History of W.J. Sanders

William James Sanders an accomplished silversmith was born in 1885 in the jewellery district of Birmingham, England. As an apprentice he learnt his craft at the noted Vittoria St. School of Jewellers and Silversmiths. He gained practical expertise while in the employ of Levi and Salaman and later as a factory manager for C. Lyster and Son, manufacturing silversmiths of Birmingham.

William Sanders chose to emigrate and on arrival in Sydney in 1911, set about establishing his own business. By 1912 his small workshop located in Sabiel's Building at 80 Hunter Street was engaged largely in restoration and repair work for the trade.

Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, regular shipments of British and continental silverwares were interrupted. Long established jewellery houses and wholesalers soon turned to local manufacturers for supplies. W.J. Sanders took up the challenge and began manufacturing much of the small silver work then in demand. By 1915, he had moved to larger premises at 212 Clarence St, where his output included trinket boxes, cigarette cases, vesta matchboxes, matchbox holders, photo frames and napkin rings. Popular ladies accessories followed with individual sporting shields, cups and trophies made to order.

Sanders' business continued to expand in 1924; a further move was made to Bowen’s Building at 1 Lee Street, Railway Square. This was to be the location of W.J. Sanders, manufacturing silversmiths, goldsmiths and art metal workers for close on half a century. Sanders production of sterling silver tableware was extensive. The ware included tea and coffee servers, sauceboats, condiment sets, tankards, beakers, jug numerous christening and presentation mugs. Salvers were made in considerable numbers. The greater proportion small work and table silverware produced by W.J. Sanders was manufactured prior to the Second World War. Collectors of Australian silver now eagerly seek many of these items.

The wide range of sterling silver goods produced would bear the standard mask. The four stamps "W.J.S.", "925" and the characteristic "STG" together with an "ELEPHANTS HEAD" have been used by W.J. Sanders, W.J. Sanders Pty Ltd and subsequently Amor – Sanders Pty Ltd from c. 1915. The elephant's head has its origin in the coat of arms of the Sanders family.

Much of the silverware designed and manufactured by William Sanders was made for the better-known jewellery houses and department stores including David Jones, J.M. Dempster, Drummonds, Fairfax and Roberts, S. Hoffning and Company, Hardy Bros., W. Kerr and Prouds. The marks of these companies were stamped on the silverware that Sanders made for them. The wares are documented in Sanders 'Pattern Books'.

With the outbreak of the Second World War this firm of skilled metal workers was soon involved in the production of aircraft components for the ministry of Munitions.

The untimely death of William James Sanders occurred later in 1946 at the age of 61. His obituary records: "With the passing on Saturday, November 30, of Mr W. (Bill) Sanders, one of Australia's foremost goldsmiths and silversmiths, the trade has lost one of its most respected and popular craftsmen."

Control of the family business passed to his widow, Mrs Ellen Sanders, who was actively involved in its operations until 1958. Their son, John William Sanders, joined the business in 1947 and was responsible for its management from 1948. The 1950's and 60's were a period of considerable church building and refurbishment. John Sanders greatly expanded the company's production of church plate and ecclesiastical metalware at that time.

Many fine examples of their ecclesiastical work – chalices, ciboria, tabernacles and monstrances are found in places of worship throughout Australia and New Zealand.

A major proportion of W.J. Sanders ecclesiastical silverware has been manufactured for several church supply stores of Sydney. These establishments, past and present, include Church Stores, CMS Church Supplies, E.J. Dwyer, Louis Guille, R.C. Lacey, Pellegrini and Company and S.M. Wallace. Individual items of church plate bear the mark of the supplier plus the sterling silver stamp of W.J. Sanders. Sanders produced a vast range of church furnishings – art metal wares in brass and bronze such as lecterns, candle stands, processional and altar crosses – for well over half a century.

By the early 1920's W.J. Sanders had established itself as the premier trophy maker and was at that time commissioned by Hardy Bros to make the Sydney Cup, the original being a traditional two-handled cup manufactured in 18ct gold.

Another example is The Kings Cup, an 18ct gold trophy given by King George VI for the spring carnival race meeting, Sydney, 1939. Inevitably the elaborate, hand-crafted gold racing trophies of the Victorian age have given way in more recent times to simpler forms-traditional and modern. W.J. Sanders continued designing and manufacturing many different racing trophies for carnivals Australia-wide, mainly in sterling silver and electroplated nickel silver (EPNS). These include such trophies as The Liverpool Cup, The Grafton Cup, The Kalgoorlie Cup and many more that are still made annually.

Outside of horse racing, W.J. Sanders became widely known for their manufacture of many different sporting trophies, large and small. A fine example is The Colin Rodgers Cup made for Hardy Bros. in 1921. From this time on, many Sanders trophies were commissioned by the better known jewellery houses and by the clubs themselves, covering a wide range sports: air races, yachting, rifle shooting, boxing, athletics, and many more.

A large selection of handsome W.J. Sanders trophies can still be found in the golf clubs that surround Sydney. Many of the perpetual trophies of The Australian Golf Club were lost in a disastrous fire that destroyed the clubhouse in 1983. The company was given the task of reproducing the Club's important trophies, originally made half a century before.

In 1971 when W.J. Sanders Pty Ltd merged with badge maker W.J. Amor Pty Ltd, the manufacturing facilities were combined with those of the latter company at Marshal Street, Surry Hills. Thus from the 1971, the manufacture of silverware and art metal wares was undertaken in parallel with the production of medals, medallions and badges under the name of Amor-Sanders Pty Ltd. John Sanders retired in 1984.

In 1996 the Amor-Sanders Company was dissolved, and W.J. Sanders commenced trading independently once again, its premises now located at Marrickville in Sydney's inner west.

Author, social and industrial historian and silver enthusiast Kenneth Cavill first wrote the history of W.J. Sanders in 1984; an updated version was published in Australiana magazine in May 1998. W.J. Sanders is well represented in most Australian publications written on silversmiths, jewellery and antique silver.


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