Before matching salt-and-pepper shakers became popular in the late Victorian era, better households offered their guests salt cellars (or salts, as they were also known) and pepper casters at the dining table. Salt cellars from the early part of the 18th century were round, rectangular, or octagonal in shape, usually with no feet. Later in the century, footed cellars with pierced sides were popular - a glass liner that fitted within the cellar kept the salt from spilling out. In those days, guests did not typically "pass the salt." Instead, salts were sold in sets, so that each guest might have his or her own, which was not a bad idea since salt was commonly applied to food with the fingers.
Casters were used for a number of spices, but they are most closely associated with pepper. So named because they allowed users to "cast" spices upon their food, casters had round bodies and domed tops, which were secured to the bodies with clasps. A variation on the caster was the pepper box, which accomplished the same thing as a caster but had squared-off sides and a handle.
By the 19th century, casters had won the design competition over cellars, as matching salt-and-pepper shakers that could be passed around the table from guest to guest became the dominant form. Some had ornately detailed feet and sides, with fussy finials at the top. Others were balanced on circular or square pedestals, and many antique sterling silver salt-and-pepper shakers were engraved with a family's monogram.
Of particular interest to collectors though, are the novelty silver Peppers or Pepperettes from the Victorian era made in the form of animals or birds
, often of nice heavy quality cast construction, they have become very sought after indeed.
The selection illustrated above is currently available from stock and includes examples by the well known makers; E.H.Stockwell
, Walter Thornhill
& Co, Jane Brownett
, Thomas Johnson
Victorian Novelty Silver Street Lamp Condiment Set
An unusual Victorian novelty silver Condiment Set made in the form of a vintage Street Lamp, flanked by three bollards. The lift-out lamp as a gilt lined Salt and the bollards with pierced lids as peppers. On a mounted slate triform base. Complete with later Asprey's fitted case. The base and the salt engraved with contemporary monogram. Associated Salt Spoon.
By Percy Holland & George Gibson, London, 1877.