Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #51 - November 2015

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Is bigger always better? Well when it comes to antique silver Nutmeg Graters I tend to think it is. The systematic production of silver graters for nutmeg, the most stylish of spices, began in the late seventeenth century. An expensive and fragrant spice, nutmeg is the commercial name of the seed kernel of an evergreen tree, Myristica fragrans. It was imported into England from the East Indies, especially from islands that now form part of Indonesia. Initially nutmeg was believed to offer protection against the plague and many other illnesses, but by the 18th century it was more commonly used to flavour food and drink. It was an important ingredient of punch and hot mulled wine. Throughout the 18th century and on into the 19th, it was the fashion for men to carry nutmeg in a pocket-sized silver container equipped with a grater in order to add freshly grated nutmeg to punch and toddy recipes.

Most early specimens were formed as small boxes with provision to store the whole spice when not in use, and various shapes were popular, including the acorn the heart and the cylinder. By the late 18th century other shapes had become fashionable with egg, barrel and vase being amongst the most popular along with plain or cut-cornered rectangular, oval and domed. In the 19th century naturalistic forms including walnuts, melons, nutmegs themselves and even strawberries were produced.

Alongside these various pocket forms were larger 'Kitchen Graters', of cylindrical or semi-circular form with an uncovered grater and a hooped or pierced handle for hanging. There are also large examples described as 'Table Nutmeg Graters', but when does a 'Pocket' become a 'Table'?

The two examples currently in stock and illustrated above are both of generous proportions and in the case of the plain rectangular example by John Reily of London 1814, at virtually 7cms across, positively gargantuan in pocket nutmeg grater terms. Both also happen to be of particularly nice quality and further details can be found on the web site.
  1. A huge George III silver Nutmeg Grater of plain rounded rectangular form, the hinged cover engraved with a crest depicting a demi-lion holding a scallop shell, the interior with original pierced steel grater and the base with flat concealed hinge. By John Reily, London 1814.
  2. A very fine quality George III silver Nutmeg Grater of rounded oblong form, the lid and base with bright-cut engraved lattice work decoration, the sides with bright-cut engraved bands and contemporary initials, the hinged lid and base opening to reveal the original pierced steel grater. By Phipps & Robinson, London 1802.

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This months featured item is an extremely fine and currently unique, large Victorian silver "Castle Top" Vinaigrette of shaped rectangular form, the base and sides with foliate scroll engraving and a vacant cartouch, the lid with chased and engraved raised scene depicting the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal, in very high relief. The silver gilt interior with finely pierced foliate scroll grille with a flowerhead.

By Nathaniel Mills, Birmingham 1844.

Jeronimos Monastery

The Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) is located in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal. This magnificent monastery can be considered one of the most prominent monuments in Lisbon and is certainly one of the most successful achievements of the Manueline style (Portuguese late-Gothic). In 1983, it was classified by the UNESCO, with nearby Belém Tower, as a World Heritage Site.

Rare Early 20th Century Fan Shape Silver Butt Marker Pair Early George III Sprung Silver Asparagus Tongs Edwardian Scottish Silver Cream Scoop or Skimmer Pair Victorian Novelty Silver Horses Hoof & Fetlock Scent Bottles
Victorian Silver & Enamel Cube Shaped Trumps Marker Victorian Silver Wine Label Madeira "Lady Bountiful" George III Cast Silver Scallop Shell Wine Label 'Hock' Victorian 18crt Gold 'Calling Card' Vesta Case Charles Sydney Goldman

I am pleased to be able to update the site this month with over 50 new items of stock and some highlights include; a rare early 20th century silver fan-form silver shooting Butt Marker, a good pair of Georgian 18th century silver Asparagus Tongs, a Scottish silver Cream Skimmer, an unusual pair of horses hoof Scent Bottles, a Victorian silver and enamel Dice Trumps Marker, rare Georgian silver "Lady Bountiful" and Scallop Shell Wine Labels and a fine gold Calling Card Vesta Case.

Please make sure and check out the latest articles in our Blog, for all the latest news in the silver world and some other interesting features

I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques