Victorian Silver Plate Napkin Rings - The Victorian silver plated (electroplated) napkin ring was at one time a standard accessory at the well-appointed dining table, used for both special occasions and everyday meals. Napkin rings as we know them came into vogue in the Victorian period. The idea of a napkin ring is first mentioned in print in an 1838 magazine devoted to needlework. The first patent for napkin rings was issued in 1869. The 1867 Meriden Brittania Company catalog featured fifteen designs for napkin rings.
True Victorian figural napkin rings were manufactured between the 1870's and the late 1890's and largely disappeared by the turn of the twentieth century. Today, these authentic napkin rings are priced according to their rarity and quality.
The use of napkin rings was revived by some persons in the White House during the Eisenhower Administration as revealed by the Washington (D.C.) Sunday Star in its February 22, 1959 issue: "Although the Navy 'mess' at the White House was long for `men only,' it is now open to three women staff members. . . . Regulars at the `mess' have their own napkin rings, too, with their name in gold letters."
It may be of some historical interest to record the brief statement of Good Housekeeping in their issue of December 1956: "The first table napkin made its appearance in Reims, France, in the court of Charles VII. From the beginning of the fifteenth century, napkins were a luxury, lace-trimmed and elaborately embroidered. They were used exclusively in the palaces of kings and princes. Later, in the seventeenth century, they began to play an important decorative part in table setting-folded and pleated to represent birds, flowers, and the like."
A napkin ring usually had a monogram of a name or initials of a household member engraved on it so that the napkin in it could be reserved for that particular diner, and reused from meal to meal. Now days, many fine households have their family initial or name engraved on their fine silver. Many silver and silverplate napkin rings were simple cylinders, but the form was elaborated on significantly, eventually incorporating sculpted figures and intricate decorations into the design.
The James W. Tufts Company, one of the finest makers of silverplated napkin rings and other figurals, was the only company to consistently use the same sequence of numbers in their different types of plated articles. Tufts' silverplate napkin rings were always marked with the numbers 1400-1699. Antique and Victorian silver plate napkin holders exist in a great variety of styles. Silver-plated examples are moderately priced, and an interesting and varied collection can be assembled for your own dining needs.
Collectors should seek out examples of antique silverplate napkin rings that have spirited ornamentation or fanciful features as they have the greatest interest to your guests and will appreciate more quickly than relatively plain silver plated napkin rings. For a look at examples of a few fine figural silver napkin rings, visit Adamstown Antique Gallery on the Internet!
19th Century Silver & Silverplate Candlesticks, Chamber Sticks and Candelabras - Up until the mid-19th century, candles were the principal source of artificial light in the home. Candle holders were fashioned from many materials, including wood, pottery, porcelain, copper, brass, iron, pewter and, less commonly, silver or silver plate. Since their basic shape was dictated by the simple cylindrical form of the candle, they remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
The early 19th century brought with it the advent of the woven wick, stearine (a highly refined animal fat), and paraffin. Prior to this time, candles had been made of tallow (animal fat) or wax (vegetable fat). Candles usually burned inefficiently and resulted in messy drippings. Therefore, candlesticks almost invariably had saucer-like disks, called drip pans or bobeche, to catch the melted wax for re-use. At first, these wax catchers were located at or near the base, but by about 1800, they were always placed at the top and were often removable.
Candlesticks made primarily for stationary use on tables are typically 6” to 12” tall. They were often made in pairs, although the wealthy sometimes had sets of 4 or more. Chamber sticks, a more portable variety, are under 5” high and have an unusually wide saucer-like base, which caught dripping wax as the stick was carried room to room. Most have a finger loop for easy transport.
When greater amounts of illumination were needed, several candle holders could be clustered around a single shaft. This arrangement is called a candelabrum. Candelabra are typically quite elaborate. Some late examples even have pierced shades and spring-loaded holders to raise the candles as they burned. An essential feature of European and American life for centuries, candlesticks have been made in a tremendous variety of shapes and materials. Silver, however, has remained the most desirable material. Even after the advent of electric lighting, silver candlesticks were used chiefly in the dining room, suggesting that by then, they were considered decorative rather than function.
Today, candlesticks, give an aura of elegance to a room. Some of the many styles which candlestick collectors collect are candlesticks from the era of George III, Colonial candlesticks, Victorian electroplated candlesticks, Federal candlesticks and art deco candlesticks.
Candle Snuffers and Candle Cones - In the past long candle wicks made of cotton would remain on the candle becoming smoky and producing large flames. They needed to be trimmed. From the 15th to the 19th centuries candle snuffers were used to trim the wick while the candle was burning. Some candle snuffer/wick trimmers have a small chamber to catch the trimmed bit of wick. The trimming is done with scissors-like blades. These snuffers had feet to support it so that hot wicks and wax would be kept on the blades and not dripped on any surfaces after the snuffing was performed.
The instrument now known as a candle snuffer was formerly called an "extinguisher" or "doubter" or a “dousing cone” and these trimmers were called snuffers. Sometimes this instrument would have the effect of putting the candle out altogether hence the confusion.
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