What at first sight look like a nice pair of Victorian Novelty Silver high heeled lace-up Shoes, are not in fact a true pair. Both made from the same casting by the highly respected maker Edward Henry Stockwell, to be sold by the high end retailers Walter Thornhill & Co of New Bond Street, London, and both stamped with the same diamond registration mark for the 17th April 1874, one is made for use as a Table Vesta Case
, and one as a Bonbonnier
. Both have the addition of a bloodstone Seal to the base of the foot.
They are good examples of how makers covered themselves when registering a design at the Patent Office and afforded themselves some protection from replication by others. The image of the original Registered Design for the shoes shows that they could be made as "a Light Box (Vesta Case), an Etui, a Seal, an Inkstand, a Spirit Lamp, a Lozenge Box, a Scent Bottle, or a Stamp Box etc, etc.
Proprietors would purposely not limit the descriptions of their designs to one object - 'Pencil Case' for instance, but give themselves scope for using (and protecting) the design for use with other articles simply by adding the words "and like articles" or even just "etc". Dimensions were also intentionally not included. Thus, Walter Thornhill's registered design 'RD 320274', a vessel in the form of a stylised Dolphin, could be a Cup or an Inkstand, a Candlestick or an Etui, a Muffineer or a Pepper Box or even a Mustard Box!
Design Registrations were introduced to allow designers and inventors to patent and protect their work. All of the original applications and documents are now kept at the National Archives at Kew
in London and are available for public viewing once one has acquired a 'Reader's Ticket'.
The Ornamental Designs Act of 1842 consolidated all earlier acts and simplified the process to register a design. It created 13 classes of ornamental design materials, including metal, which was class number I. Items whose design was registered at the Patent Office Design Registry can be marked with a registration diamond or lozenge mark where the letters and figures identify the class of product, the year month and day of registration, and the parcel number. The design act protected the design for three years, although manufacturers continued to mark their wares long after the legal protection expired.
After 1883, design registration diamond or lozenge marks were replaced with a single Registered Design Number proceeded by the letters 'Rd' beginning with number 1 in 1884 and continuing until 1989. In 1989 the beginning number in August changed to 2,000,000.