Set 4 silver & tortoiseshell menu or place card holders

Set 4 silver & tortoiseshell menu or place card holders

£1,675

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Reference

2793

Set of four Edwardian silver place card or menu holders with tortoiseshell panels inlaid with delicate engraved floral silver decorations and nicely coloured and clear tortoiseshell that is in perfect condition.

The technique used on these menu holders is called piqué, where gold or silver is inlaid into another material, in this case tortoiseshell. Despite being expensive, the use of tortoiseshell in the decorative arts was very popular in 18th and 19th century Europe. Not only did it have a beautiful mottled appearance and was durable, but it was also lightweight and could be easily fashioned into other shapes; jewellery boxes and tea caddies were prime examples.

As a fine and traditional addition to fine dining, it was the Victorians who first introduced menu holders to our dining tables. Silver menu holders and place card holders were first created to hold a card displaying the menu and, rather than putting a place card holder and name in front of each diner as we often do today, silver menu holders were spread and passed around the dining table. For that reason, we most frequently find sets of four silver menu holders, or pairs. Larger sets of six and eight can be found, while ten or a dozen silver menu or place card holders are fairly rare.

In the 19th century, silver menu holders often featured family crests plus more whimsical, nature-related themes, and after 1901 the practice flourished among well-to-do Edwardians. King Edward VII was a gourmand and liked to introduce a wide variety of unusual and exotic foods to his guests, many of which needed explanation. Marry this with his enthusiasm for shooting parties and the country pursuits of hunting and fishing, and we can see why so many antique silver menu and place card holders feature foxes, fish, game birds or other motifs on the same theme.

Tortoiseshell is quite malleable when heated, so when very fine gold, or in this case silver, was fashioned into delicate designs and then pressed into the warmed tortoiseshell, the silver then cooled and the shell contracted to hold the silver in place.

Dimensions:

Height 38 mm / 1 1932"
Width 40 mm / 1 1932"
Weight 71 g (2.28 troy ozs)
Year

1907

Place

London

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