That Golden Glow - II


Victorian English 15 Karat Gold "Button" Cufflinks with Torpedo Backs (LEO Design)


When buying cufflinks in England, if they happen to be silver or gold, I will usually ask the collector for the year and city of the hallmark.  He or she will dutifully pull out his loupe, grab his book of hallmarks, and squint into the glass—bringing the cufflink's hallmarks into focus.  If he lets-out a wistful "Ahhhhh....," I know that the piece must have been hallmarked in Chester.  It rarely fails.  The town of Chester holds some kind of romantic spot in the heart of British jewelry collectors.

Chester is located not far from Liverpool, in the industrial Northwest of England (which includes Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham).  Two thousand years ago, it was an important Roman fortress—and some of those walls remain today.  The walls still nearly encircle the town, though today they are a mix of Roman, Medieval, Restoration Period, Georgian and Victorian eras.

Chester had a sophisticated guild of silversmiths and goldsmiths from the 1400's.  In 1701, Chester opened an "Assay Office"—that is, an authorized place where metalworkers could take their wares to be tested and hallmarked (to ensure that the metal met "The King's Standard" of purity: 925 parts per 1000).  This assay office closed in 1962, which may account for the wistfulness felt by British jewelry collectors.

The Victorian English 15 karat gold cufflinks, shown above, were hallmarked in Chester in 1897.  The small faces are reminiscent of buttons.  But they are highly-textured, hand-engraved with swirling, vaguely organic elements.  The "torpedo" backs are also very handsome and visually substantial.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248