Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Ivory & Sterling Mystery Thingamajig Revealed

Chronica Domus
Did you correctly guess the purpose of the ivory and sterling thingamajig?
Photo: Chronica Domus


I have had such fun reading through the slew of comments received in response to the ivory and sterling thingamajig.  In fact, it has been one of the most popular mystery items in the entire series, inspiring many of you to come out of the woodwork in an attempt to solve this confounding little implement's intended purpose.  Without further ado, let's get to the answer.

The two most popular guesses were that it was either one of these ...

A marrow spoon or scoop


or one of these ...

A Stilton scoop


followed in hot pursuit by one of these ...

Chronica Domus
A cheese corer
(this one is an English nineteenth century oak, brass, and steel corer belonging to my husband)
Photo: Chronica Domus


I had a sneaking suspicion that these would be the top guesses, all plausible to be certain but, surprisingly, all incorrect.  

Now, I'll be honest and admit to you that I purchased the mystery thingamajig because I too thought it was a scoop to aid in the delivery of Stilton to one's plate. I have been on the hunt for such a scoop for some time but those I've come across have been rather large and unwieldy, and better suited for use with larger truckles.  

Chronica Domus
Plunged into a truckle of crumbly Stilton cheese the shovel-shaped scoop does an admirable job of delivering cheese to plate with minimal fuss and mess
Photo: Chronica Domus


Which is why when I first set eyes upon the mystery thingamajig, I knew it was going home with me.  At just shy of six inches, it was perfect for a smaller truckle. It could also, I supposed, be used to scoop out potted Stilton.  As a bonus, the sterling shank was fashioned into an unusual hemispherical scoop rather than the typical shovel shape.  

Chronica Domus
The description on the dealer's tag read "English sterling Stilton scoop with bone handle" but my teenage daughter saw things differently
Photo: Chronica Domus


My observant and inquisitive teenage daughter took one look at my newly acquired prize and deemed it an apple corer.  "An apple corer?" I repeated, "surely not".  I was left somewhat slack-jawed by the suggestion but, suddenly, the shape of the scoop made perfect sense.  Sure enough, a quick gander on the Internet confirmed her suspicions.  Who'da thunk it?!  

Here's one made by Thomas Hyde I of London, circa 1770 ...


... and another, a Georgian ivory and sterling apple corer, circa 1816


I marvel at the fact that I am now the proud owner of an apple corer for the first time in my life.  And, its an elegant one at that.  I had no idea such utilitarian kitchen objects could be elevated to the sublime.  

Chronica Domus
My thingamajig apple corer was made in London by silversmith Henry Holland Sr. in 1853
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
It does a masterly job of removing the core from the last of the winter farmers' market apples
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
What a satisfyingly elegant way of performing a basic kitchen task
Photo: Chronica Domus


As it turns out, my apple corer is far from being deemed one of the more elegant examples available for sale during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Those were made entirely of sterling silver, like the one pictured below:

Chronica Domus
Source


Some apple corers were even designed to be portable and used during travel or for picnicking.  The corer can be unscrewed from its handle and stored within it when not in use.

Chronica Domus
A Georgian sterling silver traveling apple corer, London circa 1803


If you are interested in learning more about these little-known utensils, I highly recommend you read Dorothea Burstyn's informative article found here.

Thank you all for participating in what I hope has been a fun and enlightening guessing game.  I believe my daughter won this round and has earned her ranking, having been the only participant to have correctly solved the mystery of the ivory and sterling thingamajig.  She was also the inspiration for this post, of course.

Source: Pinterest

Do please join me in giving her a well-deserved round of appl(e)ause.


16 comments:

  1. Hello CD, I looked back, and sure enough, you gave the dimensions in the original article: "six inch long, ivory and sterling silver item." Somehow my eyes skimmed over the "six-inch" and I was mentally thinking of this as a somewhat larger object. If I had marked off the size on a ruler, I might have been led in a better direction!

    Congratulations on possessing such a fine antique apple corer, and on having a daughter with the proper spirit of inquiry. Now all you need to go with it (unless you already have some) is a sterling fruit knife, possibly one of the folding ones that add so much elegance to a stroll in the fruit garden.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jim,

      To be fair, you did mention apple corer in your guess but then again, you didn't quite settle on it as being the mystery object's true purpose.

      I do not (yet) own a folding fruit knife but have long admired those beautiful nineteenth century French nécessaire de voyage sets which typically contain a folding knife, fork, and spoon etc. You can view one at the link below:

      http://www.encheres-nantes-labaule.com/vente-aux-encheres/21-aux-bonheurs-des-dames/2886-necessaire-de-voyage-complet-en-argent-et-ivoire-dans-son-etui-en-cuir-chiffre-et-surmonte-d-une-cou

      Delete
  2. And some Cox's Orange Pippins.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yes, those are indeed delicious! I'm also going to make sure my daughter uses the corer the next time I make an apple pie.

      Thanks again for participating in the fun and I do hope you were pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the mystery object's intended purpose.

      Delete
  3. How practical and beautiful! A dear friend from Fresno gave me a boxed set of fruit knives with mother of pearl and sterling handles. My friend is 98 and I suspect the knives are as old or older because there are seven in the satin lined box of what appeared to originally be a dozen. My friend cautioned they are very sharp and indeed they are.
    Now I must hunt down an apple corer. Kudos to Patience for her observant eye.
    Best,
    KL Gaylin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a lovely gift to have received from your dear friend. It is fun to imagine where the rest of the knives are, if they've survived at all.

      Good luck with your apple corer hunt. Don't you think everyone should have one?

      Delete
  4. Congratulations to your dear daughter. Well I "planted the seed" close but missed the core of the correct answer. Looking forward to your next mystery thingamgig.
    BarbG

    ReplyDelete
  5. Of course, so obvious when told! A serendipitous find. It will then certainly get a lot of use as intended, in addition to your personalised use as a cheese poker. So nice to be able to adapt these thingamajigs as you please. Goodness knows I do!

    Vanessa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it helps, Vanessa, I agree. As soon as my daughter posited the apple corer theory, I saw it instantly. Now, off to find a proper Stilton scoop!

      Delete
  6. Ha! My first thought went to apple corer but that guess seemed too obvious and was promptly dismissed. Should have taken my own advice - 'always go with first instincts' and 'don't overthink it' :)

    Spud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Spud,

      You've demonstrated Occam's razor perfectly. You might also want to leave your husband out of these guessing games in the future (wink!).

      Delete
  7. I can't believe I missed this edition of Mystery Object! Your daughter is very smart, I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree ;) ;) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Dani,

      It was quite the lightbulb moment when my daughter suggested the mystery thingamajig was indeed an apple corer. It is funny how people view the world differently, I suppose. I saw a Stilton scoop, she saw apples.

      Delete
  8. I have been so busy but I swear i knew it! which is rare!!! hehe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, OK, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt, JUST THIS ONCE! Next time, you are going to have to play along with these silly guessing games.

      Nice to see you again, Naomi. Thanks for dropping by.

      Delete

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