Collecting Sterling Silver Nutmeg Graters, Nutmeg the Spice with a Sensational History
Sterling nutmeg graters make for a fascinating silver collection They can be a bit of a challenge to collect. Especially if you are looking for graters from the Georgian Era and you want to collect those that are whimsical in design. I never ceased to be amazed at the details that a quality silversmith could impart to items that were both useful in form and function yet amusing in design. Why nutmeg graters? Here are a few facts behind theses interesting graters, their purpose, and the spice nutmeg in general.
The nutmeg (Myrstica fragrans) tree produces two spices. The spice nutmeg comes from the egg shaped seed of the tree and the spice mace comes from the covering of the seed. It was used to flavor both food and drink during the Roman Empire, Middle Ages, and the Renaissance Period. The Dutch and English fought over control of group of the Spice Islands. Banda ( the Islands now known as Indonesia was the main source for the spice during the 17th. Century. It was expensive and highly desirable especially among the wealthy. If you have an interest in Culinary history, nutmeg is a captivating subject. And...yes, Manhattan was traded by the Dutch for Run Island and its nutmeg trees.
By the late 17th Century warm drinks were very popular on both sides of the “big pond”. Brits and Americans were drinking, coffee, tea, and chocolate. Warm punches followed the most popular being Brandy or Rum mixed with strained fruit and sugar with nutmeg being used as the “final touch”.
To add that final touch; a grater was necessary to rasp the small brown seed. Small decorative “pocket sized” graters became a fashionable item. No different than fashionable trends today; the desire to match or exceed one's peers helped to fuel the creativity we see today in these items. Graters were created in wide range of whimsical or novelty shapes. It is these that are most desirable and highly collected today. Egg shaped, melon shaped, strawberry shaped are just a few of the creative designs used. Graters were also created using other materials such as coquille nut and enamel to name a few.
An egg shaped Georgian nutmeg grater I sold a few years ago is pictured below and the top picture of the rectangular grater with canter corners sold recently.