Each raised on 3 stylized Dolphin feet, the scalloped bowls with gadroon borders and the front sections peirced with crosses, scrolls, circles and commas. The backs raised up and each with a cast shell and scroll handle curling towards the front, the ends terminating in a female head looking upwards. The backs of the bowls, below the handles, with chased entwined mermaid tails above a cluster of various shells.
These shells are derived from an original by Paul De Lamerie made in 1747. At over 14" wide his version, which is now in the Ashmolean, was considerably larger and must rank as one of the most stunning pieces of silver to have been made in the 18th century. P.S.A Phillips in his pioneering study of Lamerie written in 1935 says "nothing more successful as table ornaments ever emanated from the goldsmith's workshop". Other similar examples appeared a few years later by other silversmiths and examples can be found from the Regency period. With the dawn of the 20th century there were a few firms specialising in high quality reproductions: D & J Wellby, Arthur and Frank Parsons (Tessier), Pairpoint Brothers and Crichton Brothers. It was the last company that truly excelled in making the most varied and high quality copies.
In making these shell dishes Crichtons reduced them in size by almost a third. The result is stunning as all the details had to be finely finished to create a suitable effect. There have been collectors of Crichton's work some of which was sold by Sotheby's New York a few years ago. However the originals are mostly in museums or well-known collections and the price tags usually contain a large number of noughts! These dishes are a very useful size, beautifully made and a fraction of the price.