Thursday, 5 November 2015

Thursday.




This week's Mystery Object. It is four inches high overall. The middle section is about three inches high. The mounts are of silver (not hallmarked, but this was not unusual for small bits of silver at the time this was made). It has much the shape (and indeed the capacity) of an old fashioned sherry glass. The coin is included to give some idea of scale. It is a twenty pence piece, which will give some idea of the state of the Horner pocket. It sounds more if you call it a four shilling piece, or a double florin (yes, there really were such things late in Victoria's reign)  but isn't really, in fact it is worth a great deal less than the so called 'Bar maid's ruin'  (but that's another story). Your opinion of the illustrated item if you please. Of what is it made, where and when? There are a couple of points about it that puzzle me slightly, so this is a serious enquiry.  Thanks.

19 comments:

Crowbard said...

The Florin was Britain’s first decimal coin worth two shillings, a tenth of a pound. The Queen Victoria Double Florin was one of the shortest-lived British coin denominations - only being produced during four mint years between 1887 and 1890. The real reason for its introduction is disputed, nevertheless it became Britain's second 'decimal' coin worth four shillings.
Its similarity to the more familiar Crown, a five-shilling piece, was striking - it was just 2mm smaller in diameter, both coins featured an identical portrait of Queen Victoria and neither bore a denomination. Yet the Double Florin was worth a shilling less.
It was often barmaids who were most susceptible to the confusion between the two, and anecdotal evidence suggests more than a few lost their livelihood as a result. And that’s how the Double Florin earned the nickname the 'Barmaid's Ruin'.

Crowbard said...

I think this is a silver mounted coconut cup of George II or possibly earlier period. Christie's have sold a few later examples over the past few years (including plainer ones) from prices in the high hundreds to nearly £3,000. Some have been unmarked and some bore only the Maker's mark. The engrailed edges of the silver look somewhat Carolingian to me, are there any hall-marks or maker's marks to be seen?

Crowbard said...

Some monstrously carved and silver-mounted coconut flasks were known as 'bug-bears'. (A bugbear being a legendary type of hobgoblin comparable to the bogeyman, bugaboo or babau which were historically used to frighten disobedient children.)

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Crowbard. Your explanation of 'the barmaids' ruin' is exactly right.

Mike and Ann said...

Crowbard - your explanation of the 'bugaboo' is right, too. The three naturally occurring marks at the pointed end of the cocoanut can, especially with a little carving, be turned into a threatening mask - hence the name.

Mike and Ann said...

The majority of cocoanut utensils are cups or goblets, the natural shape of the coconut lending itself to this. This one is rather unusual in being more of a wineglass shape. The wood is very hard, and I think mature, which makes me wonder if it is a variant of the coconut - or perhaps even a mature coquilla nut? Your opinion would be welcome.

Z said...

I was thinking that too - that it's rather tall and slender to be a coconut, that is.

Crowbard said...

Coquilla-nut did cross my mind Mike, but I don't recall seeing that 'graining' in the few coquilla pieces I've handled, whereas it is commonly seen in very old coconut items. Besides your piece looks very dark, too dark to be coquilla don't you think? If I was seeking expert advice you'd be my first port of call! Having done a quick skim through coquilla pictures there are occasional stained pieces that might be as dark as your coconut item but few with anything like the distinctive graining yours shows.
Perhaps this coconut (if it is one) was a 'sport' or the product of a sickly tree or a nutritionally deprived one? No two strawberries are the same, why expect coconuts to be uniform? Sorry to be unhelpful, but that is the bounden duty of 'ickle bwuvverz.
Love to all. C.

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Crowbard. This is what was bothering me when I wrote a description of this 'mystery object'. As Z says it is not at all a typical cocoanut shape. I wonder if there is a breed of coconut that produces the usual wood, but with a smaller, longer shape than is usual? As you say, although the size is a little larger than the standard coquilla nut, the shape of the nut is similar. The wood is more like that of the coconut shell. I suppose all this makes the vessel discussed a good deal rarer than the standard silver mounted coconut goblet.

Margaret Brocklehurst said...

Would it have been used as a stirrup cup?

Mike and Ann said...

Hello Maggie. Yes, I think that would have been a perfectly possible use for the little item. Squire Weston stuff!

I should have said also, that we both find it a very satisfying little artifact.

Crowbard said...

I've just checked up on the small ovoid coconut, row 2 picture 5, in the picture I emailed to you, it is a variety called Tuvalu Tall fuafatu and originated in the South-Sea islands.

Mike and Ann said...

What a weird coincidence! The name is in the family, and as a result one branch of my family has always taken an interest in the island of Tuvalu.

Crowbard said...

While Tuvalu Tall may be appropriate for one very special member of our family in this instance the tall refers to the height of the tree not the nut.

Mike and Ann said...

Very apt, too, Crowbard, in that the grand daughter concerned stands at over six foot!

Rough said...

Agree that coconuts, just like people, come in different sizes.
Talking of size, I think Tuvalu risks shrinking as sea levels rise :(

Mike and Ann said...

Thank you, Rough (?). I suppose that has to be the answer.
I Like the rhyming couplet your answer comes in, too. If you move one letter it becomes even neater:-

Agree that coconuts, just like people, come in different sizes.

Talking of size, I think Tuvalu risks sinking as sea level rises.

As we used to say, a few years ago - Toddle ooh, or indeed - Tuvalu

Mike and Ann said...

P.s.

I think I must apologise
to correspondent Rough.
I should not add to - or excise
Another poet's stuff.

Crowbard said...

If an ode ain't odious
don't alter what's commodious ~