Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Antique Silver

Do you collect antique silver?  Have you been thinking about it?

I have customers that collect a wide range of items. Vesta cases, snuff boxes, nutmeg graters, tea caddies, tea caddy spoons, master salts, candlesticks, card cases, wine/spirit labels, servers (asparagus, tomato, etc.), christening cups, trophy cups, napkin ring holders, timbales, and more.  Some of these items are a bit more challenging to collect.  Let’s look at nutmeg graters and yes they can be a bit more of a challenge.  Especially if you are looking for graters from the Georgian Era and you want to collect those that are whimsical in design.  I never ceased to be amazed at the details that a quality silversmith could impart to items that were both useful in form and function yet amusing in design.  Why nutmeg and why a nutmeg grater?  Here are a few facts behind theses interesting items, their purpose, and nutmeg in general.

The nutmeg (Myrstica fragrans) tree produces two spices. The spice nutmeg comes from the egg shaped seed of the tree and the spice mace comes from the covering of the seed.  It was used to flavor both food and drink during the Roman Empire,  Middle Ages, and the Renaissance Period.  The Dutch and English fought over control of group of islands that was the main source  for the spice during the 17th.  Century.   It was expensive, yet highly desirable. 

 By the late 17th Century warm drinks were very popular on both sides of the “big pond”. Brits and Americans were drinking, coffee, tea, and chocolate.  Warm punches followed and the other warm drinks and became very trendy.  Brandy or rum mixed with strained fruit and sugar with nutmeg being used as the “final touch”.

To add that final touch; a grater was necessary to rasp the small brown seed.  Small decorative “pocket sized” graters became a fashionable item.   No different than fashionable trends today; the desire to match or exceed one's peers helped to fuel the creativity we see today in these items.   Graters were created in wide range of whimsical or novelty shapes.  It is these that are most desirable and highly collected today.  Egg shaped, melon shaped, strawberry shaped are just a few of the creative designs used.   Graters were also created using other materials such as coquille nut and enamel which are also highly collectable.  Another collection…another day.

For more information and to view some of the "novelty shapes"; visit this  site which is devoted to silver collecting:

                    A nutmeg grater from my inventory that is egg shaped
                                          with engraved details (my photo)

                                          Notice the star shaped grater
                       Room for the nutmeg seed and a removable grater
                                                (photo my me)

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