Ice bowls are very rare and this is a striking example by Tiffany & Co.
The splayed, pedestal base has a flat bottom and this whole section acts as a reservoir for water. The interior has a pierced liner which fits onto the top of the base.
Stunning repoussé decoration of flowers, leaves and scrolls against a stippled background completely covers the round bowl. The top of the rim has an applied band of scrolls and flowers. Complementary design is executed around the base.
Ice bowls are a wonderful symbol of American ingenuity.
It is easy to forget how important ice was in a world before the refrigerator. Unlike Western Europe, North America produced abundant supplies of clean ice. The clean rivers and lakes along with the cold winters allowed for bountiful ice 'harvesting' in the winter and early spring. Americans developed this resource and created markets for it by exploiting needs in tropical areas.
In the early 19th century, Henry Tudor and his Wenham Lake Ice Company improved insulating techniques so his ice could be shipped afar to the West Indies and even Calcutta, India. Henry Thoreau mentions the 'harvesting' of ice from Walden Pond.(1) An appendix to the 1880 U. S. census notes that 8 to 10 million tons of ice were harvested annually in the United States.(2)
Wenham Lake Ice became popular in Europe because, unlike old world ice, it was clean enough to actually put in drinking water and other refreshments. Queen Victoria was so delighted with the clean ice in her drinks that the Wenham Lake Ice Company received a royal warrant.(3)
This lovely small ice bowl is marked underneath 'TIFFANY & CO/ STERLING-SILVER/ 4780 M 7606' (indicating an 1877 design date). A later 'E.K' monogram is beautifully engraved underneath the base. The bowl measures 7.25 inches wide at the top by 5 inches high, weighs 19.55 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition. Endnotes:
- Gavin Weightman, The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story, (New York: Hyperion, 2003), pp. 169-70
- Weightman, p. 231.
- Weightman, p.184.