MAKER’S MARKS

Introduction

This article is a photo catalogue and translation of the ‘Maker’s Marks’ engraved on the underside of silver in the ‘David and Kathleen Owens Collection’. Ninety-four pieces in the collection have a base engraving, representing 72% of the collection total. A maker’s mark is most commonly found on offering bowls. There are seven loosely defined ‘groups’ of marks based on the design and the iconography.

1. Animals
2. Astrological
3. Birds
4. Floral
5. Human
6. Mythological
7. Text

Individual pieces may have a mark with design elements from multiple groups.

Marks on Burmese silver are largely decorative and rarely provide any information regarding the quality of the silver or the name of the silversmith. There was no system of regulated hallmarks or producer’s marks akin to the British and European traditions that date from the 14th century. The turbulent history and the fragmented nature of the society in 19th and 20th century Burma were not conducive to the development and enforcement of silver regulations. Furthermore, many of the silversmiths worked independently from a young age, dependent on commissions from wealthy patrons, and didn’t belong to organized guilds or companies. Also, the literacy rate was low.

Text engravings are the most common maker’s mark on silver produced during the Burmese ‘Silver Age’. Typically, the engraving records the owner’s name, most likely the patron who commissioned the piece, and the completion date in the Burmese Era calendar. The silversmith’s name is rarely added to Burmese silver, although the recognized master silversmiths were more in the custom of engraving their name, or initials, on special, or exhibition quality pieces. This practice probably reflects increasing English influence after full colonization of the country in 1885. Burmese culture and religious considerations may also explain why silversmith’s rarely ‘signed’ their work.

Animals and birds are commonly used as maker’s marks. For example, the work of master silversmith Maung Shwe Yon (d. 1889) is associated with a deer engraving and the maker’s initials (MSY). The peacock was the official emblem of the Konbaung kings and continues to function as a symbol of national identity in modern Myanmar. A peacock mark on Burmese silver does not necessarily confirm a ‘royal court’ provenance.

In the 20th century, the colonial British commissioned silver as gifts, prizes and awards for service. Inscriptions to identify the occasion, or recipient, were often inscribed on the silver. One bowl in the collection (S016) carries a rim inscription that records a minor event in the colonial history of Burma – ‘Presented To U Po Myint, Headman Pyaleik Village, By D.S.P. Myaung Mya , For Assistance Rendered By Him In Arresting Absconder Wanted  In  F.I.R. No. 99/26 Lugaungyun P. 5’. One speculates on the fate of the arrested absconder. At the opposite end of the social and political spectrum, bowl S119 was a gift in 1899 from Lord Pentland, M.P., Secretary for Scotland, to Mr and Mrs Robert Simpson, the owners of a renowned maker of golf clubs at Carnoustie, Scotland. The family business continues to this day.

Maker’s marks on Burmese silver is eclectic in design and style, and largely reflects the whim of the silversmith or the owner’s instruction. The mark rarely offers any ‘consumer protection’ in respect to origin and quality. Silver content was often determined using the crude practice of scratching the silver with a hard stone and visually examining the scratch residue. A dark black colour signified a relatively high copper content. Further research is needed to better understand and classify the maker’s marks on Burmese silver.

Animals

S 010

S 050

S 053

S 063

S 081

S 090

S 094

S 100

S 106

S 017

S 115

S 129

# Form Burmese Engraving English Translation
S 081 Offering Bowl U Saw Marn. Ngueh Pala 1263 Mr Saw Marn’s Silver Bowl 1901
S 106 Offering Bowl U Pa Lor 1280 Mr Pa Lor 1918
S 129 Offering Bowl   Broker Ko Bo Thar

Astrological

S 115

S 129

Birds

S 005

S 014

S 015

S 033

S 036

S 048

S 051

S 058

S 065

S 084

# Form Burmese Engraving English Translation
S 014 Offering Bowl 1283 U Shwee Ba Ngueh Pala 1921. Mr Shwee Ba’s Silver Bowl
S 051 Offering Bowl 1278 U Mya Maung Ngueh Pala 1916. Mr Mya Maung’s Silver Bowl
S 058 Betel Box Myanmar Kor-Zar. Takaridth 1271 Ngueh It Myanmar Calendar Year 1909. Silver Container

Floral

S 006

S 021

S 031

S 040

S 046

S 047

S 055

S 058

S 093

S 011

# Form Burmese Engraving English Translation
S 046 Offering Bowl Daw Mya Yan Ngueh Pala 1263 Madam Mya Yan’s Silver Bowl 1901
S 047 Offering Bowl Daw Kyin Ngueh Pala 1290 Madam Daw Kyin’s Silver Bowl 1928
S 055 Offering Bowl U Karin Pala 1269 Mr Larin’s Bowl 1907
S 058 Betel Box Myanmar Kor-Zar Takaridth 1271 Ngueh It Myanmar Calendar Year 1909 Silver Container
S 055 Offering Bowl Maung Hlaing Pala 180 Tola Am-Deh-Yeh Kim-Bar-Zeh 1895 1st Week 2nd Day January. Chaudakha Township. Mr Hlaing’s Bowl. 180 Tola. Wishes for safety and to avert danger
S 084 Offering Bowl Daw Shan Ma Ngueh Pala Madam Shan Ma’s Silver Bowl

Human

S 040

S 049

S 081

S 089

Mythological

S 006

S 021

S 031

S 040

S 046

S 047

S 055

S 058

S 093

S 011

# Form Burmese Engraving English Translation
S 075 Lime Box 1276 1914 Completed at the end of Taw Tha Lin Month
S 082 Offering Bowl U Kham Lone 1290 Mr Kham Lone 1928
S 086 Treasure Box Po Kyaw Thi ta Po Kyaw’s Box

Text

S 001

S 007

S 016

S 019

S 020

S 024

S 038

S 039

S 042

S 044

S 047

S 055

S 057

S 059

S 060

# Form Burmese Engraving English Translation
S 001 Offering Bowl 1215 Wa Kaung Lar Sein. U Lon Thar. Ngueh Pala 1853 7th July. Mr Lon Tar’s Silver Bowl
S 007 Offering Bowl 1290. Daw Khin Chai. Ngueh Pala 1928. Madam Khin Chai’s Silver Bowl
S 016 Offering Bowl   Coombes Company Ltd Rangoon
S 019 Betel Box   Mr Ka Sin’s Betel Nut Box. Weight 78 Dingga.
S 020 Bowl   Sun Co Rangoon
S 024 Betel Box ? Pali Script ?
S 038 Offering Bowl U Thar Hia. Ngueh Pala Mr Thar Hia’s Silver Bowl
S 039 Offering Bowl U Ba Khine. Ngueh Pala Mr Ba Khine’s Silver Bowl
S 042 Offering Bowl 1271. Daw Pwar Oo. Ngueh Pala 1909. Madam Pwar Oo’s Silver Bowl
S 044 Offering Bowl 1290 1928
S 047 Offering Bowl 1290 1928
S 055 Offering Bowl U Karin. Pala. 1269 Mr Karin’s Bowl. 1907
S 057 Offering Bowl 1280. U Pho Saung. Ngueh Pala 1918. Mr Pho Saung’s Silver Bowl
S 059 Offering Bowl 1283. Daw Than Myaing. Pala 1921. Madam Than Myaing’s Bowl
S 060 Offering Bowl U Aung Kyi Pala Mr Aung Kyi’s Bowl