Rare and Beautiful

babyrattle

Today is the first Saturday of the month and our small town flea market was in session.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the local market because my work schedule has kept me from it, however, today I was without obligation. I awoke this morning with the market on my mind.

I love the variety of the stalls. There are specialty bread makers, beer brewers, artists, craftspeople — and lots of vintage and antique sellers. I normally make a whole morning of browsing for treasures and trying to snag a bargain or two. If nothing else, I can get a most excellent cup of coffee in the market cafe.

This morning I walked past a stall full of antique silver goods. I stopped in my tracks because I saw the most beautiful tea pot…sterling silver…exquisitely shaped and forged…I have never seen anything like it. I think I just stood there and blinked rapidly for 20 seconds or so. The gentleman proprietor began talking to me about the teapot. We got to talking. And talking. He held up several silver pieces for me to inspect and then he told me the story of each…the date it was made…its use and function…and then he mused about who might have had such an object in their home. Every piece had a story and I loved talking with him about his collection. He was obviously very knowledgeable and proud.

Just as I was about to walk away my eye caught a silver baby toy. “What’s that?” I asked.

“Oh…that is an antique baby rattle with a whistle and a coral teether! It was made in the 1830’s.”

I’ve seen a lot of vintage and antique baby rattles but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It was made by Mary Chawner, one of the few women silversmiths of that time.  How many stories does this rattle tell? I admired the craftsmanship and the rarity of the design.

I said to the lovely gentleman seller, “Oh I do love this rattle. Oh I really want it.” I turned it over and over in my hand.

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He then said. “OK. I’ll go down £20 if you want it.”

I pursed my lips.

“OK” said I. “Let me give it a think. I need to make a phone call and I’ll come back to you.”

The gentleman said, “OK! OK! I’ll go down another £10 but then I can’t negotiate anymore.”

I smiled. I don’t remember any negotiating but just by my careful consideration I got £30 knocked off the price.

He was a lovely man and I couldn’t resist. I took the plunge and bought it. We did the exchange and shook hands. I left the flea market immediately and without coffee but with my 1834 silver and coral baby rattle, treasured by countless families, crafted by a woman silversmith during the reign of King William IV.


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