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What is a Pickle Castor

Updated on October 7, 2014
Diane Cass profile image

Diane is a lover of all things beautiful; music, art, antiques and nature. Her guides bring insight to topics she cares passionately about.

Victorian Pickle Castors Serve Pickles in Style

Pickle castors are practical and functional. They hold pickles in pretty containers for serving at luncheon, tea or the dinner table. But, as with all things Victorian, they didn't stop at functional. Victorian silver pickle castors are things of beauty.

They are aesthetic masterpieces that blend the glimmer of beautiful art glass with the glint of silver. The ornate silver frames often bear fanciful figural flowers, cherubs or animals. The glass jars displayed the height of the Victorian glassblowers' art. This is a guide for collectors in identifying the best Victorian silver pickle castors for their collection.

Silver Figural Frame with Foxes
Silver Figural Frame with Foxes

The Silver Frame of a Pickle Castor

A pickle castor is a silverplated frame with a fitted glass jar. The frames are usually very ornate, sporting lacy filigree, raised floral, shell or scroll designs. Nature is a common theme, with birds, animals and even bugs often adorning the silver frame. Some even have full, figural statues, covered in silver or even gilded. Most frames have a hook on one side, from which a small pair of silverplated tongs rests.

Look for the silverplate makers hallmark on the bottom of the frame. Famous silver makers of Victorian pickle castors are:

Meriden B. Company

Derby Silver

James Tufts

Wilcox

Simpson, Hall & Miller

Reed & Barton

Pairpoint

Rogers

Webster

Simpson Hall & Miller Pickle Castor

Reference Guides for Collecting Victorian Silver Pickle Castors

A good reference guide is an invaluable tool for collectors of any antique. Guides for antique silver and glass will show photographic examples of typical and rare pickle castors, frames and glass. They will give you a list of hallmarks and how to spot fakes and reproductions.

Finding Victorian Silver Pickle Castors on eBay

Search terms to use to find pickle castors on eBay are...

Silver pickle castor

Victorian pickle castor

Aesthetic era pickle castor

Add a manufacture's name, like Meriden or Pairpoint, to find specific items.

Mt. Washington Peachblow Glass Insert
Mt. Washington Peachblow Glass Insert

Glass Jars for Victorian Pickle Castors

Pickle castor jars come in a wide array of colors and designs. Some are enameled with flowers, some feature thumbprint spots in the glass, some have stripes. Some are made of fine crystal and brilliant cut into faceted gems. Most jars are tall cylinders, but rarer types can be squat and shaped like melons or pumpkins. Glass jars can be handblown, molded, pressed or cut glass. The more beautiful the designs and colors are, the more valuable it can be, in general.

Most art glass jars are not marked, but can be attributed to makers known to make a specific type of glass, like Fenton’s striped or spotted, Mt. Washington’s Peachblow and Burmese, or Heisy’s cut gass. If there is a mark, it will usually be found on the bottom or rim of the jar. Marks are either acid etched or scratched onto the glass. Some paper labels were used, but most have been lost over time.

Pickle Castor Glass Jar Insert Replacements

If you have broken your glass insert to your pickle jar, or have lost it, find a replacement on eBay. They always have glass inserts for sale in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Antiques are usually non-refundable, so be careful what you buy. Tips for buying a replacement are...

- Measure your frame carefully to get the exact size of the base, as well as the space between the handles, and the base and top.

- If the seller doesn't have the measurements, ask them to provide measurements for you.

Married jar does not fit the silver frame
Married jar does not fit the silver frame

Can a Pickle Castor be "Married"?

YES!

The Victorian pickle castor frames and jars were made to go together as a fitted pair. Over the years, jars get broken or lost, or frames get bent or broken. Instead of throwing the remaining piece away, most people try to find a replacement jar or frame. This is called a marriage. There is nothing wrong with restoring the beauty of your pickle castor, but if you sell it, be sure to tell the buyer it is a marriage. Jars and frames that have been "married" are worth less than ones that are original to each other.

The picture to the right is of a married pickle castor. Notice how the shape of the jar doesn't go with the shape of the frame. The frame is straight-sided, the jar bulges out at the top. This frame would have carried a straight jar, not a bulgy one. The jar would have fit a frame more oval or round in shape.

SIGNS OF A MARRIED PICKLE CASTOR.

-Jar doesn't fit properly into the frame. The jar should not move around, but fit snuggle into it's base.

-Lid doesn't fit jar properly. The lid should fit the rim of the glass exactly.

-Jar looks disproportionate to the frame (too small or too large, wrong shape). A squatty, fat jar in a tall straight frame is most likely a marriage

Silver Pickle Castor Replacements

If you have the glass jar insert, but have lost or broken your silver frame, you can find replacements for sale on eBay. Many shapes and styles are always up for bids. Be careful to buy a frame that will fit your glass insert, as there are usually no returns on antiques.

TIPS

Measure your jar, height, and width or diameter at base, top and an bulges.

Ask seller for dimensions, if none are given.

Reprodution, Poorly Plated
Reprodution, Poorly Plated

Fakes, Reproductions and Resilvered Pickle Castors

Genuine Victorian pickle castors can command high prices. The best bringing between $500 - $1,000. Is it any wonder that reproductions have sprung up and are being passed off as genuine antiques. It really isn't too hard to spot a fake or reproduction,l if you know what to look for.

1 - Overly bright silver is a sign of replating or newly plated silver

2 - Missing silver hallmark. 19th century silver makers always hallmarked their wares. If the hallmark is missing, the silver frame is suspect.

3 - Details are poorly defined and executed. Original silver castor frames were works of art with amazing, crisp details. New reproductions are poorly created, stamped out messes that look clumsy in comparison to the real thing.

Notice the picture on the right. This lid is a reproduction being sold as an antique. Notice the poorly defined design, not only because the metal was poorly stamped, but the silver is pooling in the recesses, obscuring detail.

Real vs. Fake - Photographic comparrisons

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Genuine Pairpoint base with Mt. Washington Burmese glass insert. Notice how the glass jar fits exactly into it's base and is proportioned appropriately for the frame. Pairpoint actually owned Mt. Washington glass when this was made in the mid-to lateFiligree is poorly stampem metal with clumsy details and poor silver plating. Common reproduction on eBay, being passed off as antique.Notice the crisp details, as if carved. True antique frames are works of art with beautiful, refined design elements. The silver will be smooth, not pooled, flaky or bubbly in appearance.Base has messy, poorly defined decoration. Silver is flaky, and bubbly. Both are signs of reproduction fakes. the silver is also overly bright.Beautiful, delicate details. Silver is smooth with a nice patina.This lid has ugly, poorly executed floral embellishment. The silver plating is pooling in the recessed designs, and is bubbly and flaky.The stamped details of this lid are crisp and well defined. The silver lays smoothly on the metal with no signs of pooling, and with a nice patina.
Genuine Pairpoint base with Mt. Washington Burmese glass insert. Notice how the glass jar fits exactly into it's base and is proportioned appropriately for the frame. Pairpoint actually owned Mt. Washington glass when this was made in the mid-to late
Genuine Pairpoint base with Mt. Washington Burmese glass insert. Notice how the glass jar fits exactly into it's base and is proportioned appropriately for the frame. Pairpoint actually owned Mt. Washington glass when this was made in the mid-to late
Filigree is poorly stampem metal with clumsy details and poor silver plating. Common reproduction on eBay, being passed off as antique.
Filigree is poorly stampem metal with clumsy details and poor silver plating. Common reproduction on eBay, being passed off as antique.
Notice the crisp details, as if carved. True antique frames are works of art with beautiful, refined design elements. The silver will be smooth, not pooled, flaky or bubbly in appearance.
Notice the crisp details, as if carved. True antique frames are works of art with beautiful, refined design elements. The silver will be smooth, not pooled, flaky or bubbly in appearance.
Base has messy, poorly defined decoration. Silver is flaky, and bubbly. Both are signs of reproduction fakes. the silver is also overly bright.
Base has messy, poorly defined decoration. Silver is flaky, and bubbly. Both are signs of reproduction fakes. the silver is also overly bright.
Beautiful, delicate details. Silver is smooth with a nice patina.
Beautiful, delicate details. Silver is smooth with a nice patina.
This lid has ugly, poorly executed floral embellishment. The silver plating is pooling in the recessed designs, and is bubbly and flaky.
This lid has ugly, poorly executed floral embellishment. The silver plating is pooling in the recessed designs, and is bubbly and flaky.
The stamped details of this lid are crisp and well defined. The silver lays smoothly on the metal with no signs of pooling, and with a nice patina.
The stamped details of this lid are crisp and well defined. The silver lays smoothly on the metal with no signs of pooling, and with a nice patina.

Do you have a Victorian pickle castor? Did you have one and didn't know it until reading this lens? If you have one, do you use it? Would you like to get one, now that you know what to look for?

Do You Have a Pickle Castor?

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    • profile image

      eacoveney@hotmail.com 5 months ago

      yes I have one I would like to sell but don't know how much its worth

    • Diane Cass profile image
      Author

      Diane Cass 2 years ago from New York

      The number 185 is a pattern number. Other pieces in the same pattern would have similar, consecutive numbers (teapot, creamer, sugar, tray, etc...) There should be a name on the bottom, somewhere near the number. What is the name?

    • profile image

      kelly kimmerly 2 years ago

      I have an american silver plated quadruple number 185 with a green glass and a bird on it and a leaf design on top very beautiful and would love to no more info on it ..

    • Diane Cass profile image
      Author

      Diane Cass 3 years ago from New York

      @nichole-jacobson-3: Hmmm. your pickle castor sounds really pretty, with some unusual features on the frame. I would love to see a picture of it, and a close-up of the mark if you can get one. If you try cleaning around the mark, you can sometimes see it clearer. Also, an old trick I learned at the Antiques Roadshow. Hold a candle flame a little below the mark so that it makes soot all over the mark. When cool, place a piece of clear tape over the area. Press down carefully, then remove. Place the tape on a clean sheet of white paper. You can use a copier to blow it up, or photograph it and crop-zoom edit it until you can read it clearly. Send me pictures of the castor and marks if you like to dlcassame@yahoo.com

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      nichole-jacobson-3 3 years ago

      I have a pickle castor with a cranberry glass jar identical to the picture in your article. The feet on the stand have 3 flowers in each and the hook for the tongs is a bird. The plater's mark is rubbed off somewhat but it looks like Oclumbia silver co not Columbia. I can't figure out the age or value of this piece. Please help.

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 3 years ago

      Didn't even know these existed until I read your article. Very informative. Thank you.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a blue inside bubble pickle castor jar with yellow five leaf porcelain flowers and green leaves on outside. the silver plated part had a circle at the top with a mother and baby bird just below surrounded with flowers and vines. On the base of the stand it has the Plater's mark of "The Meriden Silverplate Co Quadruple Plate with either a lion or griffen rampant holding some sort of URN." This as been in my family a long time 80 plus years. I have tried to find out more information on this piece. $ and actuals age. Any help would be appreciated. Scotty.

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      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      Beautiful lens, I learned something!

    • karMALZEKE profile image

      karMALZEKE 4 years ago

      I really like the way you showed the fake and the real. Beautiful lens!

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      You certainly know your Pickle Castors. I'd never heard of these before. I think all fermented pickles should be in pretty jars like these! Thank you

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

      As usual, you are a wealth of knowledge, Diane! I didn't know what a pickle castor was until I read this. Those Victorians didn't leave a morsel of their lives un-embellished, did they? Very informative read!

    • Diane Cass profile image
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      Diane Cass 4 years ago from New York

      @anonymous: You can never go wrong if you go with your heart. Buying something because you love it is the best reason to buy something. It only matters if it is a fake or repro if you are going to resell it. Of course, you don't want to pay too much for something, but you can't go wrong just buying for the love of something.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I had not heard or seen a Victorian pickle castor till I went to visit the town of Virginia City in Nevada. Oh my, they were in most of the saloons there. Beautiful !! I fell in love with them and had to have one. I found many in some of the antique shops there. Expensive, but I still purchased one. Now I am done with my vacation and home and everyone who see my pickle castor loves it. I hope I was not taken to much and do not have a reproduction, as I did not do research, just went with my heart!!!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      I've collected many things and I have to give it to you, I never heard of a Pickle Castor; thank you for teaching me something new.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 years ago from Missouri

      I have never heard of a pickle castor, but I will be sure to watch for one when visiting antique shops. Blessings!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      Blessed by a Squid Angel! :)

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      I had never heard of nor ever seen a pickle castor before but now that you have introduced them to me I am intrigued. I think a pickle castor would look lovely on the table.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      I've done a lot of poking around in flea markets and antique shops but this is the first time I've heard of a pickle castor. You've covered the topic well.

    • karMALZEKE profile image

      karMALZEKE 5 years ago

      Very well done. I really enjoyed this lens. So much is forgotten. Thank You!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I don't have a pickle castor and not sure I've ever heard of one, but how beautiful these are!