How to Buy Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

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How to Buy Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

Salt and pepper can spice up any meal, and antique solid silver salt and pepper cellars are a beautiful adornment to any table. With a long history and careful craftsmanship, antique solid silver salt and pepper cellars are sought after for both their practical and aesthetic value. However, before a prospective buyer decides which cellars to purchase, they may consider following a few simple guidelines first. Taking into account a variety of factors such as the definition of solid silver, the variation of cellars on the market, how to classify them as antique, the features to look out for, and simple methods of solid silver care can help a buyer be better prepared to choose the right antique cellars for their dining table or collection.

History of Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

Salt has been an important part of the dining tradition for hundreds of years. During the Middle Ages, the rarity of salt meant it was not only used for its taste, but also as a status symbol. Though pepper was not always a companion, the salt cellar existed in a variety of early forms, predominantly as a bowl placed at the host’s end of the dining table. In French cuisine during the seventeenth century, both salt and pepper were kept at the table together as neither was considered to overpower the food.

The varieties of antique cellars found today are generally from the nineteenth century onward. With the addition of magnesium carbonate to salt manufacturing in the early twentieth century, salt cellars could easily pour their contents through small holes instead of being kept in bowls, without the risk that that the salt would turn lumpy with moisture. Salt and pepper cellars were fashioned from a variety of attractive materials, particularly solid silver and glass. Today many of these pieces of tableware are passed or sold down through generations and have acquired antique value.

Discover Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

Silver antiques are well known for their beauty and collectability, and antique salt and pepper cellars are no exception. Ornately designed and often paired in what is called a ‘cruet stand,’ these unique pieces of hollowware can place solid silver’s lustre at the centre of any table. While the traditional cellar was once a simple bowl that was limited to salt, additional screw-top designs and hand-operated grinders mean that antique cellars can now mix or match perfectly. Their variety allows for the individual taste and expression of the buyer, and a purchase can mean the right piece for a collection, the completion of a solid silver dining set, or simply a unique difference for a daily table setting.

Materials used in Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

Solid silver salt and pepper cellars are not always built from one type of silver, or even from silver at all. Below are listed the three common materials that can be found in the antique selection, often combined in their design.




Often used for the body of the cellar, allowing the user to gauge the amount contained.

Sterling Silver

92.5 percent solid silver and 7.5 percent alloyed metal, mainly copper.

Britannia Silver

95.8 percent solid silver and 4.2 percent alloyed metal, mainly copper.

Types of Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

Below are listed three designs that are commonly referred to as cellars.






Container with holes in the top and a lid

Salt or pepper can be poured in a measured amount and can come in matching cellars

Lid is required to be removable in order to refill the salt or pepper

Traditional Cellar

A small ornate bowl used specifically for salt

Is unique different to the more common salt ‘shaker’

Salt requires to be applied with a spoon, and pepper requires a separate container design


A hand-operated mechanical container that holds whole peppercorns or salt crystals

Grind the salt or pepper fresh for use

Developed more recently and so less likely to be of antique value

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

Before making a decision on which antique solid silver cellar to buy, a prospective buyer would be well advised to consider some additional factors.

  • What is antique? - ‘Antique’ is commonly applied to any item that is over one hundred years old. Some professionals consider 1930 to be the cut-off for antique value, but regardless of the definition that is applied, a buyer should note that when browsing antique salt and pepper cellars, an ‘old’ piece does not indicate antique value.
  • What is sold silver? - Slightly misleading, the term ‘solid silver’ does not in fact mean pure silver, as pure silver is too soft to work with. Solid silver is commonly referred to as ‘sterling silver.’ With a percentage of at least 92.5 percent pure silver, solid silver separates itself from ‘silver plate’, which is a thin layer of solid silver over a less valuable metal such as bronze.
  • What type is best? - When considering salt and pepper cellars, a buyer is often looking for a matching pair. If the cellars are required to match the style of an existing solid silver collection, attention should be paid to the designs in the glass or silver. It may even be possible to find antique salt and pepper cellars from the same antique manufacturer.

Typical Features of Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

The following list outlines some of the typical features of antique solid silver salt and pepper cellars.

1.  Silver Designs

Cellars can be given individual designs and ornate patters using various methods including repoussé (also called embossing) in which the silver is delicately hammered into designs from the reverse side creating an outwardly textured surface.

2.  Engraving

Solid silver is often engraved. Most pieces will carry a quality number, such as 925 for sterling silver, and also a mark that identifies the manufacturer. Other engraving may also be found on personalised cellars, such as the monogramming of a previous owner’s initials.

3.  Cut Glass

If present on a salt or pepper cellar, the glass body can be flat or cut to have patterns and textures such as Grecian designs. The glass may also be stained with colour on some cellars.

4.  Handles

Though less common, some antique salt and pepper cellars will have their silverwork extended to incorporate a small handle for ease of lifting.

How to Care for Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars

There are a few simple methods for caring for your antique salt and pepper cellars, ensuring that retain their lustre for years to come.

  • When not in use, keep the cellars in a dry, zip-lock bag to prevent moisture and air from tarnishing the silver.
  • Occasionally wash and polish the silver using a small amount of silver polis, ensuring to buff and rinse it away after polishing, leaving the piece dry.
  • Always empty the cellar before any sort of washing or polishing.
  • When cleaning, wear gloves to help ensure that dirt and sweat from hands do not end up on the silver.
  • If a cellar has a glass body, ensure that it is stored in a safe environment that prohibits it from being chipped. It is best not to put them in any dishwasher.

Popular Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellar Manufacturers

  • Kirk and Son
  • Jenkins and Jenkins
  • Gorham
  • David Hennell
  • Baldwin and Miller
  • Beswick
  • Cartlton Ware

Finding Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellars on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique solid silver salt and pepper cellar you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on 'Solid Silver' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Solid Silver Salt and Pepper Cellarson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique solid silver salt and pepper cellars. For example, to find a traditional solid silver salt cellar, type ‘Traditional Solid Silver Salt Cellar’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique solid silver salt and pepper cellars with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique salt or pepper cellar you want, try shopping eBay Stores..


Once purchased, an antique solid silver salt or pepper cellar can be a unique and even valuable addition to the home. With the shine of solid silver and the history of an antique, it is no wonder that many collectors and enthusiasts seek to purchase at least one set. By keeping a few of the above-mentioned guidelines into consideration, you can better ensure that you purchase the pieces that suit your needs. Factors such as the varieties of cellars on the antique market, what it is that defines an antique, and the exact specifications of solid silver, all impact a final decision. Once you have collected this information, you can buy antique solid silver salt and pepper cellars safely and securely on eBay..

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