How do we know?

 ORM 2017/178 Napkin ring, Gift of the Gartrell family Stokes & Sons, EPNS napkin ring with engraved floral motif and beaded edges

An object can tell many stories, and sometimes a bit of investigation is required to find out all of its secrets.

Most pieces of silver or plateware will feature a manufacturer’s mark. These marks can help you identify where the object was made, by whom and when. This napkin ring, recently donated to Orange Regional Museum, has a manufacturer’s mark featuring a six pointed star with an “S” within, and an upturned boomerang above. Under the star and boomerang are the letters “EPNS S&S”.

ORM 2017/178 Napkin ring

We know that “EPNS” refers to the material the napkin ring is made of, electroplated nickel silver. To identify the other marks on the napkin ring we used a few simple online resources; firstly the directory of Australian Silversmiths ( which gives an alphabetical list of silversmiths and marks. Assuming that the “S” is significant as it appears within the star and is also feature in the last section of the mark “S&S”, a quick look under ‘S’ leads us to a very similar mark by Thomas Stokes who was active in Melbourne from the 1850s.

Using this information we then verify the mark through a matching example in another museum’s collection. On this occasion we searched the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ (MAAS) collection. Searching by the term ‘Thomas Stokes’ in the online catalogue ( we find a decorative napkin ring made by Stokes and Sons in Melbourne c1920 with a matching manufacturer’s mark (

Having positively identified the mark we conclude that the “S&S” refers to Stokes and Sons. Thomas Stokes emigrated from England in the 1850s and by 1856 had established himself as prominent a metalwork silverware producer. From 1896 Thomas’s sons, Harry, Thomas Jr. and Vincent, joined the firm and it began trading as Stokes & Sons. The MAAS has undertaken research into the manufacturer allowing us to establish a date range of manufacture as being between 1896 and 1920 by Thomas Stokes and his sons at their factory on Caledonian Lane, Melbourne, Victoria.

Why not see if you can find out about your own objects at home? We would love to hear about any discoveries.


by Jessica Dowdell In Collections, Recent News on