Omar Ramsden mazer bowl

The last person making really good mazers was the celebrated silver smith Omar Ramsden. His mazers were not aiming to be close to the originals but a modern twist on the old theme. They were however nicely made and now command good prices in the silver trade. This one was made in 1924 and recently sold for £2850.

I have handled a few of his mazers in the amazing vaults of the Goldsmiths company of Londo

Omar Ramsden (1873-1939) – silversmith
He was born on the 21st August 1873 in Sheffield. His father was a manufacturer of electro plated goods. Apprenticed to a Sheffield silversmith in 1887,
In 1890 he attended evening classes at the Sheffield School of Art where he met Alwyn Carr and then both had summer classes at the Royal College of Art. They set up a studio together in Chelsea in 1898 and shortly after moved the workshop to Fulham. Ramsden had the public relations flair while Carr provided the financial backing. The partnership was dissolved in 1919. 
From web searches I found this “Ramsden had up to 20 assistants working for him during the 1930′s but he never worked on a piece himself.” and also this “He only ever has two apprentices; Leslie Durbin from 1929 and Frederick Page from 1934.” Just shows info from the web needs treating carefully. What is clear is that Ramsden and Carr benefited from the demand for handmade silver during the arts and crafts movement and were happy to subcontract spinning and casting to expert artisans to produce goods at more affordable prices.

The mazer above is clearly based on the later 15th century mazers which had deep rims. Here are two originals from the chapter on mazers in my book.

And finally this is a one of my mazers, the only one I have done with a deep rim, most of our mazers have been the simpler 13th century sort with plain rims. This one was made from a very special piece of burr rown from a tree that grew a few hundred yards from my workshop.

It has just been bought as a gift for a very special person. I would love to make another though the silver price is very high at the moment so we may have top wait a little. More on the mazers and how I work on them with silversmith Owen Waterhouse here. and here.

Original mazers are very rare, probably less than 100 survive, St John Hope in his excellent research in 1887 found 64. An Elizabethan mazer was sold by auction house Wooley and Wallis recently for £205,000 making it by far the most valuable turned wooden item I know of.

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