Sydney's Silver

Sydney's Silver


Made in Sydney in the 1830's, these elegant, Fiddle Pattern spoons are accompanied by their maker's turbulent narrative, which is one of success, ruin and success again...


Alexander Dick arrived in Sydney in 1824 as a free settler having emigrated from Scotland and was quick to establish himself. By 1826 he was advertising his silversmithing business at 104 Pitt Street and by 1828 a census records that he employed two other silversmiths, two jewellers and a servant girl. Growth continued, allowing him to move to larger premises at 6 Williams Place and employ additional craftsmen.


In 1829 a convict named Alexander Robertson, who had been assigned to work for Dick, accused his employer of receiving some twelve dessert spoons stolen from the home of the colonial secretary, Alexander McLeay. This accusation was the result of a vendetta Robertson was pursuing against Dick for giving him 25 lashes, but nonetheless the Scottish immigrant was charged with receiving stolen goods, found guilty and sentenced to 7 years in prison.


Despite this disaster many upstanding tradesmen and leading citizens testified to Dick's good character and even helped support his wife during his absence. This may have had some positive effect on the authorities as in 1833 Governor Bourke pardoned him, explaining rather cryptically that "some favourable circumstances have been represented to me on his behalf".


Unperturbed by his brush with the law, Dick returned to Sydney and resumed business, which continued to flourish, allowing him to set up an even larger operation in the most fashionable area of the city. There he worked as a retailer, a silversmith and an importer of clocks, watches, and jewellery, employing many skilled Scottish immigrants, whose journey's to Australia he personally sponsored. The business remained trading there until his death in 1843.


Dick's works were Classical Revival in style, and often included elaborately embossed scenes. One such example is an embossed silver snuff box from 1835 (now at Powerhouse Museum, Sydney) which includes the first-known scene of Sydney wrought in silver, and the first-known representation of an Aborigine in silver. He made many other significant silver pieces, including the now lost Sydney Subscription Cup of 1834 and the bell-shaped Cavan Challenge Cup of 1836.


Today, his silver pieces continue to prove popular, often fetching high prices at auction. In 2011 an important three piece silver tea set realised £42,000 at Tennants in Yorkshire, and in 2012 some dessert spoons sold for over £2,500 at an Australian auction.


£300 - £400