The main reason I keep this blog is to help me learn about antiques. I have a sense of what I like, know what I’m drawn to, but writing spurs me on to look into things in more detail.
This Saturday Biddle and Webb are holding their interiors sale in Birmingham. It’s a fascinating auction, full of a wide range of household things, some vintage, many fine antiques. One lot is picture above, an Irish Georgian Meat Skewer.
I know why I’m drawn to silver. It’s the combination of mellow softness you find in well used pieces (the crisp highly worked teapots don’t really do it for me) combined with it’s practicality. You can actually use silver items, even though they’re made of a pure precious metal. They belong in the cutlery draw, not the display cabinet.
So this really grabbed me. As a thing it is new to me. Not a meat skewer – I like to roast a joint now and then – but the thing being silver and Georgian and a meat skewer.
What then is a Georgian Meat Skewer?
Googling around they seem to be no that uncommon. There are plenty on sale on e-bay – and prices are quite high. The rather fab site www.antiquesilverspoons.co.uk run by silver dealers in Gloucestershire tells us
“Varying in size from approx. 5″ long for poultry and game skewers to 12″ long for meat skewers, these long, pointed, flat items were used to hold and check on the state of cooked meat. The most common type has a finger ring terminal, but earlier examples have cast motifs to the end. The cross-section of the blade changed from oblong in the mid-late 1700’s to having a ridge running down the centre. Later examples appeared in the standard pattern forms.”
Another google suggest that they were also called game word skewers – used to pin boned and rolled meat – although that might suggest they were ending up in the oven (or on the spit?) as the meat cooks – likely? I don’t know.
Might they be used to spatchcock a game bird? The V&A can help a little with their wonderful website
“As well as having a practical function, skewers were also sometimes added to a joint to embellish the appearance of the meat and could, as here, be quite ornate. Most skewers date from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th. Silver skewers were made in a number of sizes. The larger ones were used with meat joints and the smaller skewers with poultry or game birds. This example may have been made for use with game such as wild duck or pheasant. The skewer was of a tapering form and the plainest examples have only a ring at the top of the long blade. Any variation in style occurred mainly at the ring ends, which protruded from the meat to give a decorative effect. Shell mounts, family crests, reeded or beaded designs were popular forms of ornament.”
I’m still not sure if the silver ones would be practical or just used to add some pizazz once the roasting was done. Nevertheless and interesting item.
The auction is this Saturday – 14th May, starts at 10am. There’s also a huge haul of pottery for sale from the Smethwick based Ruskin Pottery – for more on that see their blog post about this local pottery. For more details visit www.biddleandwebb.com.
UPDATE : Price for the meat skewer – £220