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Sterling silver thimble with triangular indentations to the body, chased wriggle work border and faceted turn over rim. Made by James Fenton formerly of 74 Great Hampton Street, Birmingham. Known as "The Gripper" this thimble bears the Registered Design Number 103216. Hallmarked in the border 10 (the size), J.F (for James Fenton - the maker), the lion passant for sterling silver, the date letter Old English lower case "p" for 1889, the Birmingham Assay Office anchor mark and the RD No. 103216. In excellent condition - in round and free of holes, dents and damage. Height approx. 2.3 cm; internal base diameter approx 1.5 cm; weight 4.4 grams.
Comes complete with trunk or chest style thimble case with brown leather covering, brass hinge and clasp and arched lid with gold tooling. The case is lined with pale blue silk and a blue velvet thimble "nest". Some minor scuffs.
JAMES FENTON'S 'GRIPPER' THIMBLE
In British Registered Design Thimbles, 2003, p.8, Norma Spicer and Diane Pelham Burn record the following information about Fenton's 'Gripper' thimble:
'RD No. 103216 registered July 7, 1888 by Samuel John Boosey of Birmingham, son-in-law of James Fenton, for that company and made by them. Although there is no name on this silver thimble, it was advertised extensively in journals and given the name 'The Gripper'.
'The unusual triangular indentations were supposed to hold the needle tightly to prevent it from slipping. Further praises extolled its strength and the fact that it would last two to three times longer than an ordinary thimble. The thimble has been noted with a typically Victorian 'wriggle and line' pattern, a Victorian criss-cross pattern and a blackberry pattern on the borders - all with plain triangular indentations over the rest of the thimble. In several thimbles identified, the last one and sometimes the last two numbers are missing.'
In her booklet entitled James Fenton Silversmith and Thimblemaker etc. (1994) and under the section headed REGISTERED DESIGNS, pp.24-26, Norma Spicer writes:
'To protect a design one did not want copied, the design had to be registered with the Public Record Office. Information, a drawing and the name and address of the owner of the design (not necessarily the manufacturer) had to be given to the Public Record Office. A number was then allocated to that design. This number could then be stamped on items of that design and it became protected. Between 1842 and 1883 the Designs Act gave three years protection to goods manufactured of metal. From 1884 to 1907 the protection was extended to five years - this is the period that Fentons produced their registered designs.
'The first design registered by Fentons was the 'Gripper' RD No. 103216 on July 7th 1888. The 'Gripper' was a new concept in thimbles with non-slip sides having triangular indentations, instead of the more usual round ones. This led to comment and the following article in the Journal of the Jeweller and Metalworker, December 1888, five months after its introduction.'
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