Silversmith Henry Clifford Davis And The Firm's Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Makeup Compacts
Some of our favourite sterling silver and guilloche enamel powder compacts are vanities crafted by Henry Clifford Davis. The wide variety of lid decorations and exquisitely beautiful compositions ensure these luxury accessories pride of place in any collection. This maker was known for supplying high quality cased silver flatware, condiment sets, cases and vanities to jewellers throughout Great Britain.
Henry Clifford Davis entered the first of several marks with the Birmingham Assay Office in April 1901 and then the first of several marks were entered with the Chester Assay Office on the 28th April 1910.
This firm of silversmiths was active at 121 Vyse Street, Hockley, Birmingham c.1910. The premises had the appearance of a residential property. Vyse Street is a well known location in the Birmingham jewellery quarter and at this time many houses in the area served as jewellery workshops and also dwellings for the owners of the jewellery concerns and their families. The firm relocated to Harford Works, Harford Street, Hockley a few years later c.1913.
During World War I the company helped in the war effort by manufacturing Fuze components and aircraft parts. The extract below was taken from the 1918 Directory of Manufacturers in Engineering and Allied Trades. At this time the workforce was predominantly female, most able bodied men were away fighting. A staff of one hundred and ninety women and twenty men worked for Henry Clifford Davis in 1918.
DIRECTORY OF MANUFACTURERS IN ENGINEERING & ALLIED TRADES
It is curious that the surname has an e, whereas all other sources we can find note the firm as being Henry Clifford Davis and so this is probably a typo in the catalogue. The location, date and pre-war work listed as Manufacturing silversmiths is all correct for Henry Clifford Davis.
23 - 26 WARSTONE LANE HOCKLEY
By the early 1930s the firm had relocated to 23 Warstone Lane, Hockley, Birmingham. When you note the depth of the building you will see that this is a very large manufacturing premises.
From 1933 the firm was styled as H.Clifford Davis Ltd.
The compacts shown below are in our collection and available to view in more detail on our website.
A divine fully hallmarked solid silver makeup compact with stunning guilloche enamel. The lid features enamel fashioned in the classic Art Deco sunrise design with a hand chaste border and the most enchanting floral display. The hand painted flowers are commonly known as Love in a Mist (Nigella damascena).
The compact shown above has hand chaste silver details which border a cross hatch guilloche design. The angular sloped shoulders (edges) are typical for the Art Deco period. It was also the norm for these types of vanities in the late 1930s to hold only loose face powder, which was considered to have a more natural look and also to be less harsh on the skin than the pressed foundation powder available at the time. Most British made vanities designed for loose face powder contained a powder well with a custom made sifter. This tight fitting sifter or gauze would form a seal which would keep the loose face powder pressed down. Many of these compacts also had internal powder well lids which added another barrier to prevent loose powder from escaping.
Within two decades, new formulations of pressed face powder were so easy to use and gave such a flawless finish that demand grew for this cosmetic.
The manufacturers of vanities followed suit and made their powder compacts convertible.
In the context of vanities the term convertible means that the powder compact is suitable for both loose and pressed face powder.
It is highly likely that production of silverware and vanities ceased during World War II (1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945), as factories were given over to the war effort. Unlike many factories in Birmingham, 23 - 26 Warstone Lane appears to have escaped major damage in the Birmingham Blitz which lasted from August 9 1940 - April 23 1943. Birmingham was the third most bombed city in England during WWII, only Liverpool and London suffered more damage to their industrialized areas from the bombing raids of the German Luftwaffe.
By 1946 British manufacturers of vanities were crafting their luxurious creations once again and although there were shortages of metals, raw materials and equipment their spirit of determination ensured that they would do their very best to supply superbly made high quality silverware and accessories to their customers. As you can see from the fabulous vanities below.
A really lovely fully hallmarked solid silver and enamel luxury makeup compact. The lid is decorated with the most gorgeous guilloche enamel. A highly stylized rising sun is adorned with exquisite Dog-roses and forget-me-not flowers. Such romantic imagery! This luxury powder compact is suitable for all loose foundation.
This engraved compact was crafted by the firm in 1955. The lid is so beautifully engraved that even without the application of enamel this vanity is enchantingly beautiful. Grapes hanging from the grapevine is an unusual lid decoration. This compact is suitable for all loose foundation.
The image above shows the guilloche detail. At the bottom of the lid the semi-circle represents the rising sun. Sun rays emanating from the rising sun cover the whole of the lid. Translucent enamel is applied over the engraved design of the rising sun and sunrays. The translucent quality of this medium allows the engraved design underneath to show through. As the compact is moved and the light catches the enamel the pattern appears to change slightly giving it a mesmerising quality.
This superb fully hallmarked silver and guilloche enamel loose powder compact was made by the esteemed maker Henry Clifford Davis. This absolutely enchanting vanity is decorated with exquisitely beautiful harebells and thistles - a nod to Scotland, as harebells are often called Scottish bluebells in Scotland and the thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland since the reign of King Alexander II (24 August 1198 – 6 July 1249).
As well as being the national emblem of Scotland, the thistle represents strength, determination, bravery and devotion to the Celts.
Harebells symbolise everlasting love.
As a specialist maker of luxury hallmarked silver vanities the firm knew that many ladies require impressive handbag mirrors which could accommodate modern pressed foundation. In 1953 Max Factor released their Creme Puff pressed foundation range. This foundation is the same size today as it was back in the day. Max Factor Creme Puff, Rimmel Stay Matte and Rimmel Natural Bronzer all have metal powder pans which measure 57 mm diameter.
It is possible to find Henry Clifford Davis powder compacts which are suitable for standard sizes of pressed foundation. Our listings give details of whether compacts are suitable for use with loose or pressed foundation. Many are suitable for both. Some are just compact mirrors.
A very prepossessing fully hallmarked solid silver powder compact for pressed and loose foundation which was crafted in 1959 by Henry Clifford Davis. The lid is adorned with white guilloche enamel in the style of an Art Deco sunrise. Two tone pink and gold roses form an enchantingly beautiful composition. The powder well can accommodate both pressed powder pans or loose face powder.
A rare fully hallmarked sterling silver and guilloche enamel powder compact embellished with an enchanting bouquet of hand painted flowers which include white forget-me-nots, a lovely cornflower and what appear to be wild roses. The bouquet is tied with an elegant cornflower blue ribbon. This lovely vanity is suitable for use with all loose face powder, as well as many pressed foundation brands. All standard sizes of pressed face powder will fit this compact.
Max Factor Creme Puff and Rimmel Stay Matte.
By the early to mid 1960s most British powder compacts were made for both types of face powder. Max Factor Creme Puff was especially popular at the time and still is today. Fortunately, Max Factor has not changed the size of the pressed powder pan since its launch in 1953.
MARKS OF THE FIRM
BIRMINGHAM ASSAYED 1904
HCD into a chamfered rectangle
BIRMINGHAM ASSAYED 1912
H.C.D into a chamfered rectangle
BIRMINGHAM ASSAYED IN 1960
HCD into conjoined circles