Monday, January 9, 2012

Unusual Artifacts: A Nutmeg Grater, 1690

Here's something quite rare and unusual--as beautiful and useful as the day it was made in 1690.  Here we see, from the V&A, a nutmeg grater of an oval cowrie shell  mounted in silver, with a hinged grater and plain scroll handle. 

The gleaming shell is held in place by a cruciform cage of silver straps.  These have raised borders and an escutcheon which is engraved with the initials RB.

When this piece was made in Britain, Nutmeg was an extremely expensive spice, usthe primarily, to season the fashionable drink of punch.  Here, the shell was used to catch the nutmeg shavings to ensure nothing of the costle delicacy was lost.

1 comment:

NutmegGraters.Com said...

POINT OF INTEREST: More than 20 of these "shell nutmeg graters in silver harness" are known within public and private collections. While Elizabeth B. Miles was the first to "guestimate" a date of 1690 [The English Silver Pocket Nutmeg Grater, 1966 ~ her collection currently donated to the Lyman Allyn Museum, New London CT. USA]; this CIRCA date has never been substantiated by research of any kind. The 1690 attribution date, now commonly suggested, has no basis in fact. NutmegGraters.Com