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Diary of a Silversmith

Britannia Silver

I needed to order a considerable amount of standard (sterling) 925 silver sheet recently. After I placed my order the supplier informed me that they had insufficient in stock to fulfill my request. An alternative was to take some of it in Britannia silver (958). It is many years since I have used Britannia but to use it on this occasion would solve the problem.

I knew it was softer so it should be easier to spin – in theory.

Well this was the case. It was nice to spin, it seemed to be a more “slippery” metal than standard (925 copper alloy) which can feel a bit “gritty” and need lubricant. The Britannia needed less. It also “laid down” on the chuck quicker. The down side was that because it “laid down” quicker it was stretching less meaning it came up shorter on height. Ooops! Now what? 20 bases all a bit short. Luckily I had spotted this on an interim spin (draft) and was able to put it onto another chuck where I was able to gain a little height. Phew!

Nearly got into trouble there but otherwise a very nice alloy to work with. Britannia Silver 958.


Co-incidentally, this was the main English Standard between 1697 and 1720 and because of its softness (in relation to 925 standard) it had to be reinforced in areas of weight stress, for example on a tea pot where the fittings attach. Spout, handle,foot and knob. This reinforcing was often decorative and termed “cut card work” and is quite distinctive. The said reason for this change was thought to be that it would defer the clipping of silver coins for the subsequent use of a source of bullion as the metal stolen could not be used without the addition of pure silver which was in short supply at that time.

Just a few interesting facts about the life of a silversmith I thought you may like to read.