article # 78



by Dorothea Burstyn
(click on photos to enlarge image)


Most apple corers were made from turned wood, bone or ivory. The silver apple corer is a rarity. Only the affluent could afford to have kitchenware made of silver. Oblivious of the concept of bacteria, the germ-fighting properties of silver were known since ancient times    (note 1)

Turned wood apple corer
Turned wood apple corer
The oldest extant apple corer dates to 1682. It is pictured in Michael Clayton's Dictionary (note 2) and was just recently sold as part of the James Walker collection (note 3).
It features stiff leaf engraving where the blade meets the handle. The handle is equipped with a detachable caster at the end. Another late 17th century apple corer, probably Irish, features the same leaf decoration on the cylindrical shaft. It still comes with its contemporary shagreen case (note 4).

Irish apple corer with contemporary case ca.1690
Irish apple corer with contemporary case ca.1690 (courtesy Sotheby's)
A few eighteenth century examples have surfaced. There is an apple corer made by Maurice Fitzgerald, dating to ca. 1760-1800 in the Limerick City Museum (note 5). Notable is an apple corer engraved with royal arms, having belonged to one of the daughters of George III (note 6).
George I apple corer, ca.1726
George I apple corer, ca.1726 (courtesy Christies New York)
Both examples are devoid of decoration and feature applied moldings on the cylindrical shaft. But there are not enough examples known to make meaningful remarks about a style change from seventeenth to the eighteenth century.
The majority of silver apple corers date to the nineteenth and beginning of twentieth century. Utilitarian in form, their handles are silver cylinders, but also often wood or ivory - the latter frequently stained green.

Apple corer made by John Taylor, Birmingham 1826
Apple corer made by R. & S.Henell, London 1796
(top) Apple corer made by John Taylor, Birmingham 1826
(below) Apple corer made by R. & S.Henell, London 1796
Their sizes vary from 4 to 6 inches.
Some of the apple corers are so small and of rather thin gauge that they were likely used for removing foul parts of the apple than coring it.

Apple corer made by S.Pemberton, Birmingham 1807
Apple corer made by S.Pemberton, Birmingham 1807, sheath marked only
An often seen variation is the "traveling" apple corer; the blade unscrews and fits neatly into the handle.
Traveling apple corers - open Traveling apple corers - closed
Two traveling apple corers - open
Two traveling apple corers - closed
This design seems much more practical for slipping into a pocket when going to the orchard or taking it along on a picnic. An even more useful design is the apple corer with integral knife. Another example of similar design but with an ivory handle, fitted with the knife and the blade on opposite ends was sold in the James Walker sale (note 7).
Apple corer with integral knife, made by Joseph Willmore, Birmingham 1820
Apple corer with integral knife, made by Joseph Willmore, Birmingham 1820
Apple corer with integral knife, made by Joseph Willmore, Birmingham 1820
Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian apple corers are marked on the blade - mostly on the inside - with a full set of marks. Examples hallmarked with only maker's mark, tax mark and lion passant are acceptable. The silver handles are mostly stamped with a lion passant only.
By far the most extant apple corers were made by Joseph Willmore, Birmingham, but examples from all the other "toy" makers such as S. Pemberton, J. Taylor, etc. are found.
In London the firm of Phipps and Robinson seemed to specialize in small kitchenware items, as many kitchen nutmeg graters etc. are found with this mark.
American apple corers are even rarer. One known example, ca. 1820, was made by Thomas Charles Fletcher, Philadelphia - it is somewhat sturdier in design than English examples with a broader sheath and equipped with an ivory handle. (note 8).
Christie's New York offered an apple corer in their January 16, 2003 sale. It was made by Thomas Hammersley of New York and dated to ca. 1760, but stayed unsold. (note 9).

Another example together with a wine siphon struck with a TH mark and originally attributed to Thomas Hammersley is found in the Heritage Foundation Collection of silver, Historic Deerfield.
Martha Gandy Fales remarks that the apple corer is a typical nineteenth century form for American silver and declares the attribution to Thomas Hammersley to be doubtful. (note10).
A twentieth century variation of the apple corer was made by Asprey & Co, both in silver plate and sterling silver. Whenever I show my examples "proudly" to friends, my pleasure is mostly marred because it invariably elicits the remark: "I have one just like that in stainless steel, it cost me 50 cents."
on the right: A twentieth century variation of the apple corer made by Asprey & Co
A twentieth century variation of the apple corer Asprey & Co, silver plate and sterling silver
1. Water kept in silver vessels stayed fresh longer, sailors used to drop silver coins into their water barrels for the same reason. Many kitchenware items - even pots and pans were made of silver.
2. Michael Clayton: The Collector's Dictionary of the Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America, New York, Cleveland 1971, page 14, and 60f - here the date is given erroneously as 1683.
3. Christie's South Kensington: The James Walker Collection of silver and vertu, July 13, 2006 Lot 224.
4. Sotheby's London: Important Silver, Portrait Miniatures and Objects of Vertu, Feb. 28th, 1991, lot 244
5. Website of the Limerick City Museum, Museum records details 669. The apple corer is marked MFG in rectangle and STERg in rectangle - the "g" underlined. Both marks are struck twice, alternating in a single line.
6. Christie's New York, 16.April 1999, lot 208
7. James Walker sale, lot 444
8. & 9. I am grateful to Silver Salon Forum members "wev" and "swarter" for these information.
10. Henry N. Flynt and Martha Gandy Fales: The Heritage Foundation Collection of silver, Old Deerfield 1968, page 127/128
Dorothea Burstyn
- 2007-