In 2019, a private client brought a family heirloom to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center for conservation. This heirloom was a nineteenth-century yachting trophy won by one of her ancestors in 1896 and had been used as a punch bowl, resulting in its subsequent damage (figs.1-3). The owner hoped that we could repair the shattered glass bowl and clean the silver ornament; she had felt that the bowl was so compromised that she would need to have an artist replicate the bowl. This was concerning, since this action would destroy the integrity of the artifact, possibly result in more damage, and decrease its value. With this in mind, the owner agreed with our approach to preserve and restore the glass bowl of this unique artifact.

A Complex Condition

This yachting trophy was no ordinary prize. Many of these trophies are unique artistic works that are not only ornamental, but simultaneously function as fine art sculptures. This complex sculpture has three sections constructed from two distinct materials: glass and silver. The base is composed of two silver dolphins supporting a silver, vertical banded cage. Within this cage is a green, multi-lobed, blown glass bowl in the shape of a sea shell. At the top of the caged glass bowl, there is a silver decorative rim cover with the figure of a seated bi-pedal merman (figs. 3-4) blowing a conch shell. Inserted in the front panel of the rim cover is an enameled medallion, depicting sailing boats. Associated with the trophy is an ornately decorated silver ladle, referencing its dual function as a punch bowl. The overall appearance of the trophy reveals that the decorative style of the work is Renaissance Revival from the mid to late nineteenth century. This style revisits the motifs and influences seen in early sixteenth century Italian goldwork and sculpture as represented by Benvenuto Cellini, a famous 16th c. Italian gold smith, in his “Saliera” (Paris, 1540-43) [1]. The information acquired from the owner was very slim and there were a number of questions on both its history and construction, such as what silver alloy was used. Through careful examination and research into inscriptions on the trophy, we ascertained valuable information pertaining to its design and function. The following discoveries and conclusions show that with careful observation and access to the internet, anyone can explore the history and fabrication of their heirloom.
FIGURE 1 . "Emerald Yachting Trophy", 1896, Before Treatment
FIGURE 2 . "Emerald Yachting Trophy", 1896, Before Treatment
FIGURE 3 . "Emerald Yachting Trophy", 1896, Before Treatment
Identifying Makers and Winners
The maker’s mark was visible on one vertical silver band at the back of the silver cage: “Whiting MF’G C/ New York/ stamp lion rampant facing left with a circular shield surround in the letter ‘W’/ Sterling, 5211/ 925 1000 FINE’ square stamp ‘W’ . This specifies the manufacturer as Whiting Manufacturing Company and identifies the metal as sterling silver (92.5% by weight of silver a nd 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper). The composition of the silver alloy was confirmed with instrumental analysis, using X-ray Flourescence (XRF). Three cleaned spots on the silver components were analyzed with a hand-held Nitron XRF unit, to determine the alloy and substructure. XRF identified that the piece was largely sterling silver with a lead-tin solder join along the top edge of the rim, and the alloy in the cast merman had a higher percentage of copper (approximately 10%).

Whiting Manufacturing Company was a silver company founded in 1866 in Attleboro, Massachusetts by William Dean Whiting. The Whiting Manufacturing Company was a prominent producer of sterling silver decorative objects in the nineteenth century. After a fire at the factory in 1875, the company relocated to New York City, where it produced silver objects that competed with Gorham and Tiffany. Gorham later purchased Whiting and made silver under the Whiting brand until it was discontinued in 1926 [2]. The maker’s mark indicates that this trophy was manufactured by Whiting after it relocated to New York City. Also, the mark tells us that the metal used in this trophy is sterling silver (92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper).

Further examination revealed three areas of inscriptions relating to its purpose as a Yachting trophy. The enamel medallion at the front of the silver rim represents the seal of the Atlantic Yacht Club: the monogram, motto, and year 1866 (fig.5). The band around the enamel medallion at the front of the rim cover reads “Intendemus Ventis Vela Secundis/ Atlantic Yacht Club”; the club’s seal translates to “The winds will intensify their sails”. The Atlantic Yacht club was established in 1866 and was one of the premier yachting clubs in New York City through the early 20th century. They hosted regular regattas, competing against the leading clubs in the region [3] . On either side of the medallion is a continuous banner that reads: “Gould Cup for Schooner Atlantic Yacht Club 1896”. The ‘Gould Cup’ was a thirty-three mile-long annual regatta established to commemorate one of their prominent members, Commodore Jay Gould. This trophy is for the Gould Cup that took place in 1896, marking the thirty-first annual regatta of the Atlantic Yacht Club. J.R. Whiting was a member of the Yacht Club in 1896 , making it unsurprising that his company designed this particular trophy [4].

FIGURE 4 . Detail of the cast merman
The other inscriptions reveal the specific regatta by date and winner. The oval globe on which the merman sits, has an inscription on the proper right side that reads “Annual Regatta/ June 16th”; the proper left side reads “Won by Emerald”. This description links our owner’s family to this trophy. The Emerald was a schooner belonging to John Rogers Maxwell (Henry C. Wintringham design, built in 1893 at the Samuel L. Moore & Sons shipyard, Elizabethport, NJ)”. That year, the Emerald beat the Amorita and carried off the handsome prize given by Commodore George J. Gould . A New York Times article dated June 17, 1896 describes the race:

“Commodore George Gould’s $1,000 cup for schooners was won yesterday by the Emerald. the accuracy of the time allowance system was severely tested by the Amorita’s struggle with the Emerald. Finishing far easter, she lost the race only by a fraction of a minute and kept the iron nerves of the Emerald’s owner, J. Rogers Maxwell, at full tension…”

The ladle that accompanies the punch bowl refers to another prize for the Emerald, won shortly after it was built. The inscription on the back of the ladle reads “New York Yacht Club/ Squadron Runs/ 1896/ won by/Emerald”. The maker’s marks are from the Gorham company: “lion/anchor/G; Sterling 8 3938”.
FIGURE 5 . Detail of the enamel medallion
A Fragmented Heirloom
As mentioned, the trophy came to us in poor condition. During examination, it was noted that the glass bowl had been previously repaired and then was either again damaged or the old repair failed. The areas of structural damage are found in the blown glass bowl and silver rim cover (figs.1-3).

There are three lobed sections of the glass bowl that show impact damage with a previous epoxy repair and green paint. The previous restoration assembled the glass fragments and then disguised the repair by sanding the surface of the glass and covering the entire area with a green epoxy paint and fill. This repair was failing: most of the fragments became detached and the overpaint had started to flake. After reassembling these fragments, it was discovered that there were a few midsize areas of loss (fig. 6). There are two stress cracks associated with this area of damage. One stress crack runs along the proper right side of the base for approximately three of the lobed-sections. On the opposite side of the area of damage, one lobed section has a curved stress crack that runs behind one of the vertical silver straps.

FIGURE 6 . During treatment image of the cleaning process demonstrating the reduction of the tarnished silver
Piecing Together a Family Heirloom
“Benevuto Cellini”. Accessible at:

"Whiting Manufacturing Company" Accessible at:

"Atlantic Yacht Club". Accessible at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Yacht_Club /

Atlantic Yacht Club, “Manual”, New York Harbor: The Club, 1897. Accessible at:

[5] The Journal. (New York, NY), Jun. 17 1896. Accessible at: https://www.loc.gov/item/sn84031792/1896-06-17/ed-1/
The silver rim cover was originally attached to the glass bowl and silver cage with red and white cement and putty. It arrived detached and an interior edge was bent inward, preventing the cover from sitting correctly on the glass bowl. This cover could not be placed directly on a flat surface, since that would result in further damage to the silver tassel motifs. Two of the decorative tassels were detached and many other tassels were bent and out of alignment. The silver components of the trophy were covered with an uneven brown and black tarnish layer. The glass bowl and enameled medallion surfaces were covered with polish residues, dust and grime.

The goal of the treatment was to reassemble the fragmented bowl and clean the silver components. Once all the glass fragments were dismantled and cleaned, the fragments were reassembled with a combination adhesive system. First, they were reattached in the proper orientation with a reversible acrylic resin. Once all the fragments were aligned, an optical epoxy was applied to all join lines. The areas of loss were filled with colored, optical epoxy fills that were cast and cut to fit the midsize losses and attached with reversible acrylic resin. Clear epoxy was used for some of the losses along the break lines. This combination adhesive system gave the repair strength, while allowing it to be reversible and re-treatable: a tenant of art conservation.

FIGURE 7 . During treatment image of the cleaning process demonstrating the reduction of the tarnished silver
The surfaces of the silver components were cleaned with solvent and aqueous solutions to reduce the dense tarnish matrix of oils, waxes, and silver sulfides (fig. 7). Once the surface was cleaned, it was polished with a slurry of precipitated calcium carbonate in a 1:1 ratio of deionized water and ethanol. The calcium carbonate residues were removed with final rinses of deionized water, ethanol, and naphtha.

The rim cover could not fit properly onto the top of the repaired bowl section due to the bent interior edge. This posed a challenge since the damage was a very tight inwardly bent section of silver plate. This repair required hot work done by a silversmith, since the metal would fracture and break if it was not annealed before bending. The original lead tin solder join located along the top edge of the cover needed to be repaired as well. Our local silversmith, Steve Smithers, annealed the bent silver plate and slowly worked it back into its original position. To repair the weaken lead-tin solder join, he used lead-tin solder with silver. The repair areas were re-finished and reintegrated with the surrounding silver surface. After all the repairs and polishing steps were completed, the silver rim was cleaned with naphtha and ethanol and the pieces finally fit securely together.

The trophy has now been returned to its owner, closer to its original appearance when it was given to J. Rogers Maxwell after his schooner had won the 1896 Atlantic Yacht Club Gould Regatta (figs. 8-9).
FIGURE 8 . "Emerald Yachting Trophy", 1896, After Treatment
FIGURE 9 . "Emerald Yachting Trophy", 1896, After Treatment