Members' Window # 43  
by © Willand Ringborg
click on images to enlarge


In a page of his private website ( Giorgio Busetto presents a Russian double salt cellar with a missing part - the centre-piece. A hypothesis is raised, is the missing part a holder for tooth picks?
The silver salt cellar is Russian from the shift of 19th to 20th century and is made by the unknown silversmith I I M (in latin transcription) in Kostroma.
I I M’s workshop was productive and he was a supplier of household silver and several saltcellars are known.
A double salt cellar with a missing centre part, silversmith I I M (transcribed to latin letters),
Kostroma, Russia, shift between 19th and 20th century, each of the cellars on two ball feet
The hypothesis is that the lost part is a holder or container for tooth-picks, the possible evidence for that is a similar one shown, but of unknown origin.
It is true that combined salt-cellars in a pair may be combined with other functions. But the first guess is that the centre part is a handle for the cellars to be easy moved from one part of the table to another, or maybe to another serving table.
A double saltcellar, in British style on four feet and handle in the middle
Now let us examine a sister to the Busetto's piece made by another silversmith’s workshop.
Bottom of double salt cellar, each cellar standing on two ball feet, stamps on both by Ivan Zinovjev Manilov,
assayers stamp on both bottoms Kostroma, Russia, 1908-17
This is, as I I M, a workshop that produced a lot of articles, and in the same city. Obviously this is not the same workshop and the same master, a design close to the Busetto's object, not a twin but a sister, a variety.
It was common by Russian silversmiths; for sure did they have standard production of tableware but also varieties of their successful sales.
The same cellars, standing upright
Having a look in profile, the cellars obviously have a handle for carrying it. But at the same time we observe that the handle is clumsy soldered to the bridge connecting the two cellars together. It is for sure so that the handle once has been lost from the cellar bridge and the soldered back again.

A closer examination gives proof to that, the soldering is done later. But, there is strong evidence that it is the original handle that is soldered to its original body. What is the evidence for this second hypothesis? There are two.

In the Russian Imperial Regulation of assaying from 1896 and onwards, the manual used by the Moscow assaying office on how and where to hallmarking the precious metal was strictly codified, a general principle is that any object made of soldered parts should have a stamp on each. The reason is obvious, it should make it impossible for the silver smith to apart any piece from the object and change this piece to one with lower silver content. For double saltcellars it stipulates that both cellars shall be stamped on the bottom, and the handle. As we have seen this is the case, and we have also found makers initials IZM on the handle. Following there should be an assayers stamp also, but this is not to be found on this very thin handle. This does not mean that the handle is falsified; it was not uncommon that the assayers deviated from the regulation if impossible or unpractical to put his stamp there.
But the important evidence here is that the maker initials is there, as the general stamping rule was that the maker’s initials should be on all parts to be hallmarked, and it gives us strong reason to believe that the centre hole in the bridge between Busetto’s saltcellar is for a handle.

© Willand Ringborg
- 2007 -