Another suggestion is for unlit candles or for holding small items of jewellery such as rings or earrings on a lady's dressing table. 

All the Campbell dishes are made from a standard silver sheet, employing the 'spinning' method. The thickness used increases as the diameter gets larger. This sheet is made for us by Cookson Precious Metal and starts life as 93% of pure silver ingot mixed with 7% of pure copper and melted in a continuous casting machine, producing a billet about 10" wide and 1" thick. This is cut into manageable lengths and rolled to increase the width to 1 metre and the length to produce the final thickness required. They are then cut into 1 metre by 0.5 stock sizes. Next they are packed together (about 20 sheets) into thick steel boxes with a thin dusting of talcum powder between each sheet to prevent them fusing together. Several of these boxes are then packed into a furnace, cooked for around 12 hours at temperatures of around 700C, and allowed to cool. This process softens (anneals) the sheets which, through the rolling process, have become very hard. The sheets are then removed from the boxes, cleaned and plastic-coated.

The 'spinning' method, mentioned above, is a traditional method of making round, hollow objects from sheet material in relatively small quantities and is the main production method used by J A Campbell. There are 2 variations in the process of spinning these dishes, in that up to 9 1/4" diameter, they are spun the conventional way, that is, outside spinning on a male 'chuck' or 'former' and for the sizes larger, the 'sinking' or inside spinning in a female 'chuck'.

The spinner or silversmith coaxes the silver dish over or into the chuck using a polished steel 'burnisher' with a long wooden handle held against his body to provide push. It takes quite a lot of force, especially with the large sizes.

At this stage in the making the item is punched with the maker's mark, JAC in a triangle which are the initials of John Campbell. It is then sent to the London Assay Office for testing of each and every component. Only if all the components prove to be better than 92.5% pure silver are the remaining hallmarks punched into the surface while being supported on a steel stake. The English hallmarking system is one of the oldest and best forms of consumer protection and dates back to the 1400s. Large staggered hallmarks are used in a similar style to the original antiques.

The item is then returned to the silversmith's workshop where it is polished using 4 grades of compound to remove all the spinning lines, file marks, blemishes and also the scrape marks caused by the Assay Office tests. The dishes are then ultrasonically cleaned, punched with the JA Campbell name mark and packed into fitted presentation boxes for dispatch.

Why not simply indulge yourself and invest in this versatile silver dish? Alternatively as a birthday gift for friends or family or as a silver wedding present. If the occasion is a golden wedding, these silver dishes can be gold-plated or even made from gold or any other precious metal to elevate the value. As a corporate gift, this dish can presented as an award as an incentive gift or as a retirement present. For all the above occasions, these silver dishes are most suitable for engraving with a message, a logo or even a coat of arms.

This style of dish has had several names in recent years depending on the manufacturer who has reproduced them, for example Armada dish, Harris dish, Drake dish, Campbell dish or Elizabethan dish. The style dates back to the 16th century. The aristocracy and wealthy gentry would have used this style of dish on formal occasions. Some of the larger sizes would be used to serve food and some of the smaller ones upturned and used as lids to keep the food hot.

There is a theory that the first Armada dishes were made from New World silver that had been captured from the Spanish treasure ships. It is also thought that they could have been given by Sir Walter Raleigh to Sir Christopher Harris who worked for the Admiralty during the time of the Anglo-Spanish war (1585 - 1604). Whatever the history, these silver dishes make an interesting talking point however you choose to use them and whatever name you give them.

In the unlikely event of damage, JA Campbell provide a full repair service. You can be assured that all our products are made up to a standard, not down to a price. Nothing leaves the Brentwood workshop until Master Silversmith John Campbell is completely satisfied.

What our customers say

I recently bought the 9.25 inch Armada Dish as a wedding gift. I had it engraved. I was somewhat nervous of buying on a website but found the process easy to navigate with plenty of opportunity to review your progress and check the engraving. The dish arrived some ten days after order. It is a good looking, unusual item with its own story. I am very pleased with it. The fact that you can purchase these dishes in different sizes according the occasion to be celebrated and money available is unusual when seeking a special gift. I doubt that there is a better company than J A Campbell to buy from.

— K N Boorman

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Each item purchased is packed into a luxury presentation box.

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Engraving your silver or crystal adds that extra personal individuality to your sterling silver gift.

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Our skilled silversmiths can perform many repairs on worn or damaged silver items.

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