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Nutmeg grater

Nutmeg grater

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1809-1810 (hallmarked)

  • Artist/Maker:

    E. Robinson and T. Phipps (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, with iron grater inside

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Guy and Rupert Oswald Smith

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52a, case 2 []

Object Type
This portable container was used to carry and grate nutmeg. An expensive and fragrant spice, nutmeg is the commercial name of the seed kernel of an evergreen tree, Myristica fragrans. It was imported into England from the East Indies, especially from islands that now form part of Indonesia. Initially nutmeg was believed to offer protection against the plague, but by the mid 17th century it was more commonly used to flavour food and drink. It was an important ingredient of punch and hot mulled wine.

Design & Use
Nutmeg graters first appeared in the mid 17th century, with greater refinement in dining and a wider ownership of silver for the table. They were either carried in the pocket or included in a travelling canteen that might also contain cutlery, a beaker and a corkscrew. The graters reached the height of their popularity in the next century. Cheaper, thinner gauge silver, new manufacturing techniques and greater prosperity led to an enormous growth in items of small personal silver. Nutmeg graters were then made in a variety of forms, from cylindrical, circular or oval boxes to more unusual designs such as hearts or shells, to express the owner's taste and individuality. The vase shape of this grater reflects the fashionable Neo-classical style of the later 18th century.

Physical description

Silver, urn shaped, bottom cast, hinged lid and side, engraved decoration

Place of Origin

London (made)


1809-1810 (hallmarked)


E. Robinson and T. Phipps (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver, with iron grater inside

Marks and inscriptions

Engraved with 'SW'

"inside lid: sterling, maker TPER for Thomas Phipps and Edward Robinson
inside side: sterling, maker
inside body: maker, duty, sterling, date letter O (1809-10), leopard~Monogram on front in shield: SW or IW"


Height: 7 cm, Width: 3.5 cm, Depth: 2.5 cm

Object history note

Made in London by T. Phipps and E. Robinson (in partnership 1783-1816)

Descriptive line

Nutmeg grater, silver, made by E. Robinson and T. Phipps, London, 1809-10

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This portable nutmeg grater dates from a time when nutmeg was commonly used as a spice for all sorts of food and drink. The actual grater is inside the vase-shaped container. This valuable little trinket has been marked with the initials fo the original owner, 'SW'. [27/03/2003]




Metalwork Collection

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