The "repoussé" technique of embellishing decorative silver pieces is so synonymous with 19th century Baltimore silversmith Samuel Kirk that it is sometimes referred to simply as "Maryland silver." Both our Important Summer Auction
(held on June 13th) and our Sterling Silver Session
include several exemplary pieces of this style of silver, by Samuel Kirk & Son, Kirk-Steiff, and Jacobi & Jenkins.
Samuel S. Kirk came to Baltimore in 1815 at the age of 21, just having completed his silversmithing apprenticeship in Philadephia. He was the son of Quakers who both descended from families of English goldsmiths. Kirk first partnered with John Smith to open the shop of Kirk and Smith, which lasted seven years. It was not until later, however, when Kirk had moved on to a solo enterprise, that he began to produce the highly detailed "Repoussé" pattern for which he would become so well known. Kirk was using the established repoussé technique of pushing a pattern out from the backside of a piece, and finishing it with chasing on the front, and was likely influenced by East Indian design and French and Irish technique. But his skill was such that his work became an industry highwater mark, and spread the popularity of repoussé throughout the nation. Kirk famously made the flatware for the wedding of President James Monroe's daughter, as well as pieces for foreign dignitaries like Napoleon and General Lafayette. Kirk worked on his own until his sons came of age, at which time his firm became S. Kirk & Son (for a period it was S. Kirk & Sons, until two of his sons, skittish from the economic fallout of the Civil War, left the firm).