A SMALL COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE SILVER
AND OBJECTS OF VERTU
THE WHAT IS? SILVER DICTIONARY

STORK CLAMP
(UMBILICAL CORD SCISSORS)


An unusual item in the scissors shape of a stork, commonly described as "umbilical cord scissors".
Sometimes the finger rings have a support (often a pair of turtles, symbol of longevity) to keep scissors straight on.
When the scissors are opened, a baby in swaddling clothes can be seen in the body cavity.
Uncertain is the effective use of this item and various hypotheses have been formulated.
In France they were used to pinch closed the unbilical cord immediately after the birth and before the placenta was expelled and in order to stop the flow of blood out as the cord was cut.
In the absence of any fixing mechanism it would be possible to hold them closed with an elastic band, but normally the blood stops flowing quite quickly through the cord after the baby is born and it's not necessary.
They were made in silver because stainless steel didn't exist and thus they could be boiled. Often the scissors stand upright to keep them free of bacteria before use (information courtesy Marc Faygen).
In the Netherlands the Stork Clamp is called a "luiertang", which can be translated as nappy tongue. It's said that it was used to pick napkins from the hot water after been washed (information courtesy Janjaap Luijt). Another source refers that there is story that they were also bought by wealthy families in the days when there was a high infant mortality. They would place it on the fireplace to announce, in a discreet way, that a birth was expected, without saying it in words, as it was thought that might bring bad luck and in case there was a miscarriage or a stillbirth nothing needed to be said at all.
Whatever was their use, these silver artefacts (mostly of European origin) are particularly appreciated and sought after by collectors.









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