UPDATED MARCH 08
When buying antique silver, remember, the sharks are out there for the scarcer items or even for an experienced dealer, Nathaniel Mills bespoke silver can catch them out and its not the small carbooter whose fooled, the fakes have claimed some big names over the past 10 or so years and a few auctioneers as well.
Its common to find Nathaniel Mills card cases on the Portobello Road, they are good qaulity but those offering to sell a card case or the road or online with a castle or abbey design for less than £2000 must raise eyebrows, even in todays difficult climate. A cheap buy it now must also cause concern. Multiple listing of a fake over a few weeks is a dead giveaway. The genuine pieces are rare and highly sought after, so items placed on ebay which are genuine will attract tremendous bidding.
Having kept on eye on this stream of forgeries over the past 10 years or so, a pattern has emerged, this being that the fake NM hallmarks are always the same, weak or badly worn NM initial mark, standard font on the right hand flat section of the rim, flatly struck young head Victoria, whereas the other parts of the mark including the date letter generally remains quite crisp and less worn. They are always 3/4s up the flat rim of the case lip. Its believed that these all originate from India and this would seem totally acceptable given the plethora of fake items, instruments, compasses, sextants, etc that migrate every month into the UK salerooms. Sadly these fake pieces are worth £80 or so and for interest only, even though they are of exceptional workmanship.
Interestingly, by the Regency Period c1820, the Nathaniel Mills silversmiths had become quite a company, employing many silversmiths and its widely undertsood that boxes and cases made from 1830 onwards were not from the hand of Nathaniel Mills himself, but from the hands of his jobbing sivlersmiths, like William or Thomas Mills. The fact that the cases carry the NM indicates that the item was produced by Nathaniel Mills & Sons, not specifically by Nathaniel himslef. An interesting point, not one seller cares to mention, which is rather odd.
Similarly silver 18th Century corkscrews with mother of pearl or ivory handles, are now showing in auctions on a regular basis. Always tapered handles, always inlaid with rings of silver. Always marked PB or IB or another combination of 2 intials, always a short worm, thread always perfect. They are never hallmarked. Always tend to be listed as Continental or Dutch, sometimes offered with "been in my aunts family for years", whereas they are a comparatively modern made to decieve fake. Why a Dutch corkscrew would have what appears to be an English makers initials and not a continental silver mark, who knows?
Like the Nathaniel Mills, these screws are almost worthless.