Antique Wine memorabilia

PUBLISHED: 15:45 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013

A magnificent pair of early Victorian frosted glass claret jugs with silver-gilt mounts by John Hunt 1843, £25,000

A magnificent pair of early Victorian frosted glass claret jugs with silver-gilt mounts by John Hunt 1843, £25,000

Susan Rumfitt, our antiques expert, discovers the fun as well as value of collecting wine related memorabilia

When I visited Great Northern Wine in Ripon recently I was surprised to see vines growing in the window boxes. I then heard of Yorkshire Heart Vineyard at Kirk Hammerton which has also been busy planting vines.

This new interest in growing vines in the least expected places prompted me to take a closer look at wine related collectables. And there is a selection to enhance these new bottles of wine - from corkscrews to decanters.

Some very brief background: the wine bottle was first seen in the early part of the 17th century and by the 18th century they had names such as 'shaft and globe' and 'onion' which described the different shapes of neck. Into the neck was placed a cork which was bound with wax linen.

Something then had to be devised to release these corks- twisted metal was the answer and led to the development of the corkscrew. Silver corkscrews are among the most collectable today with rare examples selling for hundreds of pounds.


Bottles today tend to take on many shapes and the glass attractively decorated, which in itself is a way to attract a buyer. However many wines benefit from being decanted.

The first silver mounted claret jugs can be traced back to the Elizabethan period. Pottery vessels had often been used in the Middle Ages to hold wine and wealthy families would have these jugs mounted in silver-often referred to as the tigerware jug.

Unfortunately they tended to break easily because of their delicate pottery body and remained popular for only a short time, around 1550-1630. By the19th century glass manufacture had developed to such an extent that wine was able to be bottled at source.

Some of the most fabulous examples of silver mounted decanters were created by Paul Storr. He used vine leaves, and grapes intricately entwined around the glass, not only demonstrating his superior craftsmanship but also his acceptance of the Victorian love of naturalism.

John Hunt (nephew of Storr's by marriage) followed Storrs example to create jugs which were exceptional, examples of which can fetch 25,000. Examples by lesser known silversmiths can be picked up at auction for considerably less - so don't be put off from buying an antique silver decanter.

Once the wine had been decanted it was important to label it. These wine labels became highly collectable with prices beginning from as little as 30 or 40 at auction.Where and who made the labels make a difference to the price as well as the design. There are hundreds to choose from.

A keen eye will also be able to pick out misspelt wine names which also add to the value of a label. During the mid 18th century labels with scrolls, festoons and cherubs were very popular, typical of the Rococo period decoration.

As the century progressed the Neo-Classical style introduced elegant shapes and delicate piercing and engraving. The Regency period of 1800- 1830 was all about splendour on the dining table. Over the top decoration, such as vine leaves, grapes and scroll work, was encouraged by the Prince Regent. The elaborate natural themes continued into the Victorian period but by 1860 the popularity was beginning to decline.

But there is a great deal of interest today which is supported by the Wine Label Circle, founded in 1952. To have a fabulous decanter and label was essential to the dining table from the18th century and the fashion was to display the decanter using a decanter stand or wine coaster.

Decanter stands did tend to have a more functional role (ie to catch spillages) than decorative, but it didn't stop the creative side of designers. Many earlier examples were set on wheels so they could be pushed from one end of the table to the other. Some even had motors concealed within mounts modelled as ships or carriages and became known as wine wagons.

Decanters, labels and coasters are just a few of the many wine artefacts available to the collector today. Starting a collection with a corkscrew is great fun especially when you read the words of W.E.R French who said the corkscrew was '...a useful key to unlock the storehouse of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship and the gate of pleasant folly.'What more could you ask for? www.susanrumfitt.com

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