Finger Prosthesis, Sewing Aid Or Banjo Pick? - Antique Curiosities

Discussion Favourite Finds


Welcome one and all to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

Now, if you read last week's post you'll know about a rather curious find that I bought on my trip to Hungerford a few weeks ago.  It is so curious in fact that it caused quite the stir on social media and there was a split in opinion of what it might actually be.  I've spent some time looking into it a bit more and whilst I'm still not 100% certain what it is, it has been quite the journey.

So, as always, get that kettle on, extend those pinkies and let's take a look at what this most curious of curios might be...


Image:  The silver curiosity in question


The item in question is a piece of silver, fully hallmarked Chester 1893 with a makers mark of Barnet Henry Joseph.  It is the shape of a fingertip, so we can be sure that it would sit on the end of a finger.


Image:  The silver curiosity in question


My first instinct was that it's some sort of pick for a stringed instrument.  I researched this avenue further and whilst I did find things that looked similar, a lot of the picks that I found didn't cover the entire fingertip, like this piece does, and they would generally have a small lip sticking out of it to enable the player to pluck the strings of the instrument (as shown in the photos below).  This piece doesn't have a lip.


Image:  Example of a instrument pick

Image:  Example of instrument pick

Image:  Example of instrument pick


My second thought was that it it's some sort of thimble for protecting your finger while sewing.  I've seen many a regular thimble in my time, but then I discovered the quilting thimble (see examples below).  It seemed these were closer to the style of mine, but still not quite the same.


Image: Example of a regular thimble

Image:  Example of a quilting thimble

Image:  Example of a quilting thimble


But then I read about American jeweller, Michael Manthey, who managed to cut the tip of his thumb off while working and subsequently went about making a prosthetic thumb from silver (see first example below). 

You can read more about Michael Manthy here

The more I looked into fingertip prosthesis, the more I started convincing myself that the piece I owned was a prosthetic fingertip.


Image:  Michael Manthey's fingertip prosthesis

Image:  Example of fingertip prosthesis


There is a long history of quite incredible prosthetics, dating back as far as 300BC.  I mean, just look at this fine example of a prosthetic arm made out of steel and brass during the Victorian era (see photo below).  It was articulated at the elbow, wrist and fingers.  So, if you had just lost the very tip of your finger and were of a high social status, perhaps having a prosthetic fingertip made from sterling silver would be quite the stylish accessory.


Image:  Example of Victorian prosthesis


I think my gut is telling me it's an adjustable quilting thimble but my heart is telling me it's a prosthetic fingertip, just because that's so much cooler!  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.  Like I said, this has really split opinion so I'd be interested to know what you think.


Image:  The silver curiosity in question


This unusual piece has already sold and it's now with its new owner in the US.


Image:  The silver curiosity in question


Well, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've enjoyed this little look into another unusual find.  Remember, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my 'Source Social' membership, which you can do via the 'Home' page.  It's free and gives you a weekly blog post and a fortnightly YouTube video delivered directly to your inbox, as well as exclusive discounts and first dibs on new items before they are added to our website.

And, speaking of my YouTube channel, if you're into antiques and haven't seen any of my videos yet, you can find them HERE.  Head on over and subscribe to that too for your dose of finds, fairs, stories and reviews.

So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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