learn more about charles may's silver and gold thimbles
I have had a few Charles May's silver thimbles in my collection for a long time - and as they are all fairly similar in design an abstract feathery pattern [also known as wriggle-work] - it came as a surprise to find he'd made other thimble designs. Reading thru back copies of Thimble Society [of London] catalogues, I noticed that though the feathery patterned bands that I'd always associated with Charles May, there was a wonderful range new to me. I thought I'd share these findings with you. I have noticed that May uses large cartouches on his wriggle work bands and often the hallmarks have been placed here.
Charles May was not one of the most prolific Victorian silver thimble makers; Charles Horner of Halifax and the Birmingham silver thimble makers (Henry Griffith, James Fenton and James Swann) were much bigger thimble producers. Because of this Charles May thimbles make a nice niche collection. He was different from most of the English Victorian thimble silversmiths: in that, he didn't work in Birmingham.
May was London-based and he registered his maker's mark at the London assay office. The firm had two primary places of manufacture in London: Shoreditch, and later in Hackney. Gold and silver thimble making was their primary manufacture.
it's unusual to find a size mark on such an early hallmark=London 1868
Charles May also registered his maker's mark at the Birmingham assay office in February 1876.
Von Hoelle describes May as "an English goldsmith in London who made exquisite gold thimbles during the second half of the 19th century". In her 'Letts Guide…' McConnel has that Charles May firm existed from 1805 to 1929.
Holmes attests that by 1900 Charles May concentrated more on making gold thimbles.
There is a time line for the firm of Charles May as silversmiths, in Culme as follows:
Charles May c.1821-c.1851
Charles Croxton May c.1851-c.1880
C.C. May & Sons c.1880-1907
C.C. May & Sons Ltd 1907-after 1923
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This listing of Charles May Thimbles does not purport to be complete or accurate in all aspects.
Rather it invites comment and contribution to add to our knowledge. My thanks to the contributors.
John Culme - The directory of gold & silversmiths: jewellers & allied traders 1838-1914 from the London Assay Office registers - 1987
Edwin Holmes - History of thimbles - 1985
Edwin Holmes - Thimble Notes & Queries winter 1990
Bridget McConnel - Letts guide to collecting thimbles - 1991
The Thimble Society [of London] catalogues
John von Hoelle - Thimble collector's encyclopedia. 3rd ed. - 1986
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Charles May, being a silversmith didn't only make thimbles.
There are blue glass scent bottles with his hallmark in the silver top
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