The History and Use of Silver Decanter Labels

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Hallmarked Silver SHERRY Decanter label from 1827

The History and Use of Silver Decanter Labels.

The silver decanter label is one of the more interesting contributions to European culture from Great
Britain, even if the scale of it seems small at first. It combines practicality with a bit of flourish that makes it
rather unique and totally British in terms of its overall approach. 

Of course, in order to find out more about English sterling silver decanter labels, it is important to understand more about the decanter itself. 

What is a Decanter? 

First created in the 17th century in Great Britain, the decanter is a teardrop-shaped vessel that holds the  contents of at least one standard size bottle of wine. While the shape of the decanter can vary, it is  usually recognized for its wide bottom and narrow, long neck. Generally made of glass, the decanter is a type of open-topped bottle that allows the wine to breathe.  

In the times when wine was served in the 17th century, the bottles were kept on the sideboard along with the glasses and only used during meal time. Afterwards, the glasses and bottle were handed back to the servants for cleaning and disposing. 

However, in England it was traditional for the men to keep drinking after their wives and family members retired for the evening. With various wines being passed around the table, it was not long before George Ravenscroft, a prominent promoter of the English glass industry, developed the idea for the decanter. He figured that the unique shape would be far more interesting that the dark green bottles that where often used to hold the wine. Plus, the wide bottom meant fewer chances that the wine could be spilled as well.   

By the turn of the 18th century, the decanter had become part of many home in the English aristocracy those who enjoyed their fair share of wealth as well. However, the one issue with a decanter was that the contents of the wine that was poured would not be known to many of those around the table because there was no labelling. 

That was solved by use of a “silver bottle ticket” that was hung around the neck of the decanters that announced what the particular contents were to those in the room. The creation of these bottle tickets soon became a challenge to British silversmiths who tried to create their own unique labels. One common description of these tickets was the “Gentleman’s Jewellery”. 

The first ones were handmade and are quite valuable as antique items today. However, once the demand for these labels grew, an industry was born with these labels being manufactured on a larger scale. Today, most of these labels are still created through standard manufacturing methods, although there are still some shops that offer customized versions.  

The Turn of the 19th Century .

By this time, a wider range of wines were now available and the number of decanter labels was keeping up with the pace as well. By the middle of the century paper labels had been created and were now becoming quite common on wine bottles. However, the use of the decanters had risen as well for more practical reasons. Decanters not only allowed the wine to breathe, but the shape allowed the sediments to settle in the bottom which helped improve the taste and the digestion of the wine as well. 

The 20th Century and Use of Silver Decanter Labels .

During the Victorian Era, the rise of silver decanter labels, often call tags or bottle tickets had been in use for quite some time. This is because many people still use decanters to let the wine breathe and settle out the sediments that are found in red and white wines that have aged over the years. The tags allow for easy identification which has grown into quite an industry as wine is being enjoyed all around the world. 

The antique silver decanter labels fetch a good price on the open market depending upon their quality and how much a particular label type is in demand. Crafted from sterling silver, these antique labels are often of English, Irish and Scottish provincial heritage which makes them highly prized in today’s wine society.  

In addition, those from the Georgian era and hallmarked with unique features are the ones that may be most in demand. For those who enjoy collecting antiques, the silver decanter labels offer a way to buy something valuable which can still be used if needed to identify the contents of a decanter. 

Perhaps the beauty of these labels is that they can last for hundreds of years or more because they see very little in the way of wear or exposure to the elements. This not only means that you can find such silver decanter labels in excellent shape, but any new ones that you purchase today will last for hundreds of years as well with minimal maintenance.  

The Use of Silver Decanter Labels.

Wine was not the only thing that was consumed after the ladies had retired for the evening in the old days. There were other types of spirits as well, such as bourbon, brandy, whiskey and port that also used the decanter. So, the identification labels allowed the servants to pour the contents into the decanter and tag them so that the family and guest could identify the contents more easily. 

Today, decanter still holds a place in our homes, allowing family and friends to enjoy their favourite bottles of wine. This is why silver decanter labels are so important as well to help identify the contents of the decanter so that no mistakes are made in knowing what is being consumed as well.

Interestingly enough, sterling silver decanter labels have other uses as well, such as labelling medicines, soaps, sauces and used on urns to identify the remains that are held inside. Plus, special bottle labels are also used to identify special events, such as the wine or spirits that decanters hold for weddings, anniversaries and celebrations.  

The sterling silver decanter labels have certainly come a long way in our society and no doubt they will be with us for a long time to come as well.   

Copyright© Dart Silver Ltd 

Always a large selection of Sterling Silver Decanter Labels  available from Dart Silver Ltd.  


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