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.