American Antique Sterling Silver Nutmeg Grater, likely by John Wendt, NYC, c. 1874
Wonderfully whimsical, this is one of the nicest and rarest nutmeg graters we've had the pleasure of selling. One mostly sees English sterling examples and American ones are very uncommon. This example is shaped as a canister fitted with a top and sleeve which slides inside the body. The domed cover has applied nutmeg finial.
The midsection has an applied band with fluted horizontal edges and a stippled interior with raised nubs. A shield is engraved 'MPG/ Feb. 10. 1874'.
Another horizontal fluted band connects the body to the spreading foot decorated with aesthetic foliate design.
The tinned steel grater is attached inside the top. Nutmeg would have been housed within the hollow, pierced grater. Visible in the opened photo, there are traces of a hinge to hold nutmeg within the tube. We believe there was a cover, now missing, from the bottom of the grater section.
Nutmeg has always been an expensive spice, hence the creation of a special and expensive container to hold it. Not only is it pleasantly fragrant, folklore attributed medicinal qualities to it as far back as the plague. From the 16th century, nutmeg was a popular spice to add to food and drink. It was quite fashionable to add nutmeg to toddies, punch and other warm alcoholic beverages.
This 'ENGLISH STERLING' mark is seen on pieces retailed by Ball, Black & Co. It is often seen on pieces made by John Wendt and his partner Bernhard Biederhase whose shop was above Ball, Black. However, it is also seen on silver by other makers, so this is only the most likely scenario.
This rare nutmeg grates is marked underneath 'ENGLISH STERLING'. It measures 5 inches tall and is in excellent antique condition aside from the staining of the grater and the missing interior cover.