silver thimbles for sale - charles horner

Sterling silver & Dorcas thimbles produced by Charles Horner of Halifax, England.


DORCAS THIMBLES: Steel-cored sterling silver


Charles Horner patented his steel-cored sterling silver thimbles in June 1885 [Patent No. 8954] . Silver thimbles even with moderate sewing use, go to holes and his patent provided for a lining of steel between two layers of sterling silver. Initially these thimbles had no marking other than "PAT." short for Patent [tho there are examples of the word Patent written out in full] and a size number. After around 1890 until they ceased production, all his steel-cored thimbles were marked with DORCAS and the size number.

Early Dorcas thimbles often included a Registered design [RD] number as well.  Horner promoted his thimbles with these specifically named patterns but these names never featured on his thimbles. These registered design numbers were: #127211 of 1889, known as Louise - #73624 (often incorrectly lettered 73626) known as Diamond pattern - #210799 of 1893 is known as the Shell - 210800 of 1893 is the Princess May design. Flora is an unregistered design. Lovely feminine names for utilitarian thimbles!

Why did Horner name and market these revolutionary designed thimbles Dorcas? Dorcas is named in the Bible in Acts 9:49 as a woman of means who served the poor, and known for her sewing. In Victorian times this became the term used for sewing circles for the poor. So using a well-recognised word with sewing was a stroke of "genius"?


Having a core of steel, all Dorcas thimbles will attract a magnet. In 1905 Horner introduced his "Improved Dorcas", where the steel & silver were fused together and from this date the apexes of all his steel-cored thimbles are flatter. It is not possible to date Dorcas thimbles any closer than this, as they are not only made of sterling silver and thus cannot be hallmarked.


Horner ceased to make Dorcas thimbles after 1947. Dorcas thimbles were still available for sale in and sewing departments and haberdashery shops in Australia until the 1970s.


Horner's Dorcas and Pat. size numbers are 0 for the largest down to the smallest at size 14. The sizes at either end of this spectrum, are extremely rare. I have only had those from size 3-12 for sale in over 200 examples, which bears this out. Note that Dorcas thimbles don't have the rolled rim of his sterling silver thimbles.


There are differences in the way the maker's mark "CH" & the size number are stamped onto the band - the normal marking is to have his initials & the size number in an oval [Type I]. I have noted when the thimbles for sale are differently stamped from this. The Type III is the least commonly found.











For further information about this prolific English silversmith, see Tom Lawson's Charles Horner of Halifax: a celebration of his life & work (2002) or Diane Pelham Burn's Identifying steel-cored thimbles (1993)


Learn more about Dorcas Boxes




Charles Horner of Halifax, registered his maker's marks "CH" in Chester in 1885 (I have seen a CH sterling thimble with an 1882 hallmark date) and he produced sterling silver thimbles from then until 1947, tho they closed their Halifax works in 1952.


With all the sterling Horner's that have passed thru my hands, I've observed that size 4 [18mm] is the largest, with size 15 [child's] the smallest.


Check your Size 6 CH silver thimbles. I have noticed that it is only this size - but not all of them - that has the sizing marked .6.. All the other sizes just have the sizing numeral.


The earliest hallmarked Horner sterling thimble to have passed thru my hands is for 1892, the latest 1927. Do you know of any dates outside this period?


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