An 'escutcheon' was originally a shield upon which a coat of arms was displayed, but in the course of time it came to mean any shield-shaped device or ornament, including key-plates on furniture. The outline is normally symmetrical and achieved by a succession of convex and concave curves, generally with a pair of 'horns' at the top and an ogee shape at the base with a point in the centre. There are however considerable variations in design depending on date, maker and origin.
The escutcheon shape is generally considered to be the earliest form of the wine label. The 1730s are usually taken as the years of first production and the escutcheon shape was popular for some fifty years. There was also a revival in the mid 19th century.
It is unlikely that research will resolve who made the first silver wine label. It seems likely to have been either James Slater, who entered his first mark between October 1725 and January 1728, or Sandilands Drinkwater who was working as early as 1731, although he did not register a mark until 20 January 1735. A third possibility is John Harvey, who entered his first mark in 1738.
There are also several other 18th century silversmiths who are known to have produced escutcheon shaped labels including : Lewis Hamon; Edmund Medlycott; Thomas Hyde; Thomas Rush; Benjamin Bickerton; Richard Binley; Robert Collier; William Moody; Robert Pertt; John Jacob; Richard Gurney & Thomas Cook and a few others from the provincial assay offices.
There can also be problems with the attribution of some of the marks of makers of small silver items, such as wine labels, from the mid eighteenth century. This is due to the loss of the register, originally at Goldsmiths’ Hall, of smallworkers’ marks which covered the years 1739 to 1758. The largeworkers’ book from 1758 to 1773 has also been lost, but this is of lesser concern to wine label collectors. It is unlikely that the registers will be found. They may have been lost after they were removed from Goldsmiths’ Hall for the Parliamentary Committee Report of 1773, never returned to Goldsmiths’ Hall and later destroyed in the Palace of Westminster fire in 1834.
We can however be sure that some of these little shield shaped pieces of silver were adorning Georgian glass bottles some 285 years ago! They were originally described as "Bottle Tickets" and the term "Decanter Label" is something of a misnomer, at least until the 1760's.
The selection that I am currently offering includes some unusual shapes and designs and also some rare names, including: ALE
& FRENCH WHITE WINE
. There are also rare labels from Newcastle
and a couple with uncertain attributions.
They can be viewed in the WINE LABELS
category on the web site