Castle top silver boxes were once the go-to souvenir. These intricately designed pieces all pay homage to a particular place, and during the Victorian era, they were beloved by tourists looking for a way to remember a special trip. Today, they are highly sought-after collector’s items, especially if they depict an unusual location.
Today, we’re stepping into the shoes of a Victorian tourist and learning about the beauty and history of castle top silver. Read on to find out more.
What Is Castle Top Silver?
Castle top silver is a type of antique that gives itself away with its name – a piece of silver with a castle on the top! More specifically, castle top silver usually consists of a card case or a vinaigrette decorated with embossed or engraved ornamentation. Castle top boxes always show a location on their lid, such as a stately home or a castle. Often, they also feature a vacant cartouche to the reverse, in which the owner can get their initials (or the initials of a loved one) engraved.
Here at AC Silver, our collection of castle top silver features a wide variety of locations from Westminster Abbey to Scott monument.
The History of Castle Top Silver
Castle top boxes were first fashioned by the silver ‘toy’ makers of Birmingham and stamped with a local landmark. First and foremost, these beautifully designed items were souvenirs. Pieces depicting a specific location were sold to holiday-makers and honeymooners who travelled around the country during the mid-19th century. Castle top silver souvenirs were at their height of popularity between 1830 and 1860. Because this time period is so short, the cases are now very rare and therefore make excellent collector’s items.
Castle Top Vinaigrettes
Vinaigrettes were popular during the 19th century and were used primarily to mask unpleasant smells. They incorporate a sponge dipped into a strong fragrance which the owner could use to avoid street smells. As vinaigrettes were already popular among wealthy Victorians, it made sense to turn them into souvenirs by adding castle top ornamentation.
Castle Top Card Cases
The other most prominent type of castle top silver is the castle top card case. Like vinaigrettes, card cases were already popular items, which made them the perfect base for castle top ornamentation. They were used to hold calling cards, which would be left behind at a residence if the required person wasn’t available, and they also worked to symbolise the owner’s social standing. For example, unmarried men usually carried smaller calling cards than married men.
Collecting Castle Top Silver
As castle top silver pieces were only manufactured for a limited time period, they are now highly collectable. There are many other factors that can make certain pieces more valuable. For example, the scarcer the location or the view depicted, the more valuable the piece (generally speaking). If you manage to find a piece depicting a classic location from a more unusual angle, that will also most likely be worth a lot. However, popular locations such as Windsor Castle and Warwick Castle can also be very collectable.
If you’re thinking of starting your own collection, there are key things to look out for. Hallmarks are always important to check, as well as the overall quality of the piece. It’s also a good idea to look out for particularly collectable makers of castle top silver, including George Unite, Alfred Taylor, and Nathaniel Mills.
Pieces of castle top silver work both as brilliant collector’s items and personal pieces. Any box or case that depicts a place that is special to a loved one is sure to make a brilliant gift, which is beautiful, meaningful, and full of historic significance.
Delilah Kealy-Roberts – Sales and Digital Assistant
Delilah joined the AC Silver team as a Sales & Digital Assistant in 2017 after completing her degree in English Literature at Leeds University. Delilah possesses a passion for jewellery and antiquities combined with an interest in blogging and social media.