A SMALL COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE SILVER
AND OBJECTS OF VERTU

an article of Giorgio Busetto - www.silvercollection.it
for ASCAS - Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
a small collection of antique silver and objects of vertu
(click on photos to enlarge image)

SILVER TOILET SETS

The plate associated with the bedroom is known from inventories to have existed at least from the 15th century, but items such as shaving bowls and jugs do not survive in any numbers until the 18th century.

silver toilet set London 1699 The most prestigious plate associated with the bed chamber continued to be the toilet service.
Although items of toilet plate where made for gentlemen, such as shaving plate 'oatmeal boxes and plates' and hand powder boxes, the full service was the perquisite of the lady of the house and was as much a reflection of her status as the display plate in the dining room was of her husband's.
The finest of them are therefore composed of a large number of pieces, often with very elaborate decoration. Most were presented on the occasion of marriage (note 1).


 
silver toilet set comprising table mirror,
casket, boxes and brushes.
London 1699

In 1690 John Evelyn wrote this poem titled 'Mundus Muliebris: or the ladies dressing-room unlock'd and her toilette spread':

A new Scene to us next presents,
The Dressing-Room and Implements,
Of Toilet Plate Gilt, and Emboss'd,
And several other things of Cost,

The Table Miroir, one Glue Pot,
One for Pomatum, and whatnot?
Of Washes Unguents and Cosmeticks,
A pair of Silver Candlesticks;

Snuffers and Snuff-dish, Boxes more,
For Powders, Patches, Water Store,
In silver Flasks, or Bottles, Cups
Cover'd or open to wash chaps.


 

P. William Tomkins: engraving from Charles Ansell
 
P. William Tomkins (London 1760-1840):
engraving from a painting of Charles Ansell

(the Italian translation of this poem is available on the Italian version of this article - note 2)
Pietro Longhi: The toilet of the Lady  
Pietro Longhi - Venice 1701-1785
The toilet of the Lady
Even though this poem offers an excellent inventory of the items belonging to a toilet service, the list of the pieces is largely incomplete. The verses don't cite, for example, the combs' boxes , the trays, the brushes, the pin holder, the bell. .... (note 3) .
In the 18th century the pieces of the toilet service grew in number, following the ever increasing complexity of lady's cosmetic devices available on the market. The largest known toilet service was made in 1708 by Benjamin Pyne for the Duke of Norfolk, and consisted of 34 pieces.
A little smaller is the set of Dunham Massey, done for the daughter of George Booth, second Earl of Warrington, that includes 28 pieces (note 4)


 


French silver toilet set, about 1820
 
French silver toilet set, about 1820
Hunger Brothers 1904 catalog Until mid 19th century the silver toilet set was reserved to noblemen and to the highest rank in the society.
At the end of the 19th century the use of silver toilet items spread to the middle class, adopting less expensive shapes, largely appreciated by the new and numerous female customers.

 
Sterling Silver 'Love & Dream toilet set'
1904 Unger Brothers catalog
The new fashion marked the end of the use of pitchers, basins and lighting devices (candlesticks, snuffers), while button hooks, glove stretchers, shoe horns, hair curling irons and a wide range of manicure tools were introduced.
The mirrors were reduced to the dimension of a small oval shape with a short handle, while the heavy silver boxes and vases were replaced by glass or crystal containers with a light silver lid.


 
Daniel Low & Co. 1901 catalog
 
'Floral Toilet Set: Narcissus'
Daniel Low & Co.- Salem - 1901 catalog

But the silver toilet set 'season' was at its finish, and, likely, the primary cause was the end of its status as an 'elite' object, reserved to a social class close to vanishing.
The spread of industrial production of cosmetics, the introduction of new shapes of dresses and the change of female habits and preferences quickly led, in the past century, to the abandonment of the use of the silver toilet items.
These surviving collectibles are a precious witness of a feminine world that, for most aspects, has now disappeared.

Whiting Manufacturing Company catalog Daniel Low 1901 catalog Unger Brothers 1904 catalog
Whiting Manufacturing Co.
Daniel Low
Unger Brothers
Italian toilet set
silver toilet set: Italy first quarter of 20th century
hair curling iron, glove stretcher, shoe horn, button hook, mirror, brushes and crystal vases with silver lids

Endnotes

(1) Timothy Schroeder: English Domestic Silver - Penguin Books ? 1988, p. 162
(2) Italian translation by Renata Camozzi
(3) Charles Oman: English Domestic Silver - Adam & Charles Black - London - 1968,
      pp. 189/190
(4) Timothy Schroeder, pp. 165/166  

a selection of silver toilet items
(private collection - www.silvercollection.it)
Webster Company - North Attleboro: crystal vases with silver lids Webster Company - North Attleboro: crystal vases with silver lids
Webster Company - North Attleboro:
crystal vases with silver lids
Webster Company - North Attleboro: crystal vase with silver lid Webster Company - North Attleboro: crystal vases with embossed silver lids Webster Company - North Attleboro: crystal vase with silver lid
 
silver lids embossed with daisies
 
Webster Company - North Attleboro: toilet brush with silver cover Webster Company - North Attleboro: toilet brush with silver cover
Webster Company - North Attleboro:
brush with silver cover
silver flat brush: Germany, beginning of 20th century
silver flat brush made in Germany at the beginning of 20th century
German hallmarks and date 24.XII.1911 Noble's coronet and PS monogram
German hallmarks and date (24.XII.1911)
Noble's coronet and PS monogram
silver brush Birmingham (England) 1908, silversmith WJM & Co. silver brush Birmingham (England) 1908, silversmith WJM & Co.
silver brush Birmingham (England) 1908:
silversmith WJM & Co.
silver brush Birmingham (England) 1908, silversmith WJM & Co. silver brush hallmarks.
detail of silver brush embossing
hallmarks and butterfly
button hook Birmingham 1912 - silversmith C & N
button hook Birmingham 1912 - silversmith C & N
button hook Birmingham 1912:silver handle button hook Birmingham 1912: silver hallmarks
button hook Birmingham 1912: silver handle
button hook: silver hallmarks
French glove stretcher
French glove stretcher - end of 19th century - silversmith VB
French glove stretcher French glove stretcher
French glove stretcher: silver handles
French glove stretcher
silver shoe horn/button hook: Sheffield 1908
silver shoe horn/button hook: Sheffield 1908 - silversmith GWF
silver shoe horn/button hook: Sheffield 1908 Sheffield 1908 hallmarks
silver shoe horn/button hook: Sheffield 1908
Sheffield 1908 and silversmith GWF hallmarks
silver nail beautifier: Italy
nail beautifier: Italy - 800/1000 silver
silver nail beautifier: Italy
nail beautifier - Italy
silver nail buffer: Birmingham 1918
silver nail buffer: Birmingham 1918 - silversmith L & S
ssilver nail buffer: Birmingham 1918 Birmingham 1918 hallmarks
silver nail buffer: Birmingham 1918
Birmingham 1918 and silversmith L & S hallmarks
eye brow tool: Birmingham 1928
eye brow tool: Birmingham 1928 - silversmith LS & Co
eye brow tool: Birmingham 1928 Birmingham 1928 hallmarks
silver eye brow tool
Birmingham 1928 and silversmith LS & Co hallmarks
hair curling iron
silver handled hair curling iron - silversmith Mulholland Bros Inc.
hair curlin iron hair curling iron
silver handled hair curling iron
curling iron with MOP button
hair curling iron silversmith hallmark Mulholland Bros Inc.
hair curling iron
silversmith hallmark Mulholland Bros Inc. - Aurora, IL - 1915-1932
travel burner for hair curling iron travel burner for hair curling iron
travel burner for hair curling iron
travel burner for hair curling iron
silver and MOP pocket button hook
 

silver and mother of pearl folding pocket botton hook
Sheffield 1897 - silversmith AS
silver and MOP pocket button hook silver and MOP pocket button hook
folding button hook
mother of pearl with floral decorations
silver and MOP pocket button hook silver and MOP pocket button hook
folding button hook
closed button hook
silver and MOP pocket button hook hallmarks
silver hallmarks: Sheffield 1897 - silversmith AS
Tiffany & Co silver talc bottle Tiffany & Co silver talc bottle Tiffany & Co silver talc bottle
 
Tiffany & Co silver talc bottle
Tiffany & Co. hallmark
Tiffany & Co. hallmark 1907-1947
crystal perfume bottle with silver top silver top: silversmith Vitali Bruno - Padua - Italy
crystal perfume bottle with silver top
silver top:
silversmith Vitali Bruno - Padua - Italy
crystal perfume bottle with silver top crystal perfume bottle with silver top
crystal perfume bottle with silver top
crystal engraving and silver top
(Italy - 2nd half 20th century)
Giorgio Busetto - 2004 -
www.silvercollection.it
this article is published on website                               
English home page
www.silvercollection.it


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