Two Jonas Osbornes — or just One?

Pair of spoons circa 1770
Fig 1

On two pairs of feather-edge teaspoons with shell bowls in our possession (Fig 1), there is a curious maker’s mark in a very distinctive punch which is not in Jackson, Grimwade or anywhere else that I could find. The maker’s mark is IO, as in Fig 2. The spoons are stylistically datable to 1765 – 75. They are well-made — clearly the work of a skilled spoonmaker.

Maker's mark and lion on the spoon pair
Fig 2

It is unfortunate that the mark must be one of those entered in the Register that covered 1758-1773, which is now missing from the archives of the Goldsmiths’ Company. On the other hand, their archives do contain an important source for the identity of goldsmiths active in the 1770s — the Parliamentary Report into Assay Offices compiled in 1773 that contains an appendix listing the Goldsmiths, Silversmiths and Plateworkers active in the City of London. This includes only one maker with the initials IO — Jonas Osborne, working in Little Britain who is listed as a spoonmaker.

Other archives of The Goldsmiths’ Company show that on 4th November 1772 Thomas Sharman, who had been apprenticed to Samuel Jarman (otherwise Jerman) in 1771, was turned over to ‘Jonas Osborne of Little Britain spoonmaker, Citizen and Musician’[1]. Thus Osborne was active before 1773, when Ambrose Heal first records him. Even so, Osborne’s career was a short one — I have found no reference to Osborne after his bankruptcy in 1774, recorded by Heal.

With such a short career, it is not surprising that Osborne’s mark appears to be scarce.

It is interesting to speculate on Osborne’s further career after 1774. Possibly he went on to become a journeyman in some larger establishment. However, genealogical databases tell us that the name Jonas Osborne is comparatively unusual: there is a silversmith of that name in Dublin who operated from 1784 until1809. And this Jonas Osborne’s mark is found predominantly on spoons!

To make a link between these two Jonas Osbornes is tempting, but without a shred of documentary evidence — so far.


Luke Schrager


[1]              Goldsmiths’ Company Apprenticeship Book 8, p.203.

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