Hester Bateman is truly one of the most famous and world renowned female silversmiths. She is so renowned that her Mark can double and sometimes triple the value of a piece. Many think that this is because she was a female silversmith, but she was by no means the only one around at the time. In fact, she has a huge following of American collectors, which helps to maintain the high price and desirability of her pieces. Interestingly, her career as a silversmith was never actually intended. This possibly makes her skill and shrewd business instincts even more impressive!
Hester was born in 1708 and baptised later that year in London on the 7th of October 1708. Around the age of 15 Hester married John Bateman, a chain maker and wire drawer in central London in 1732. Together, they had five children: John, Peter, Jonathan, Letitia, and Ann. Their sons, Peter and Jonathan, were both doing their silversmith apprenticeships. When John died in 1760 however, he entrusted Hester with his small workshop practice. This suggests that she was already an accomplished silversmith. In order for a woman to become a member of the craft at this time she had to have lived with her husband for 7 years.
A year later, in 1761, Hester registered her own mark (HB) at the Goldsmith’s Hall as a smallworker, progressing to the mark of a goldsmith by 1773. It is likely that some of her work may have been attributed to others and obliterated. This is because many potential buyers might have disregarded her work as it was crafted by a woman.
By the mid-1770s Hester’s work became more widely recognised. She she started using modern techniques to create flatware, salvers, sauceboats, tea and coffee pots. Some of her most attractive and sought after pieces were wine labels/bottle tickets.
In 1790, Hester retired at the impressive age of 81. Sadly, in 1791 Jonathan died, leaving Peter Bateman without his two key partners. He turned to his sister-in-law Anne Bateman, making her a partner in the business and in 1791 registering their joint mark. In 1800 Jonathan and Anne’s son, William, became a partner in the family business, and registered as William I Bateman from 1915-1940. His son, William II, continued the family tradition of silversmithing as a plateworker, registering his first mark in 1815. He worked until his death in the mid-1870s.
Hester’s pieces may be deemed the ‘most’ desirable and collectable Bateman silver. However, items marked with PB over JB, the partnership mark of Peter and Jonathan, are scarce and have a rarity value. This is because this partnership only lasted for five months before Jonathan’s death in April 1791.