Silver Hippo Cufflinks
They have been constructed out of sterling silver. Four blanks are pressed out of virgin silver sheet: two are plain blanks; while the other two have a recessed space to take the enamel. Lead jump rings are soldered to each blank. We have to use hard solder because the enamel sides are subsequently subjected to high temperatures in the enamelling process (firing). The connecting chain is then assembled from silver wire. We find five rings make for a perfect distance between the two faces. The chain is not fitted at this stage.
The links then go over to the enameller who starts by applying a white background into the recess. The white is built up slowly and the link might be fired two or two three times. The outline of the Hippo is then painted onto the white background and the link is fired once more. The next phase is the application of the distinctive pink, which might take two or three coats, with firing between each coat, and with each coat getting darker to give shape and form to the Hippo. When the enameller is happy with the rendition, the well is slowly filled to the brim with clear flux and it could be fired two or three times more. The clear flux is finally stoned to a polish and it acts as a protector to the painting below.
Back to the silversmith, the faces have their connecting chain attached and soldered up before going off for hallmarking. Our work is sent to the Sheffield Assay Office where our maker's mark is struck along with the other marks indicating the quality of the silver (925 = Sterling), where it was assayed (Sheffield) and the date year. They are returned to the finisher for their final polish.
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