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OLD SHEFFIELD PLATE

Old Sheffield Plate is a form of Silver Plate, made by heat fusing silver onto copper. The two metals fuse extremely well and once fused, act as one in response to manipulation. The process was discovered around 1743 and quickly became very popular. However, with the invention of Electroplating in the 1830s, the Old Sheffield Plate industry started to struggle, unable to compete with this new, more economical process. By the 1850s, just over 100 years after its birth, the industry was effectively dead.

The process of making Old Sheffield Plate was discovered in 1743 by a cutler named Thomas Boulsover. It is not entirely clear how he came upon this discovery. Most accounts suggest that he was repairing a knife, the handle of which contained both silver and copper. However, it must be presumed that Boulsover was not the first person to discover that silver and copper fused with heat. The more important part of his discovery was to realise the fantastic workability of the fused metal. Again, tradition has it that this discovery was made whilst trying to repair a knife handle but the details are obscure.

What is clear, is that Boulsover realised the financial potential of the process he had discovered. He created a successful business producing fused metal buttons which proved very popular with the middle classes, wishing to effect the look of the wealthier elite.

For some time, he managed to keep the process secret but inevitability, others began to join him in the field. It was Joseph Hancock who was the first to realise the wider commercial possibilities of the new process which he applied to objects such as coffee pots and candlesticks.

The trade rapidly grew in importance, centering on the town of Sheffield, which eventually lent its name to the process. The wares were popular both amongst the upper classes, who appreciated the substantial saving over silver items, and the middle classes, for whom Old Sheffield offered an affordable way to emulate the lifestyle of the upper classes.

Below you can browse our complete inventory of Old Sheffield Plate items and quickly find the item you're looking for.

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