Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Afterlife of Things 6

Silversmiths love to produce supposedly practical objects for people to give each other as presents. We’ve had silver holders for billiard cue chalk, vesta cases (for phosphorus matches that would catch fire if kept loose in your pocket), tops for canes, comb cases, wine coasters, pencils, handles for shoehorns, buttonhooks and parasols, silver pheasants for your dining table (why?), clocks, menu holders, handbag clasps, cigar-cutters, cigarette cases, hip flasks, snuff boxes, toothpicks, powder compacts, scent bottle tops, lorgnettes (spectacles on a stick), money clips, pill boxes, vinaigrettes…

Vinaigrettes were not small bottles of salad dressing, but boxes containing a sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar. You sniffed it if you felt faint, or if you were surrounded by nasty niffs (before the germ theory of disease caught on, we thought noxious odours caused disease).

So are they making silver phone covers now? Garrards usefully offers a cocktail shaker, a champagne bath, claret jugs with lion and unicorn heads, and a statuette of Edward VII. The Asprey's catalogue has a rather disappointing selection including a birth certificate holder. Thanks, just what I wanted.

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