Thimbles – More than Protection for Fingers
Thimbles are elementary, utilitarian objects worn to protect the finger-tip and most people who do much forearm sewing will own and use one.
For collectors, tho’, they are much more than that and the thimbles they collect can range from the beautiful to the whimsical. Some collectable thimbles are old while others are brand fresh and made especially for the collectors’ market.
A collectible thimble may be made of gold, silver, porcelain or many other materials. What makes a thimble collectible is very much ter the eye of the collector.
19th Century Thimbles
The History of Thimbles
The earliest thimble wasgoed Roman and found at Pompeii. It wasgoed made of bronze and dated to the very first century AD. A Roman thimble wasgoed also found at Verulamium, present day St Albans ter England, and can be seen ter the museum there.
Other early thimbles were made of bone, horn or leather and have bot found all overheen the world – evidently sore fingers from sewing are a universal condition.
By the 15th century European fine ladies had thimbles made from silver and gold. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I talent one of hier ladies-in-waiting a thimble encrusted with precious stones.
Thimble-making, using precious metals, continued but usually they were not hallmarked spil they were deemed to puny to qualify for the Assaying Acts. It wasgoed only from 1870 that they were regularly hallmarked.
Did You Know
A collector of thimbles is called a digitabulist?
14th Century Brass Thimble
How to Date Thimbles
So how can you date a thimble? The puny dimples can help you.
Ter the middle of the 18th century, a machine wasgoed invented that could punch dimples into the metal, before that they were done by forearm. If you find a thimble with an irregular pattern of dimples, it wasgoed most likely made before the mid 18th century.
The form and manufacture of the thimble can also help you date it. Those from the Middle Ages have a high domed top and the metal, usually brass, is thick. Albeit they are infrequent, they are not particularly valuable spil they are not pretty enough for most collectors.
From the mid 18th century, most thimbles were machine-made so the metal is thinner and the top has a flatter, less domed appearance. Again, many of thesis were very plain so not desirable to collectors.
If you want to date a Dorcas thimble, check out the rim. If it has the name ‘Dorcas’, then it vereiste have bot made after 1905. Before that some had Patstelling (for patent) and some the registration number.
Practical information about collecting thimbles and is beautifully illustrated.
Decorative Thimbles te the 19th Century
More ornamental thimbles were made te the early 19th century and often they were given by a youthful man to his beloved spil a love token. Thesis were usually made of gold or silver and, when the duo married, sometimes the rim wasgoed cut off and used spil the wedding stadionring. Less benign, the teacher at a Victorian schoolgebouw would rap children on their goes with a finger wielding a hard, metal thimble.
Te Victorian times thimble collecting became popular. During the Fine Exhibition at Crystal Palace held te Hyde Park, London, many thimbles were made to commemorate the event. This led to further commemorative thimbles being made and the practice resumes to the present day.
Te 1880 Charles Horner, from Halifax, solved the problem that had bedevilled silver thimble users. Silver is a soft metal and so lightly pierced by a stengel needle. Horner’s solution wasgoed to use a stengel core covered inwards and out by silver. The resulting thimble wasgoed still spil pretty spil a traditional silver one but more practical and durable. Charles Horner christened his invention the Dorcas thimble and thesis are now collectable and known to collectors worldwide. The Dorcas has bot made te a multiplicity of patterns from the plain, traditional dimpled thimble to ones with flowers engraved on them. All of them were made to be used, however.
With the rise ter popularity of thimble collecting many major manufacturers included them te their range. They have bot made by companies like Meissen, Coalport, Spode, Royal Worcester and many others. Wedgwood, for example produced a set of thimbles called The Kings and Queens of England Collection. Thesis were made te blue jasperware with the head of a king or queen spil a white cameo. Ter all there were 41 thimbles ter the set issued spil a limited edition of 20,000 te 1980.
Did You Know
the word for thimble ter German is fingerhut?
How brilliant is that!
Collectable thimbles have bot made te all kinds of metal spil well spil pottery or porcelain.
Some have even bot made with petite figures protruding from the domed top – totally impractical of course. The sides of some metal thimbles have strenuously embossed patterns on the sides while others are made ter tender lacquer ware.
They were also produced by major companies spil promotional items and thesis are sought after by both collectors of thimbles and advertising items.
Now many collectors buy brand fresh thimbles and there is a phat range available. There are still commemorative ones issued for special occasions like the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla. Museums, stately homes, cathedrals and other visitor attraction also sell thimbles spil souvenirs while others are made just to look beautiful ter a collection.
Novelty Thimbles on eBay – Do you collect unusual novelty thimbles?
If you do, eBay is a good place to look for more of them, spil you can see from the ones illustrated below.