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History of Wine /Bottle Coasters

Wine was politicized for the middle and ruling classes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and lifestyle, consumption of goods and clothing became a way to display taste as well as wealth. This concept, alongside the abolition of import and export duties during the 1820s (although not fully enforced until the 1840s) created a massive influx of wine into Britain. These two factors contributed largely to the surge in wine consumption in Britain in the early nineteenth century within the upper echelons of society.

This newfound appreciation for wine meant that it became de rigeur to serve wine during and after formal dinner services, and thus, the need for the bottle slider – later to become commonly known as the bottle coaster- was created.

Antique silver wine and bottle coasters developed from wooden coasters, which were altogether more common and yet much less decorative.

Another contributing factor to the creation and widespread use of the bottle coaster may be that wine was initially served from narrow, ovoid shaped decanters and bottles, which would have been a great deal more likely to spill and topple than the cylindrical vessels which we are familiar with today.

The etymology of the term, ‘coasters’ is disputed; however historically the first use of the term ‘coasters’ referred to ships which sailed alongside the coastline. The way in which these bottle sliders or coasters were used - indeed to be slid along the table with as little friction or damage as possible to the table o the silver coaster itself – seems to have mirrored the movement of these coastal vessels, and there lies the origin of the term ‘bottle coaster’.

"The early name for such pieces was a 'stand' or 'slider'; the term 'coaster', first recognized in 1887, was derived from the custom that, after finishing dinner, the cloth was removed from the table, the ladies withdrew, and the bottle of port was 'coasted' around the table by the men.” - G. Bernard Hughes, 'Old English Wine Coasters’

bottle coaster history
wine coaster history
what is a bottle coaster

There are suggestions that the term ‘coaster’ was used because the piece of silver ware protects the table and tablecloth by just covering the base of the bottle- staying very close to the vessel itself and following the form of the vessel – just as a ship or boat would. This derivation is also an interesting comparison due to the comparisons between shipping vessels and drinking vessels!

This frictionless movement across the dining table is anecdotally reported as having its basis in the action of sharing wine across the table without servants pouring for the diners; this is reportedly for the after dinner service, whereupon the staff and women would take their leave, meaning that the gentleman would be forced to serve themselves.

The grand nature of the tables at such dinners is another contributing factor to the necessity for bottle coasters- although it may not be true that the gentlemen would be sat too far apart to pass a bottle by hand – so it was at Georgian and Victorian dining tables considered terrible manners to pass anything by hand, rather, there was an object or implement for everything that was consumed on the table- for example, grape shears and asparagus tongs, and bottle coasters were the item of choice for this part of the dining service.

What is a Wine / Bottle Coaster?

Antique silver coasters are a wonderful piece to collect and own, and are practical items which can be used on a daily basis, rather than being ornamental without function. These coasters often incorporated wooden bases with silver surrounding ‘trim’ or borders, which provided the opportunity for craftsmen to showcase their skills in silver decoration and ornamentation.

Usually, a silver ‘button’ style cartouche would sit in the centre of the wooden coaster base, and would bare the family crest or emblem. This feature may have also been introduced to avoid the inevitable warping of the wood which is created from too much contact with liquid, such as the spilled wine itself!

Silver was the most commonly used material for formal dining tableware during these eras, due to its durability and aesthetically appealing qualities. It follows naturally that bottle coasters developed from protective wooden pieces into a more decorative and practical form.

The earliest Georgian coasters had low borders, with simple pierced decoration, and gradually over time these became a more prominent feature of the coaster, with more complex decoration and ornamentation created using the silverware on the coasters. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, these silver borders became festooned with floral and natural motifs, signalling the popular fashion for interior décor of the time. Bottle coasters were created in sets, and although they were usually produced in pairs, larger sets of four and six can be found.

bottle coaster history
bottle coaster history
bottle coaster history

Types of Coasters

Antique silver bottle coasters are highly sought after items of silverware, particularly well maintained examples. The nature of these pieces means that they are often well worn, so those in good condition are rare.

Bottle Slide Coasters

Many later styles of wine coasters developed into wine bottle holders, with the borders elongated for extra security. These cover most of the body of the wine bottle, and are usually found singularly, rather than in pairs.

Coasters and Bottle Holders

There are unusual examples of champagne bottle coasters, for example those which feature lids. This addition serves the purpose of ensuring that as much carbonation and freshness of the champagne as possible is kept after opening.

This style of bottle holder became more common during the twentieth century, and was especially popular during the Edwardian era.

Andrew Campbell started trading in antiques during the 1970s. Initially, Andrew lived in the South of England, travelling the country, searching for items of silver to buy. Andrew sold these items at various London markets and antique fairs. Over time, and through selling at a range of venues, Andrew built up a large and diverse customer base from private buyers to national and international trade customers.
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