Omar Ramsden is one of the most recognised names in silverware of the arts and crafts period in England. The silverware that came from his workshop is highly sought after by collectors, and the pleasing designs that his work often shows has made it popular all over the world. His work displays the perfect blend of modern and traditional styles, and the mystique surrounding him has captivated silver collectors for over 100 years.
Born in Sheffield in 1873, Omar Ramsden (originally Omer on his Birth certificate), was the son of Benjamin Ramsden, a silversmith and engraver who was based at the Rockingham Works in Sheffield. Ramsden spent an early part of his childhood in America, but had returned to England by 1887, when he was apprenticed to an unrecorded firm of silversmiths in Sheffield, learning over the next 3 years the skills and experience needed for the manufacture of different items of silverware.
In 1890 Ramsden began attending evening classes at the Sheffield School of Art, at the time considered one of the Worlds foremost schools of art and design, and it was here that he showed an interest in the creative process behind the design of silverware. It was also here that he met Alwyn Carr, a man only a year older than him, and with whom he quickly developed a strong friendship, despite always maintaining a healthy competition.
In 1893 Carr was awarded the Sheffield Corporation Scholarship to attend the Sheffield School of Art, and the following year Ramsden was awarded the same accolade. Over the next 3 years the two men worked in a friendly rivalry, attending special courses at the Royal College of Art in London, and visiting museums and sketching the exhibits they saw. When the tenure of Carr’s scholarship ended in 1897, the two friends left England, and spent the next 18 months travelling through Europe, and visiting the many galleries and exhibitions on their journey. The same year that they left England, Ramsden also won first prize in an open competition to design the Mace for the City of Sheffield, and he turned to Carr to help him in its manufacture. There is little doubt that this was the beginning of their partnership, although their joint mark was registered a year later in 1898.
On their return to England, Ramsden and Carr set up their first studio together at the Stamford Bridge Studios in Chelsea, London. It was here that the Mace for the City Of Sheffield was manufactured, being completed in 1899. Two other notable pieces of silverware were produced in 1899, a bowl which can be seen in the City Museum of Sheffield, and a tall vase which belongs to a private collection. Both these pieces show a different character from the mace, having more imaginative design, and they show a clear understanding of both the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Art Nouveau form. These pieces can be considered amongst the highest level of craftmanship of silver items produced in this period, and their manufacture elevated the standing of Ramsden and Carr in the public eye. It was these pieces that were to be the precursor for the famous engraving found on Ramsden’s work in later periods ‘Omar Ramsden Me Fecit’ as they were detailed with similar wording ‘Omar Ramsden and Alwyn C. E. Carr made me in the year of our Lord 1899’.
The success they garnered from these pieces enabled Ramsden and Carr to purchase new premises, and in 1901 they moved the studio to Albert Studios on Albert Bridge Road in London, at the same time moving their workshop to larger premises in Fulham. In 1904, having not enjoyed working at Albert Studios, they moved to a much finer property in Seymour Place, which they transformed into St Dunstan’s studios. Much of the money they made over the next few years was used to improve both St Dunstan’s and the workshop, the latter of which they increased in size by buying the adjacent yard and constructing new areas for chasers, and a drawing office.
The years up until the First World War were very profitable for the partnership, and during this period, in 1907, possibly the finest piece off silverware made by Ramsden and Carr was produced. The Monstrance, commissioned by Westminster Cathedral, was a triumph of design further elevating their standing as master craftsman and bringing in many further commissions from religious foundations.
In 1914 at the outbreak of the war, Carr joined the Artists Rifles regiment and left for France, but Ramsden remained in London. On his return after the war they tried to continue the partnership but it proved to be difficult, the two partners having changed and the business having moved on. Their partnership was formally dissolved in 1919, with Ramsden retaining St Dunstan’s and the workshop in Fulham.
In the years after the partnership had ended Ramsden continued to thrive as a manufacturer of the finest silverware. The workshop employed many fine silversmiths who worked with Ramsden, including Walter Andrews, Leonard Burt, A. E. Ulyett, William E. Maggs and Leslie Durbin (who was apprenticed to Ramsden in 1929), as well as the enamelers Jeanne Etéve and Henri de Konigh. Possibly the highlight of this period produced at the workshop was the wonderful gold Jewel and Chain commissioned by Lord Rothermere in 1929 for the Company of Master Mariners, but also of note are the striking candlesticks produced for the St Bartholomew the Great church of London (the oldest Church in London, founded in 1123), and commissions for the Honourable Artillery Company. These pieces increased Ramsdens reputation, and the demand for his work increased rapidly over the years.
In the mid 1920’s Ramsden married his friend Annie Emily Berrife (formerly Annie Downes-Butcher), who worked with him and was directly responsible for much of the development of the business, and they remained together, at the workshop and at St Dunstan’s, until his death in 1939.
Hallmarked In 1936
Hallmarked in London, 1936 by revered Arts & Crafts silversmith Omar Ramsden, this Sterling Silver Bowl is beautifully handcrafted. This stunning little bowl stands, unusually, on six hoof style feet. The bowl has applied naturalistic detailing on the rim of the hammered bowl. This dish measures 5.5" (13cm) in diameter and stands 3"(8cm) tall. The weight of this bowl is 6.2 troy ounces.
£1,975ADD TO BASKET MORE PHOTOS
Hallmarked In 1917
Hallmarked in London, 1917 by Omar Ramsden, this magnificent Pair of Sterling Silver Goblets are in the Arts & Crafts style. They stand on hollow trumpet bases with round bowls, atop a pedestal knop. The goblets have a hand hammered finish and have been embellished with semi precious stones. Each one measures 7"(17.5cm) high, with a diameter of 3.25"(8.5cm). Together, they weigh 11 troy ounces.
£4,975ADD TO BASKET MORE PHOTOS
Hallmarked In 1937
Hallmarked in London, 1937 by Omar Ramsden, this exceptional, Sterling Silver Tray, features and arts and craft touch to the design, with rivets around the border, and a hand hammered finish. The tray measures 2.75 inches (7cm) tall, by 28 inches (71cm) from handle to handle, and weighs 198 troy ounces (6158g).
£19,750ADD TO BASKET MORE PHOTOS
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