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In the space of a few months I have come across two identical examples of decorative tin ingots from the Mellanear Smelting Works.
The photo of the ingot on a white background was sent to me in July 2017 by Eugene whose brother-in-law saw it in the Antique Barn in Azel, near Bridgeport, Texas. He believed that it was brought from the North East States as all the barn’s items are purchased in that area.
The photo of the ingot on a yellow background appeared on eBay in July 2017 for sale at £650 but was not sold. John, the owner who lives in Scotland and deals with house clearances bought it from a local widow. She had a total of three Mellanear ingots and two other local Cornish ones which had come to her from late husbands Cornish side of the family when they all lived there a very long time ago. All five ingots are due to be auctioned in September 2017.
Both these ingots bear the name of Williams, Harvey & Co Ltd, Mellanear and have the common emblem of the Lamb and Flag. They measure 41 cm long and 6.7cm at the centre and weigh roughly 1.1 kgs.
In 1837 a new smelter was started by Williams & Harvey on land owned by Harvey & Co at Mellanear and operated when it was part of the Wheal Alfred complex and was finished by 1862. So there you have a date - 1837 to 1862; more likely to be the later end of the date range.
When consignments of tin were smelted; the local smelting house would produce ingots of a standard ‘brick’ size for export and transportation as that is the most easiest shape to pack the hold of a ship and in addition a decorative ingot was made to be placed on each cart of ingots in order to identify the source. They would be either a bar type design or a simple plaque.
These identification ingots had a value equivalent to the tin they contained and could be used as a form of currency (as in the 18th century) or melted down with the industrial ingots and used in the manufacture of tin items.
For this reason not many of them remain today but beware of modern replicas. The next photo is of modern replicas.
A collection of 20 genuine ones in pristine condition were valued on the BBC Antiques Road show in 2013 in the range of £5,000 to £10,000.
Surprisingly enough I came across another one for sale on eBay in August (2017). Thomas, who was selling it, tells me that it has been professionally cleaned and that it why it looks so good. He had others for sale.