Georgian nutmeg graters make for a fascinating silver collection. They can be a challenge to collect, especially those unique in design. I never ceased to be amazed at the details a fine silversmith could impart to these small containers. If you are considering starting a collection perhaps you would like to know a few facts about nutmeg graters and the nutmeg spice in general.
The nutmeg (Myrstica fragrans) tree produces two spices. The spice nutmeg comes from the egg-shaped seed and the spice mace comes from the covering or outside. Nutmeg was used to flavor food and drink during the Roman Empire, Middle Ages, and the Renaissance Period. The Dutch and English fought to control the "Spice Islands" in 1810. Banda (the Islands now known as Indonesia was a leading source of nutmeg. It was an expensive and highly desirable spice, especially among the wealthy. For those with an interest in Culinary history, nutmeg is a captivating subject. And...yes, Manhattan (as in New York) was traded by the Dutch for Run Island and its nutmeg trees in 1677. The spice was a prized commodity then and hailed as a cure-all for many health issues.
By the late 17th Century warm drinks were popular on both sides of the “big pond”. Brits and Americans were drinking coffee, tea, and chocolate. Warm punches or drinks became fashionable. These drinks were a mixture of Brandy or Rum, strained fruit, and sugar. Nutmeg was the “final touch”.
In order to add that final touch, a grater was necessary to rasp the seed. For the wealthy, a regular grater was not deemed worthy of the job. Before long small decorative silver pocket-sized graters became a fashionable item to carry in one's pocket. Just as we have fashion trends today, the desire to match or exceed one's peers helped to fuel the creativity we see in these items. The novelty shapes are most desirable and highly collected today. Egg-shaped, melon-shaped, and strawberry shaped to name just a few.
The top picture of the rectangular grater with canter corners and the egg shaped nutmeg grater below have been sold.
Embrace the elegance and warmth antiques bring to a home