Thimble is a favourite with collectors. For example, they are tiny and subsequently easy to display in small cabinets or tables with glass lids. Furthermore, there are so many varieties, from brass to decorated porcelain to gold.
While the Romans used thimbles, these are to be found only in museums. Those available to collectors date from the late eighteenth century. Both women and men used them, indeed, to protect the finger while pushing a needle in sewing. That is, women use them for embroidery, men for tailoring. By the same token, sailors used a tough finger protector for mending sails.
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Thimble in Nineteenth century
Whereas thimbles were at first made by hand, by Victorian times they were manufactured by machine. In the nineteenth century they were in great demand for embroidery. Ladies sat by the fire with their needlework, making patchwork cushions or doing tapestry. Furthermore, the advent of electricity must have been a great improvement for their eyesight. Sewing machines only started appearing around the end of the century.
The earliest were made of bronze, subsequently of brass. Simple items could be bought from trinket sellers or at village fairs. Further, they began to appear in decorated porcelain. Some made by Meissen in Germany or Coalport in the UK are rare outside museums.
Thimble early modern times
Thimbles were used to measure spirits and gunpowder in early modern times. Hence the expression “just a thimbleful”. During the First World War, the British Government collected those made of silver to melt down and pay for hospital equipment. In addition, they can be found in aluminium, gold, porcelain, bone (rare) and early plastics. Additionally, they were used for advertising, or decorated with art nouveau designs. Children’s ones, used while little girls learnt to sew, are much sought after. To say nothing of tiny ones for charm bracelets. As well as those put in traditional Christmas puddings, or even minute ones to play with in dolls’ houses.
As an example of curiosities, they were used to carry out the equivalent of the “three card trick”. Specifically, a pea was placed under one of three thimbles. Unsuspecting onlookers were then encouragd to bet under which one the pea could be found. What is more, a superstition says that if three of them are given to you as presents, you will never marry.
Variety of prices
In short, they can cost just a few dollars online, or be found cheaply in souvenir shops. Whereas early porcelain items by Meissen have been sold at auction for prices above the $20,000 mark. Indeed, a collector has an enormous variety of designs and prices to choose from.