Alice Karle Appraisal

Fine & Decorative Art

Sterling Silver Wine Coolers

Sterling Wine Coolers
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Sterling Wine Coolers

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A matched pair of English Regency sterling silver wine coolers. Late rococo style covered in elaborate high relief repousee. Made by John & Thomas Settle of Sheffield in 1817. They weigh over 80 troy ounces each. All original with bodies, collars, and inserts with matching hallmarks.

Regency sterling wine coolers of this quality and original condition are rare. The wine coolers were a 35th anniversary gift from William Webb Wheeler, Jr. to his wife Virginia and have descended in the family.

Although now associated with the serving of chilled sparkling wines, this was not the original function of sterling silver wine coolers. Lacking refrigeration, those who had the financial means would construct ice houses to store the winter ice, so that wine, fruit and other food items could be served chilled in the warm months.

Ice would be chipped and placed in the bottom of the liner of the wine cooler, avoiding the serving of warm wine, while also making an elegant presentation in an object of value and beauty.

Wine coolers were not the first form developed for the chilling of wine. The monteith, which consisted of a sterling silver bowl mounted with a detachable scalloped silver crown, was first used. The monteith was named after a supposed Scott nobleman. In the late 17th century Wood wrote of “a fantastical Scott called ‘Monsieur Monteigh’ who wore the bottome of his cloake or coate so notched.” The crown of the monteith served to suspend silver cups by their base in an ice bath, thus chilling them. Silver cups were superseded by glass. Monteiths continued to be produced as punch bowls, and were popular because of their attractive form on the sideboard. However, they were no longer used for their original function.