Shine on, Bright and Mysterious Objects

Laurie Colwin, wherever you’re lounging in Literary Valhalla — forgive me for bastardizing one of your best titles.

I’d planned to rent some skates today and ask Daddy to take some pix of me falling on my can as I attempted to glide along the beautiful Rideau Canal. Again God said “Hah! Not so fast, sister! ” and encouraged me to run a shopping cart over my left pinky toe. It resembles a baby eggplant and I can barely get my shoes on, let alone a skate. Perhaps it was Her way to remind me that I haven’t done the Hans Brinker thing for thirty years, and that a swollen toe heals faster than a broken leg.

So much for today’s plans, skate-wise and blog-wise — time to move the photography inside.I thought I’d share some of the objects from my parents’ silver collection and run a small contest. Some of them you’ll recognize and some may be mysterious. I’ll send a prize, made by moi, to anyone who achieves 100% identification of the mystery objects. None of today’s shiny things are the oldest or most valuable in the collection — they’re mostly Edwardian — but I love them. They’re mad cheerful, and for me they’re free;I get to use them and I didn’t pay a single pound sterling.

Here’s a snap of most of them to give you an idea of the scale:






I love engraving. Here I’m an Anglo Indian military bride:








I want to run out and buy Jordan almonds, licorice allsorts and wine gums to fill the little pans! The hallmarks indicate that it was made in Chester in 1908. The inscription reads:

Presented To

Capt. and Mrs. Farley


The NCOs & Men Of

“E” Company

2nd North Stafford Rgmt.

Peshawar India 1910

On the Occasion of Their Wedding

I can’t provide the date and provenance of this basket of beauty because I’d have to root around to find Daddy’s copy of Tardy’s. It continental and clever– each cup sits on a little peg so that the maid can’t jiggle the soft-boiled eggs about on the way to your breakfast table.










I’ve never seen such a pretty piece of tea strainer engineering as this: The baskets turn to the horizontal when it’s time to strain a new cup, so that you can dump the leaves efficiently. Again, I’d have to find Tardy to check out the German marks. (I’ve hooked it over an epergne handle to give the general effect.)









Now I’ll move into the Mystery Item round. Number One, from Birks, a Canadian silversmith. It’s about seven inches long.




Number Two (Chester 1904)may be my favorite of the group because it’s just so plain weird. I’m sorry about the crappy picture ; when I decided to reshoot I found my battery was dead. You might want to consult the group shot above.











Number Three, Birmingham, 1902.










So, as they say, enter to win a Valuable Prize! And pray for me — I’ve been so accident prone I’m afraid I’ll fracture a finger flossing my teeth!


Filed under Art, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, Giveaway, History, Home, Incredible Edible Egg, Worth it anyway

13 responses to “Shine on, Bright and Mysterious Objects

  1. kim shook

    Poor Miss Maggie. The fates obviously wish you to stay at home and be still.

    No idea what those three things are other than the first is obviously some kind of utensil – and I love the twirly end! It reminds me of what I used to do to the end of a Sugar Daddy. The second oddball is certainly weird looking. Does it open? Is the third piece a cozy of some sort – for eggs, maybe. We need Andie from eG. They are certainly all lovely and shiny, though. Did you rub them up for their debut or does your Pop keep them that lovely? I believe that we may be the last generation to love silver and to have the willingness to keep it beautiful. The previous generation has wearied, I think, of all the care. My mother gave me almost all of her sterling a few years ago and I just received two packages in the mail from my father and stepmom with salt and pepper shakers. He just called me to say that a little pitcher is on it’s way soon.

  2. We may BE the last generation to register for “our Sterling” at the small-town gift shop or a department store—I did not, for even at that time, our group was following tradition only because their Mamas said so, and it’s what you DID. And my Mother agreed with me, reluctantly, only after overhearing under the hair-dryer a woman she admired saying of a relative whose choice was beyond her means, “Her taste is just beyond us, so we all got together and gave her a fork.”

    And my parents certainly had none, my dear country-boy Daddy and my smalltown just-out-of-high-school War Bride Mother—we were of the land and of the oilcloth kitchen table with the dishpan-sanitized cluster bouquet of forks and spoons in a coffeecan or glass jar in the center, garnished with the paper napkins beneath a weight, the Tabasco bottle, and the little clutch of toothpicks sprouting from a tee-ninecy Kraft cheese glass.

    Our own dining tables held a serviceable set of Reed & Barton or Oneida plate, shined with the dedication of a butler in sleeve-guards, and perhaps a set of tall salt & peppers like chess pieces.

    I do not recognize the duties of that small ball-on-feet with its plumed top and jaunty shako, for I cannot see an opening for its contents. The left one is like many a tea caddy I’ve seen, and the one of the elaborately-balanced scales one could be an epergne, though I doubt that candles would be used in the side-bowls.

    And the little elaborate dart—pickles or olives, perhaps, in a little glass-lined silver tray. I’m not good at these esoteric things so beloved of the Victorian silversmiths and their more-and-more clients, but I DO love the look of all their work—the shine and the promise and the memories they hold, of candle-lit evenings and soirees with hats—what a history and what an interesting thing, the silver of our ancestors.

    Perhaps that’s why I now have closets full of trays and bowls and great chests of flatware, acquired a few pieces at a time at Goodwill and yard sales and a little clutch of string-tied spoons in a flea market. I love their history and their past, with people I’ll never know.

  3. PS I’m SO sorry about your booboo toe—I got so carried away with silver I forgot—DO stay off it, and READ, for goodness’ sake!!! No crafts, no skating, no exertion.

    I want you back, all in one piece.

  4. I finally got it to enlarge to see the twist in the dart—lobster?

    Does the ball-with-plume have an opening anywhere besides the little screw-on cap? Perfume is all I can think of.

    We’ve got to stop meeting like this.

  5. Alex

    Greetings, dear Margaret. I do love that candy holder piece.

    I must confess to semi-cheating, as the file names and sizes of the pictures magically appear on the tab after enlarging them.

    The first one, as most have suspected, is a pick, but for what? That lethal-looking end + twist is intriguing. It wouldn’t be for doing in rude guests, would it? No, I guess not. Canadians are too polite. Perhaps then for an olive or a lobster claw, as others have suggested, or, more likely, a walnut half.

    The second, based on the flame-shaped handle and its red top, would be an oil light, or perhaps a pull-out lighter.

    The third is a holder for a ball of twine or string.

  6. Alex, you’re doing very, very well — and thanks, I’ll not name my pix in future. You’re right about number 3.

  7. Number 1 is a butter pick. Still working on figuring out number 2.


  8. Kerry, you are brilliant, and you and Alex are tied.

    Item 2 does pull apart in the middle, and Alex, you’re close.

  9. Rachel and Kim: silver lasts. The polishing is a sacred chore when I’m touching something that was made by hand, not stamped out, by someone at least a hundred years dead.

  10. How about a cigar lighter for number 2?

  11. Ding ding: we have a winner! Kerry, it is indeed a cigar lighter, never used becuz the wick is in perfect condition. Send me. your addy and a “valuable” prize is heading your way via Canada Post.

  12. As long as it’s nothing I have to polish! Lost all desire to polish after my time in the armed forces.

  13. We skated the Rideau Canal yesterday, and had a glorious time despite iffy ice conditions. Had I known, we would have invited you out to rent a sleigh, and pushed you!

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