The Unsurpassed Work of Silversmith Paul Storr

George, the third silvergilt honeypot and stand in the form of the bee by Paul store, London 1798

During the first half of the 19th century, Paul Storr (1770 to 1844) was the most celebrated silversmith in England and his work is unsurpassed.

The George III silver gilt honeypot and stand you see here is by Paul Storr. Made in the form of a bee skep. It measures just 11.5cm high and is beautifully conceived and modelled. The wreath finial has a plain cartouche but on other Paul Storr honeypots like this one it is often engraved with a crest.

My wife’s grandparents and Uncle Maurice were celebrated beekeepers on the island of Jersey so this object speaks into some precious memories for me.

The history of bee skeps is thought to go back some 2000 years. From the Middle Ages bee skeps were made of straw to keep bees in before the invention of the beehive in 1851. Today skeps are mostly used for collecting swarms of bees.

This naturalistic object is bound up with the Romanticism and ideas of the rural idyll prevalent in the early 19th century which placed an emphasis on our emotional response to the beautiful and sublime which contrasted with the effects of the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation and the rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Detail of the honeypot’s stand showing the maker’s mark for Paul Storr on the underside, London 1798

Alongside the leopards mask of the London assay office, the Lion Passant silver mark and date letter for 1798 is the Paul Storr maker’s mark PS which remained relatively unchanged throughout his career. This honeypot was only made a year before Paul Storr was commissioned to make the ‘Battle of the Nile cup’ for presentation to Lord Nelson in 1799.

Today pieces from Paul Storr’s workshops can be found at the Duke of Wellington’s London home, Apsley House, as well as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, Arundel Castle and museums around the world.

In 1807 Paul Storr joined Philip Randall at Randall Bridge and Randall. It was the leading firm of silversmiths in the early 19th century. It held the Royal Warrant from 1806. Working here Paul Storr would produce silver objects for both George III and George IV.

In 1819 he left the firm to regain his artistic freedom producing beautiful naturalistic pieces. In 1822 he partnered with John Mortimer founding Storr and Mortimer in 1822 with retail premises in New Bond Street, London.

Paul Storr’s remarkable talents are still revered by collectors today and the silver-gilt skep honeypot has just sold at Toovey’s for £10,400.

The Enduring Appeal of Silver

A George III silver teapot of compressed circular form made by Robert Garrard I and hallmarked in London in 1808

Over the centuries the artistry and workmanship of silver objects has delighted connoisseurs and collectors and today it is still highly valued and fashionable.

Nevertheless, I still visit so many people across our county who have been persuaded that silver objects are only worth the value of the silver from which they are made, which is heartbreaking, and very often could not be further from the truth. The high price of silver certainly has to be taken into consideration but the maker, date, quality of design, manufacture, condition, and the rarity of the piece have a significant impact on values too. It really is weight plus artistry.

Take for example the George III teapot and pair of George III candlesticks which sold recently in Toovey’s specialist silver auctions for more than three times their scrap value.

The George III silver teapot had a beautifully conceived putto finial. The body, spout, handle and foot were profusely cast, engraved and chased with scrolling flower and leaf sprays, and with a wonderful mask to the handle. It was hallmarked in London in 1808 and made by the celebrated silversmith Robert Garrard I. In 1802 he had taken over the firm founded by George Wickes in 1722. The firm would remain in the family until 1946 specialising in elaborate domestic silver and fine jewellery. The name Garrard remained synonymous with pieces of the finest quality. The company was appointed as Crown Jewellers by Queen Victoria in 1843, a position it held until 2007. The teapot sold for £900.

A pair of early George III cast silver candlesticks by Richard Morson & Benjamin Stephenson, hallmarked in London in 1772

The pair of early George III cast silver candlesticks were made by Richard Morson & Benjamin Stephenson whose partnership was founded in 1762 and lasted until 1774. They were known for producing candlesticks and chambersticks. This pair of candlesticks were made in 1772. The elegant hexagonal shell and gadrooned edges to the feet, beneath wrythen stems and detachable nozzles, displays a real artistry and quality of craftsmanship. They realised £1600.

The market at auction for silver objects is particularly strong at the moment with people looking to buy teapots and services, candlesticks, canteens of cutlery, as well as finely worked and novelty pieces even when they are of later date.

So before you consign your silver to be melted down please ask the unbiased opinion of Toovey’s silver specialist and Director, Tom Rowsell, or you risk throwing the baby out with the bath water!