One of a set of six Chinese export silver forks stamped "CUT" and pseudo-hallmarks including a profile head facing right, crowned leopard head, and lion passant on the back of the fork, made by Cutshing, a well-known silversmith who worked at 8 New China Street in Canton circa 1830-1870. Silver attributed to his workshop always exhibits the highest quality, and many pieces survive. New China Street formed one of the three lanes filled with shopkeepers in the foreign factories area of Canton. Silver, a highly desirable commodity in China, poured into the country in large quantities in exchange for Chinese goods. Cantonese artisans working in silver had access to a steady supply of Spanish silver coins, particularly 'ocho reale' pieces or Spanish dollars, minted in Spain, Mexico, or Peru, and stamped with Chinese shroff marks. While silver never became a significant Chinese export in comparison to other items, by the 19th century the low cost of labor in China made the export of cast, applied, or repoussé silver items profitable for traders. Chinese silversmiths excelled at creating copies of popular American and English silver; the fiddle, thread, and shell pattern on this fork proved one of the most popular Chinese silver designs of the mid-19th century. The Chinese reinterpreted the fiddle and thread pattern with two-piece construction soldered with a scarf joint, instead of the Western one-piece forged construction; a scarf joint is made by cutting two corresponding pieces of silver, overlapping them, and securing them by soldering. They also used thick castings that give the metal a heavy weight. The pseudo-hallmarks imitate English examples; Cantonese silversmiths had no guild system that required them to submit their work for assay or testing. Free of any guild standards for purity, Chinese silver varied greatly; it usually ranged between 840 to 980 parts silver per 1,000. Today's sterling standard for silver is 925 parts silver per 1,000.
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