Q I bought a shoe box full of silverware and assorted stuff at an estate sale. Mixed in with the knives, forks and spoons were some items I can’t identify. I hope you can tell me what these things are.
Each of these antique silver scoops or serving pieces had a differentpurpose. (Photo courtesy of Jane Alexiadis)
A Just about everyone has a drawer or box where they toss things too good to throw away but with no apparent use. These boxes of frugality and practicality are usually filled over generations and often hold a few treasures. They often come out at holidays and are stuck back away because no one is exactly sure what they’re for.
Here’s the scoop on your mystery pieces.
The piece that looks like an apple corer is actually a cheese scoop. Cheese scoops are serving pieces — the scoop stays with the cheese, likely a runny Brie or smelly Stilton.
The long narrow piece is a double-sided marrow scoop. Marrow, the rich stuff in the middle of bones, was considered a delicacy until the early part of the 20th century (Although I’ve counted no fewer than 11 hip restaurants in the East Bay that feature marrow on their menus today.)
Snapping a bone with your fingers or cracking it with your teeth was hopelessly vulgar. Those who could afford silver services had this special implement to scrape the marrow out of bones. The larger end of your implement was for beef bones; the narrower end for fowl.
The piece that looks like a medieval torture device is actually part of a carving set. The vase-shaped end is fitted over the bone of a roast or joint. When the screw is tightened the carver has a safer, more stable grip on the meat.
The piece with one pointed and one scooped end is a lobster pick. (Although now that we have a Dungeness crab season again I guess it could be a crab scoop.)
The little shovel-like instrument is used to scoop tea leaves into the pot.
If the tiny scoop is in your dining room, then get it out and put it in the medicine cabinet where it belongs! It’s an ear scoop used remove excess earwax in pre-Q-Tip times. (It’s been said that Leonardo Da Vinci used his mistresses’ earwax as a component in some of the paints he mixed: No wonder modern artists can’t replicate his technique!) This tiny implement sometimes had rings on the handle so they and other small toilet articles could be worn around the neck or hung from the waist.
As far as value goes, what more could you want than great conversation pieces?
Actually, the monetary value depends on the material they’re made from. Your cheese, marrow and tea scoops look like sterling, so they have a value of $50 to $100 each. If the bone holder is part of a carving set with a knife and fork, the set would sell in the $100 to $200 range. Most hostesses would supply a lobster pick to each guest so having only one means the value is only $10 or $15. I can’t tell what the earwax scoop is made from, but if you found a buyer you could charge $20 or $30.
Jane Alexiadis is a personal property appraiser. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published at Thu, 17 Nov 2016 18:00:57 +0000