What is a Pickle Castor
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.
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
Simpson, Hall & Miller
Reed & Barton
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.
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.
Can a Pickle Castor be "Married"?
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.
Measure your jar, height, and width or diameter at base, top and an bulges.
Ask seller for dimensions, if none are given.
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 comparrisonsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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?