Arrival of the Salt Cellar
The earliest types that we can trace back to the 15th century are standing salts. These would originally have been crafted in an hourglass form. After the first half of the century, they tended to take cylindrical forms. These early specimens were usually lavished with ornament; they often featured repoussé work with chased figures. As the century aged, bell shaped salt cellars came into vogue. They were, in turn, replaced when we enter the 17th century by tall steeple salts. Both bell salts and steeple salts were multipurpose. They would often incorporate tiny compartments in their tiers which would be used to contain other spices. Shorter, octagonal and circular forms then swept in to take the limelight. They became the popular form of standing salt in the late 1800s.
Casters for sugar, spices, and pepper originated in the midst of the 17th century in France. The most common design of such casters is a tall cylinder referred to as a ‘lighthouse’. Frequently, three were sold in a set, for salt, pepper, and sugar. Finding these sets today proves a challenge. The range of salt cellars available in sets is encouraging, however, and many exist across a range of styles and prices.
Moving on to the 18th century, we continue to see a great variety of shapes at play. Circular, oval, octagonal, tripod and tall with three feet were all popular designs of salt cellars. During the late 1700s, in fitting with the Neoclassical style of the time, salt cellars adopted a tureen-like shape. The classical influence upon design followed salt cellars into the early 1800s. At this time we can see a reversion to some older styles. The tureen shape remained popular and circular bowls with three or four ornamented feet were in fashion.
Through the 19th century, the cauldron-shaped salts continued to be produced as well as new designs, increasingly elaborate as time went on, adopting the Regency styles. Each type of silver cellar is still valued today, their prices generally reflecting their quality and used materials.
The popularity of these delightful pieces of silverware remained fixed up until the early 20th century. From 1911 free flowing salt began to be used more frequently and upon the subsequent invention of the salt shaker, the necessity of the salt cellar decreased. To this day however, salt cellars have remained highly sought after collectors’ items. With their diverse shapes and patterns, and their integral part in social history, we still firmly believe that salt cellars have an important place at the dinner table.