A Pretty Pair Of Victorian Coasters of Large Size

Stephen Smith and William Nicholson
External 7.8", 19.9cm; Internal 5.5", 14cm

The turned wooden bases with central silver discs (for the engraving of arms, crests or initials) and with the original baize underneath. The plain flared sides slighly bellied at the bottom to hold the wooden bases and chased with a wavy irregular line enclosing a matted surface upon which lies cast and applied fruiting vines.


Private Collection

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The earliest pair of coasters appear to be those sold at Christie's on 15th June, 1983. Although unmarked they were dated circa 1735 and have subsequently been attributed as the work of Charles Kandler. It is true that bottle stands were around much earlier as one of 1716 by Simon Pantin was sold in the same Christie's sale but the were to hold glass bottles that had oval bodies and rounded bases. In other words they could not stand upright without the help of a specifically designed support. There follows a gap of about 12 years till Frederick Kandler made a pair in 1757, these ase possibly the earliest hallmarked coasters (now in a private collection). By the 1770's coasters were gaining in popularity and tended to be made from sheet silver that was generally pierced. With the arrival of the 19th century and the influence of the Prince Regent, all the lightness and elegance of the neo-classicism of Robert Adam, that was so dominant between 1770 and 1790, was swept away. A far heavier and grandiose style frequently employing the use of casting and chasing emerged. The internal diameter of coasters seldom changed and to find one before 1800 that would take a magnum is extremely rare and they may not exist at all. A superb pair by Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith dated 1806 and engraved with the arms of Dalrymple are known. Of course this opens up the whole argument as to whether coasters were made for bottles or decanters. Although this has never been settled satisfactorily the answer is probably that they were used for both. Perhaps the tendency for 19th century glass makers to make decanters of more bellied form brought about the increasing use of flared sides in silver coasters.

This pair are in superb condition as evidenced by the sharpness of the matting and texturing which is usually the first to show signs of wear.

 The firm of Smith and Nicholson produced individual and high quality silver which is not too surprising as Stephen Smith was the grandson of Benjamin Smith I, one of the greatest silversmiths of the 19th century. They were listed in 1851 until Nicholson retired in 1864.