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This sterling “box” rectangular shaped in form with canted corners and a lovely scroll engraved decoration. There is a pierced scroll engraved grille and the top is also beautifully engraved with scrollwork and monogramed “HH” on the front of the Vinaigrette. Dimensions are 1 1/4 inches tall and ¾ of an inch wide. The maker's mark is “H & T”. The vinaigrette was made in Birmingham, England in 1862. Inside there is a pierced hinged grille, a small sponge would have been under the grille to soak in smelling salts. The interior is gold gilded and marked on lid, grille and bottom with maker marks –year mark- Sterling lion passant and the Victoria Sovereign’s Head showing duty was paid.
In present day society, personal hygiene has been elevated to a very high priority in judging and being judged by our peers. Personal hygiene however, was not always so meticulous. Prior to the introduction of soaps, and their easy accessibility, people needed a reliable means to mask the varied smells and odors wafting through their environment. The vinaigrette served that purpose admirably. Designed as a miniature container with a small sponge that could be saturated with sweet smelling perfumes and oils, it was held under the nose to mask less than fragrant surroundings.
Many aromatic herbs such as sage, cinnamon, lavender, mint and rosemary, mixed with alcohol and acetic acid to create a pleasant perfume were employed in this endeavor. Not only did these essences provide protection from foul odors but it was believed at the time that they could protect one from cholera as well. When the sponge was soaked only in vinegar, as per its original use, it could help prevent the wearer from fainting.
Used by both men and women, vinaigrettes were suspended from chatelaines, placed in pockets, hung from long chains, bracelets or finger rings. Vinaigrettes could also feature a gemstone thumb piece and the open grid, which held the sponge in place, was usually designed with elaborate and decorative pierce work. This was taken from the AJU web page.
This vinaigrette has its original jump ring for hanging on a ribbon or chain. Great condition with some of the gold gilt worn on the inside of the box this was used in its day.