learn more about silver advertising thimbles
including those for jewellers and ships
Whilst I was researching the topics of silver British Placename thimbles and Thimbles with Slogans, I noticed a smaller grouping of silver thimbles with adverts and so my quest for information about Silver advertising thimbles began.
Previously I thought that general products being advertised on thimbles were in the majority, with a few silver thimbles advertising jewellers. Exactly the opposite is true. The jewellers' advertising thimbles are the most prolific, with 98% being for British jewellers. At the beginning of the 20th century, James Walker, a London jeweller, began to give away a silver thimble to couples who purchased their wedding ring: these were marked with James Walker Wishes you Luck. The most commonly seen jewellers' advertising thimble is for James Walker the London Jeweller. Recently a precursor has been found to the James Walker advertising thimbles. Made by Griffith in 1921, it only has the term Walker.
Henry Griffith & Sons [HG&S] of Birmingham are the primary makers of the English silver advertising thimbles, tho you will notice that there are other makers' marks. These thimbles were largely produced between 1924 and 1930. Where I have specified no makers' marks, the maker is HG&S. Some of the other makers' thimbles would have been made by HG&S, but the wholesaler's registered maker's mark was used instead. A dead giveaway is that the words The Spa appear on the band (thimbles only ever made by Griffith) or when the size mark is between 13 and 18. Griffith was the only English thimble maker to have his thimble sizes corresponding to the millimetre diameter. So even tho the thimbles have the maker's mark as JWLtd, N.G. or N.G. Co. these would have been made by Henry Griffith & Sons, using the Chester assay office, where the JWLtd mark was registered. According to Holmes, there was a close association between the firms of Griffith and James Walker. The N.G. mark was registered in Birmingham in 1916 and this is for Northern Goldsmiths Company.
I have only found a few examples of US jewellers.
Between 1899 and 1904 James Fenton, another Birmingham thimble maker, made no thimbles for English jewellers but there are two examples of his thimbles made for Australian jewellers. Charles Horner of Halifax, made no thimbles for English jewellers but there are two examples of his made for Canadian jewellers between 1908 and 1911. James Swann and Son of Birmingham, the only large English silver thimble maker still in business by 1969, made the examples for another Canadian jeweller. I wonder if the Hester Clarke jewellers thimbles from 1976 were also a giveaway?
The advertisements on thimbles for general products generally pre-date the jewellers' ones. I have included information from Zalkin or Holmes about how one qualified for some of these free thimbles. My primary source for silver advertising thimbles made in the United States is Gay Ann Rogers. Do you know of any other USA silver adverts on thimbles? They certainly pre-date most of their English counterparts. It is most gratifying to notice that a few of the jewellers or the general products being advertised are still in business. If they were offering a free silver thimble back in the 1900-1920s, then they still deserve to be in business in the 21st century!! Silver advertising thimbles were at the top end of the range with the bulk of giveaways being made of aluminium, plastic or brass.
There is a small niche collection within the advertising thimbles theme - those with ship or ocean liner names on silver thimbles. The Orient and subsequently the Peninsular & Oriental [P&O] Shipping Lines had five liners on the route between England and Australia in the first half of the twentieth century and there were silver thimbles, made by Henry Griffith & Sons, lettered in relief with the name of the ship. It was the era of mass migration from Europe to Australia. These were produced much later than his placename and jewellers' advertising thimbles, being made post-World War II, until he closed his business in 1956. Gabler thimbles with enamelled bands produced .800 silver thimbles much earlier (pre-World War II) with named cruise ships. There are a few rare examples of the US frim Ketcham & McDougall producing similar enamelled sterling ship thimbles, like the Gablers. See the excellent articles by the Isbisters on the topic of German ocean liners.
The lettering on Henry Griffith advertising jewellers thimbles is usually small, as there are such long names and/or addresses to fit around the thimble band. The shorter the name, the larger the print. The lettering is in relief and in uppercase, often over a striated ground on the English thimbles.
I have tried to follow punctuation and font style where possible, but many will still need editing - please help if you have some of these thimbles where I haven't used the correct details.
These thimbles are arranged alphabetically by the first word of the advertisement, which may be the jeweller's initial.
Click on the following links to "Learn more about..."
This listing of Silver Advertising 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.
Birks, the Canadian jeweller TCI Bulletin summer 2003
Susan Jean Gowan Thimbles of Australia. 1998
Frances Graves Chalmers Pearls thimble story TCI Bulletin summer 1995
Frances Graves The Domestic Sewing Machine TCI Bulletin summer 1998
Edwin F Holmes A history of thimbles. 1986
Edwin F Holmes Silver advertising thimbles from Great Britain Thimble Notes and Queries autumn 1989
Magdalena & William Isbister Enameled German Ocean Liner thimbles. Part 1. TCI Bulletin Fall 2018 + Part 2. TCI Bulletin Winter 2019
Marion Noble Collectors's Gallery - my special treasure about her Crescent thimble TCI Bulletin July 1993
Di Pelham Burn The story of the `Story Journal' thimbles At Your Fingertips October 1989
Gay Ann Rogers American silver thimbles. 1989
Mabel Rogers Thimbles as premiums TCI Bulletin spring 2007
Norma Spicer Henry Griffith & Sons of Birmingham & Leamington Spa. 1999
The Thimble Society [of London] catalogues
John von Hoelle Thimble Collectors Encyclopedia. 1986. p.66-67
Sandi Wood The Cap Arcona TCI Bulletin winter 2006
Estelle Zalkin Zalkin's handbook of thimbles and sewing implements. 1988
Steffanie Austin | Bernadine Biske | Jenny Bockel | Sue Christensen | Elaine Graveston | Margaret Hendriksen | William Isbister | Mildred Jarvis
Vickie and Ben Kelley | Nicola Kissane | Caroline Meacham-Elegant Arts | Wynneth Mullins | Jan Neville | Ray Nimmo | Joyce Nixon-Smith
Bridget Norman [of J W Cassidy family] | Di Pelham Burn | Linda Pullen | Wolf-Dieter Scholz | Irene Schwall | Jenny Schwind | Norma Spicer | Jenny White | Cathy Wood
Sandi Wood | Myra Wysinger
© Sue Gowan
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