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Sterling silver chalices donated to Memorial Church

STANFORD -- Two handmade sterling silver chalices were delivered to Stanford Memorial Church Easter week by their British creator, retired physiology Professor Declan Anderson.

Anderson, an amateur silversmith since World War II, made the chalices using the old-fashioned method of hammering flat silver into shape. These days, silver pieces are usually made through a spinning process involving a lathe.

The chalices, to be used for communion, are part of the church's new chancel furnishings, which were dedicated during Easter services Sunday, April 11. Also gracing the chancel are six high-backed, blue upholstered ecclesiastical chairs, an altar table and four "prie-dieux" (prayer rails).

The furnishings and chalices are a gift from Virginia Morrison and family in memory of Dean Morrison. A member of the class of 1930 in economics, Morrison was an active volunteer and with his wife donated two endowed chairs and numerous other gifts to Stanford.

Walter Jacobi & Sons of Belmont made the church's altar table and chairs. They also refurbished the prie-dieux.

Imbedded on the front of the new altar table is a mosaic of the "Chi-rho" medallion, an early Christian symbol for Christ. It was found among 1906 earthquake rubble under Memorial Church during the recent restoration. The Chi-rho medallion is a motif used on the walls of the church's vestibule.

Anderson, of Chelwood Gate, a village in Ashdown Forest about 30 miles south of London, said he worked on the chalices intermittently for a couple of months.

They were among the more difficult items he has ever made, said Anderson, whose has done hundreds of pieces for collectors in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Europe.

"I never raised pieces that high and narrow from single sheets," he said. Complicating matters was the fact that Stanford's two chalices, which he made in tandem, had to be "more or less the same."

Anderson, 73, worked from a design created by Dean of the Chapel Robert Gregg and his wife, Mary Layne.

Each bowl and base was "raised" (hammered against an anvil using very smooth steel hammers) from flat disks of sterling silver obtained from a London bullion merchant. The bowls were then soldered to the bases.

Once he finished the pieces, Anderson took them to the London assay office. There, officials took scrapings from each base and bowl to verify that the pieces contained at least 925 parts per thousand of silver, the minimum that meets the definition of sterling.

After polishing out the scraped areas, Anderson returned them to the assay office for stamping, a practice that dates back to the 1300s.

Thus, on the rim of each base are four hallmarks:

  • The unique mark for Anderson, which is the letters DJA in a distinctive-shape punch.
  • The year, indicated by a letter of the alphabet.
  • A forward-facing lion with tail, meaning the piece was made in England.
  • A leopard's head with whiskers, which is the symbol for the London assay office, where the pieces are registered.

Anderson's interest in silver developed during the war, when he signed up for a silversmithing class. He pursued silver work as a small-scale hobby during his long career as professor of physiology at Guy's Hospital at London University. He also taught at Bristol University, and spent one year as a visiting professor at the University of Oregon.

After retiring in 1983, Anderson stepped up his silver work, but more for enjoyment and challenge than for income. In fact, few silversmiths use the old hammer method anymore because they can't make a living at it, Anderson said.

Anderson carried the chalices to Stanford in a white oak box made by a dentist-friend, Dr. Lynton Howard, whose hobby is cabinet making.

Representatives of the Morrison family attended the Easter dedication service, as did Anderson and Albert and Arno Jacobi.

Rounding out the Memorial Church collection will be a processional cross being designed and fashioned by another artist in England. It will be made of sterling silver, inlaid with semi-precious stones.



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