Sterling silver coconut shell wine decanter?

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AllSeasons
Posts: 153
Joined: Sun Jul 11, 2021 2:35 pm

Sterling silver coconut shell wine decanter?

Postby AllSeasons » Mon Mar 14, 2022 7:37 pm

I recently acquired this antique hand carved sterling & coconut shell wine decanter, measuring 8.4" x 3.9" and 242.4 grams. Exact provenance has not been established, as no visible markings have been found. The previous owner performed a scratch test to confirm sterling silver content. To my untrained eye, this item appears to be Central/South American in origin, possibly Spanish/Portuguese colonial. Coconut shells were believed to neutralize poison (arsenic), such as in wine, during the Renaissance up until the 1800's, and were popular amongst the rich in drinking vessels. This is why I believe this to be a wine decanter. The exact period is not known, as the coconut shell fad experienced a brief revival 300 years later.

The motifs on the item suggest a Spanish/Portuguese and Central/South American origin. The dense foliage on the silver top half of the decanter suggests an Islamic influence, which is in line with a Spanish/Moorish origin. The carvings also depict a leopard, and other animals (of the
rainforest), notably a bird of prey attacking another bird. The carvings on the coconut shell also appear to depict the head of a Native American with traditional headdress (back/profile view). Overall, the vessel appears to be very ornately decorated, and appears to be museum quality to my untrained eye.

Does anyone know what this is actually? Is it a wine decanter, or is it a vase as the seller claimed? Also, is it Central/South American? Any ideas on approximately when this would've been made? Despite my research, I'm at a loss as to what this is. I'm still waiting for it to arrive in the mail, and will look to see if there're any other details I can share once it gets here.

Images are below. Thank you in advance!

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Aguest
contributor
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Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:26 am

Re: Sterling silver coconut shell wine decanter?

Postby Aguest » Tue Mar 15, 2022 2:03 pm

:::::: Snake-handled vessels appear in the silver of the Kutch region of India ::::: If those birds are peacocks it would be a Hindu symbol as peacocks eat snakes and have an entire mythology surrounding them in the Hindu symbol universe. ::::: I've seen coconut-shell vessels made in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) but I don't know of any examples from India right off the top of my head. :::: The first thoughts I have here are the Kutch silver region of India and Ceylon, but if there is enough information to absolutely rule out these thoughts it would be of interest ::::::::

::::: As for what liquid this was used to hold, there are a few candidates (wine & medicine-infused water), but often chocolate is overlooked because people used to consume it in a liquid form and very few people drink chocolate anymore. :::::

AllSeasons
Posts: 153
Joined: Sun Jul 11, 2021 2:35 pm

Re: Sterling silver coconut shell wine decanter?

Postby AllSeasons » Tue Mar 15, 2022 3:15 pm

Aguest wrote::::::: Snake-handled vessels appear in the silver of the Kutch region of India ::::: If those birds are peacocks it would be a Hindu symbol as peacocks eat snakes and have an entire mythology surrounding them in the Hindu symbol universe. ::::: I've seen coconut-shell vessels made in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) but I don't know of any examples from India right off the top of my head. :::: The first thoughts I have here are the Kutch silver region of India and Ceylon, but if there is enough information to absolutely rule out these thoughts it would be of interest ::::::::

::::: As for what liquid this was used to hold, there are a few candidates (wine & medicine-infused water), but often chocolate is overlooked because people used to consume it in a liquid form and very few people drink chocolate anymore. :::::


Wow, thanks for the info! I was completely off the mark on the region, LOL! This is really cool, though, to know that this vessel somehow traveled here (United States) all the way from India this long ago. Any thoughts on how old this item might be?

Also, when I do receive the item, I'm going to look for any identifying marks. For items from Kutch/Ceylon, where would they usually mark their items? Or do they usually mark them at all? I think I might also give the inside a sniff, to see if it smells like wine or chocolate!

Aguest
contributor
Posts: 1340
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:26 am

Re: Sterling silver coconut shell wine decanter?

Postby Aguest » Tue Mar 15, 2022 4:34 pm

:::: Kutch silver is most often not hallmarked but there are ways to recognize it by high level of worked detail & dense plant/animal imagery :::::
:::: If I'm on the wrong track let me know but I don't know which other track to follow for a coconut silver object like this. ::::

AllSeasons
Posts: 153
Joined: Sun Jul 11, 2021 2:35 pm

Re: Sterling silver coconut shell wine decanter?

Postby AllSeasons » Tue Mar 15, 2022 4:43 pm

Aguest wrote::::: Kutch silver is most often not hallmarked but there are ways to recognize it by high level of worked detail & dense plant/animal imagery :::::
:::: If I'm on the wrong track let me know but I don't know which other track to follow for a coconut silver object like this. ::::


Thanks! No, I trust your Kutch assessment - I was just going to see if I could find the maker's name (initials), like OM for Oomersi Mawji (wishful thinking). Is there a list somewhere of the few silversmiths who did sign their name? Cheers!


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