The nutmeg grater is an implement for grating nutmeg used principally during the period 1780-1840. There were two types: portable or table type. The systematic production of silver graters for nutmeg began in the late 18th century. A revolution in manners then gripped colonial America, as sophisticated Britons on both sides of the Atlantic began serving punch - a brew of rum or brandy, fruit juice, sugar, and water laced with grated nutmeg and sugar - and a nutmeg grater became an essential addition to the 'punch equipage'.

kitchen nutmeg grater of rectangular form with pierced top panel for hanging kitchen nutmeg grater of cylindrical shape with hoop handle

In most cases 'kitchen' nutmeg graters were used with cylindrical or semi-circular form with hinged base, divided interior and the top recessed below the hoop handle. Other 'kitchen' nutmeg graters were of upright rectangular form with a shaped top panel pierced for hanging.


However, small boxes suitable for carrying in the pocket, and used to contain nutmeg, were in use since the 18th century>.

nutmeg grater with inner grate attached to the cover
A portable nutmeg grater was usually a small silver container fitted with an inner grate attached to the cover on the inside.
This permitted the powder to fall through into the box,


The graters were made on a great variety of styles and shapes and were in use throughout the first half of the Victorian era.

nutmeg grater barrel shaped unscrewing at the center nutmeg grater of rectangular form The most frequent shape was the rectangular form with hinged cover and base, but also the barrel shape unscrewing at the center and with a silver rimmed metal grater was highly popular.

Other popular items were octagonal, oval and cylindrical shaped silver nutmeg graters

nutmeg grater of octagonal form nutmeg grater of oval form cylindrical nutmeg grater

but also circular, egg, spade and urn shapes were widely used

circular nutmeg grater egg-shaped nutmeg grater spade-shaped nutmeg grater nutmeg grater of repousse urn-form with scrolled foliate decoration

Nutmeg graters were decorated with geometric motifs, bands of foliage and rococo piercing and engraving.

nutmeg grater with pierced geometric motifs cylindrical  nutmeg grater lightly engraved with two bands of foliage nutmeg grater with rococo engraving

Sometimes the nutmeg grater was obtained by a cowrie shell enclosed by silver straps with a silver hinged cover pierced to form the grater.

nutmeg grater with a cowrie shell enclosed by silver straps
Usually these nutmeg graters had the straps with serrated leaf-tip edges and a scroll handle.

nutmeg grater with a cowrie shell enclosed by silver straps

There are also examples of Staffordshire enamel nutmeg graters.

Staffordshire enamel nutmeg grater

This is decorated with a blue background below white enamel, leaf floral, scroll and shell designs.

In other cases the grater had the shape of a

nutmeg grater in the form of a nutmeg

nutmeg (chased with foliage)

acorn-shaped nutmeg grater:the cylindrical stem contains a corkscrew

a mace (the acorn-shaped top is fitted with grater, the cylindrical stem unscrewing to reveal an additional grater and corkscrew)

shallow boat form nutneg grater

a shallow boat with hinged grater-inset cover and hinged storage compartment (maybe originally intended as snuff or tobacco rasp)

pear-shaped nutneg graternutmeg grater

a pear or an acorn.

As utilitarian objects nutmeg graters were used and abused and the rare surviving examples in excellent condition are greatly sought after by collectors.


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