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   Articles about antiques > Silver


Views: 3309 Added: 04/14/2009 Updated: 04/14/2009

As this is such a large field and our space is limited, what follows is just the tip of the iceberg. We have chosen to give a brief look at a few of the more popular items which are of interest, both to the new collector and those with a more specialized area.

WINE TASTERS The history of silver wine tasters goes back over six centuries, and relatively few survive. Of the silver tasters available, most are French. Very few were made in England after 1750, and the survivors are rare indeed from that period. In France however, there has been a constant business in the making of tastevins which continues to the present. They are characteristically modeled with a slightly bossed bottom and with dimpled recesses or hollow gadrooning so that the color and clarity of the wine, when twirled, can be best examined.

WINE FUNNELS These are used to avoid spillage when pouring from one vessel to another. Wine also needs gentle handling and does not like being shaken, splashed or aerated. These problems can be minimized by using a wine funnel, the cranked spout of which sends the wine smoothly down the wall of the decanter. Certain wines contain a fine sediment or coarse encrustation or even bits of cork, dislodged when a corkscrew punctures the cork. For this reason funnels have coarse and fine filters, the first being the pierced silver and the second, the muslin usually held in place by a silver ring. From the 1760's they are seen quite frequently; but as they were utilitarian items they are often damaged especially at the tip of the spout. As far as funnel stands are concerned, they were made in the 18th century but not many survive and then only a small percentage with their original stands.

WINE LABELS The original term is bottle tickets. The collection of these is so popular that a great body of information has been compiled by members of the Wine Label Circle founded in 1952. It seems that the earliest identified, an escutcheon shape, date from the 1730's. Hallmarking laws excluded the need to mark anything weighing less than 10 pennyweights before 1790, so most early labels are marked only with the makers mark. However, it seems silver wine labels were not that popular from the 1740's to the early 1760's, perhaps due in part to enamel labels being made at Battersea, Bilston and other Staffordshire factories. After 1760 many different shapes appear -- crescents, scrolls, narrow rectangles and ovals to name but a few. About 1800 cast shapes of substantial size and weight are found, such as a vine leaf. Later on initials are seen. These signify an owner not the wine. Sets of labels are more valuable than single examples but are harder to find.

WINE COASTERS seem to have become popular in the 1760's, originally referred to as bottle or decanter slides or stands. The term coaster came into more general use at the end of the 19th century. The baize-lined bottoms facilitated coasting along the polished surface of a dining table when the cloth was removed. They have been made in styles following prevailing fashions from rococo in the 1760's to very simple neoclassical design.

Author:   Kathleen & Roger Haller
Phone: (212) 628-5606
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