Rare Cape Silver (silver gilt) hairpin by Thomas Lock Townsend, circa 1815- 1849.
Dimensions: 17 cm long by 1.765 cm bowl diameter by 1.13 cm across the blade.
Weight: 12,8 grams.
Cape Silver hairpins are rare with 3 gold examples currently recorded and this silver gilt version. Two gold examples by Jacobus Johannes Vos are pictured in ‘A History of Cape Silver 1700-1870’ by David Heller on page 207. Another gold version by Peter Clarke Daniel was sold by The Old Corkscrew. Currently this silver gilt version is the only recorded version made in silver gilt, a process that required fire gilding of the silver. Gold was dissolved in mercury and then the amalgam was applied to the piece. Once evenly covered the piece was heated until the mercury burnt off leaving the gold surface known as silver gilt.
Hairpins were popular with the Malay woman at the Cape during the 19th century and examples are also found in Straits Chinese silverware made for the nonyas (Malay honorific referring to a married lady). See ‘Straits Chinese Silver, A Collector’s Guide by Ho Wing Meng’ page 114-119 for similar designs.