Cruet Sets And Condiment Bottles
Georgian glass cruet sets and condiment bottles may sound like a rather limited sphere in which the antique glass collector might choose to operate, but you’d do well to remember that any excuse to possess additional tableware was eagerly embraced by the Georgian middle-classes and there were, therefore, many examples of diminutive decorative accessories produced to enhance the dining environment, providing rich pickings for anyone who appreciates vintage glassware.
Georgian cruets and sets of condiment bottles have the added collecting allure of, ideally, having to be tracked down in their entirety, although for those that were made without any sort of complementary stand or rack there’s always the matter of exactly how many pieces they might have had when complete. As a general rule, five individual elements constitutes a sensible guess, with two bottles for oil and vinegar, and three sifters, shakers or casters for salt, pepper and dry mustard. There are, however, examples of Bristol blue glass condiments bearing gilt ‘kyan’ motifs – meaning ‘cayenne’. Ketchup and Anchovie also make an appearance on small gilded cobalt bottles, along with Soy and Lemon.
Based on historical precedent, the name cruet should refer only to the small bottles – often with lipped rims and a stopper, cork or lid – that were intended for sauces or other liquid contents. As is often the case, things have now turned almost full circle, and you will often find modern ‘cruet sets’ which consist of just salt and pepper pots alone! It’s hard not to apply this modern convention retrospectively when referring to antique vessels, and this does happen to lend itself to another common though essentially inaccurate habit of referring to the oils, vinegars and sauces – and their containers - as ‘condiments’. In reality, a condiment is anything added to food to impart flavour, so the contents of any cruet bottle, sifter or shaker is also a condiment; perhaps it’s best just to concede that definitive differentiation is near impossible, and just go with the flow…
There are also some interesting pieces which combine both glass and silver. It’s manifestly obvious that it would have been easier to apply small piercings to worked metal than to glass and hence, as the preparation of more finely ground pepper became possible, we find glass-bodied vessels with silver caps or lids being used for its presentation at table. Similar articles also began to appear for use with salt and sugar, as it became easier to control the humidity of the home, thus avoiding the ‘clumping’ previously inherent in damp conditions. This meant that such materials could more easily be dispensed through the small apertures of finely-made sifters and, although somewhat obliquely, the tableware of the time thus reflected the overall improvement of living conditions as the 18th century progressed.
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