Sugar casters--or shakers--come in a wide range of sizes and decorative shapes and because of their variety and affordability are an extremely popular niche for silver collectors. I really must agree. Nothing pleases me more than coming home at the end of the day and seeing my sugary beauties arrayed like a set of sparkly soldiers—some rotund and jolly, some tall and graceful—in my sitting-room display case.
The remarkable range of 18th and 19th century silver sugar shakers reflects the fact that sugar—either beet sugar from Europe or cane sugar from the colonies—was heavily taxed and highly prized at the time. The “white gold” generally came in large, rock-hard cones (“sugar loafs”), and one would break it into smaller pieces using not-so-aesthetically-pleasing sugar nippers. For coffee or tea service at finer tables, the smaller pieces of sugar were then ground with a mortar and pestle and sieved, or run through a spice mill. The resulting powder was then dispensed from a sugar caster: hence the term caster, or castor, sugar. For my grand tea services, I simply purchase superfine sugar or, when I want to make trouble for myself, run a batch of regular sugar through the food processor.
This charming sterling silver and cut-glass sugar shaker in a wonderful repousse design by Jacobi & Jenkins has caught my eye. It has a button-style sterling silver screw-mount lid that is completely decorated with dynamic and textural flowers and leaves in repoussé, while the notched spiral fluting on the glass caster brilliantly captures and reflects light. Click here for more information.