In this category, you will find a wide ranging selection of decanters which pre-date 1830. All decanters we sell are in good clear condition, and free from cracks and chips (unless otherwise stated). The heights of decanters are given inclusive of their stoppers, except where otherwise stated.
Stoppers for decanters are a perennial problem - but not one to worry about in the general course of events. For the most part, it is impossible to say for certain if a stopper was fitted to a decanter originally if the decanter dates from before about 1820, and often later. This is because in the 18th and early 19th centuries, a decanter in a gentleman's dining room may have been one of a pair, a set of 4,6, or 12, and stoppers were not necessarily kept with their decanters by the servants; they could easily be mixed up. More cogently, they were not numbered. If a decanter of this period has an appropriate stopper, and preferably one made at the same date, it is considered to be perfectly acceptable if it fits the decanter.
Sometimes we find decanters which we want to have in our stock, but either without a stopper or one that is obviously incorrect. If we do not have an appropriate old one, we have one made - and say so in our descriptions. Generally, even if we have had a stopper made, it is difficult to tell it is not old from a passing inspection, but we still make clear the work we have had done.
By contrast, Victorian decanters are often numbered as are their stoppers. As a result it is usually easy to tell if a stopper is original to its decanter.
Please also see 'Ship's Decanters', 'Magnum and Larger Format Decanters' and 'The Hugh Johnson Collection'.
This section comprises decanters made between 1830 and 1930, although most of our decanters were made before 1880. During this period many decanters were coloured often with a 'casing' of coloured glass over a clear body and cut decoratively to showcase the cutter's art.
Blue, green and yellow-cased decanters are well suited to serving white wine, while red-cased ones are perfect for red wines. This idea may not reflect common perceptions of decanter use, but we have found many customers who enjoy surprising their guests in this way!
At Butler's Antiques, we have the widest selection of antique ship's decanters to be seen anywhere on planet Earth! What you see below are almost all antique decanters of the period 1780 - 1830, but where we have later versions, they are clearly indicated.
Ship's decanters were first made in the last quarter of the 18th century and following Admiral Rodney's victories, particularly at the Battle of the Saintes (April 1782) were often referred to at the time as 'Rodneys'. The term 'Rodney' is still occasionally used within the antiques trade and by collectors.
Ship's decanters, or Rodneys if you prefer, are considerably heavier other than standard models, indeed they are, on average, twice as heavy. They were usually fitted with flat stoppers as other shapes (globular and mushroom) would roll from a table. They have been very popular for over 100 years and most seen today are late 19th or early 20th century. Indeed the number of reproductions can make it very confusing for someone looking for an antique version and they probably outnumber genuine ones by a factor of100:1. Copies tend to be larger and have mushroom stoppers, while some have neck rings which can be felt when a finger is inserted in the neck. There are other differences which are too complex to explain in a short piece like this.
How broad based does a decanter have to be to qualify as a rodney/ship's decanter? It is a question to which there is no definitive answer, nor is it dependent on a particular ratio of width to height. It is more a question of this is a ship's decanter and that is not - and the dividing line is quite blurred. There are some quite experienced experts who categorise those near that divide as 'semi-ship's' decanters!
Today, when glass manufacturers can produce almost any shape, it is notable that many make decanters with very wide bases for the simple reason that they allow the wine to 'breathe' better. Of course antique ones do pretty much the same!
It is acknowledged that wine, bottled and stored in large bottles keep for longer and that the process of maturation can be significantly improved. Antique decanters of magnum (two-bottle) capacity are not often seen, while larger formats are increasingly rare.
A decanter or carafe (a decanter which never had a stopper) of 4-bottle capacity is a double magnum and there is a variety of names for even larger bottles, although these are so rare that they may be discounted in this context.
Silver and silver-gilt was extensively used in the making of wine accessories; indeed The Goldsmiths' Company held an extensive exhibition in 1983 entitled "The Goldsmith and The Grape" - Silver in the service of wine.
Claret jugs began to be made in the 1830s, but before then, there were jugs for wine, so the term claret jug can be a little confusing.
During the 19th century fine claret jugs were made of glass with silver, or plated mounts. The best had silver-gilt mounts, and from about 1860 they became an art form in themselves. Some in the 1880s and '90s were zoomorphic - made as ducks, crocodiles, parrots or walruses.
Many wine jugs were simple and made of glass throughout. Frequently the glass was coloured, and while the red ones were almost certainly intended for red wine, the green, blue, amber and turquoise ones were probably intended for white wine.
If you do not see the type of claret jug you are looking for, please do contact us - we may well know where one is.
Britain produced some of the finest glassware from about 1670, and for the following century. We have a selection of representative wine glasses during that period and later. Many wine glasses appear very small by today's standards, but the protocol for drinking wine was very different in the 18th century.
You may also care to look at our modern wine glasses which are well shaped for modern drinking - and will withstand 5,000 cycles in a dishwasher!
Coasters perform three functions. First, they prevent drips of wine from staining the table or its tablecloth. Second, they prevent decanters from touching one another and so from chipping. Third, decanters in coasters can be slid (coasted) from one person to another across a polished surface - indeed, in former times they were called decanters slides.
If these three reasons were not sufficient to justify their presence on a well-dressed dining table, then their usually elegant proportions and fine workmanship should do so!
English wine tasters are a considerable rarity, and in general they were made for use by wine merchants, rather than in a domestic context. Most are made of silver as that medium reflects light in dim light, and it is sturdy enough to withstand the rigours of commercial use. Tasters are recorded in glass and porcelain, which probably were for domestic use.
Despite wine bottles being made to a standard capacity by being blown in a mould as early as 1821, it was illegal to sell wine by the bottle for another 40 years. When it did happen it caused the introduction of paper labels on bottles, but previously a way had to be found to identify wine bottle contents.
It was achieved by putting all wine from one barrel, or from one consignment, in a compartment in the cellar, called a bin. To identify the contents of a bin, a pottery (usually) label was hung on the cellar wall adjacent to the bin. Sometimes in large houses and under commercial circumstances, a bin would be identified with a number and a cellar book kept to correlate the numbers with the wines.
When the bottle was taken to the dining room and decanted, the decanter contents were also identified by a label, but now it was a small silver (usually) ticket, known today as a wine label.
Wine lables are avidly collected, and we keep a fine selection. We place emphasis on high quality and good condition over rarity of name. We would prefer to have a label for Madeira (the commonest of names) heavily cast in silver and gilded by a royal silversmith, than a lightweight label with a mis-spelt name made in a Scottish provincial town - although the latter might cost several times as much. However we do have rarities as well, from time to time.
There is a huge variety of paraphernalia made to aid the storage, serving and consumption of wine, all made in Britain before 1900. This website has categories for decanters, coasters, wine labels, corkscrews and more, but there is a large number of objects which cannot be conveniently put into the other categories on the site. So they have been grouped together as Miscellanea.
In this category, you will find wine siphons, bottle holders, decanting cradles, champagne accessories (several of those), wine trays, corks and so much more. We hope you will find something rare and interesting here!
Antique wine coolers come in two forms - those set on the floor as a piece of furniture and which may hold from 6 to 60 bottles, and those to hold two or less which are used on the table. The former are usually made of mahogany, the latter of silver or silver-plate.
Wine coolers are among the costliest of antique wine accessories, and while we do have a few, we do not keep many in stock. If you do not see what you are looking for here, please do ask on our contact page, as we have a large number of friends and colleaagues, and we may well be able to source what you are looking for even if it is the grandest set of of wine coolers.
Corkscrews have been the subject of avid interest for some 30 - 50 years with many clubs devoted solely to their collection. Many hundreds of designs have been patented or registered in Britain and around the world, and some are very rare indeed. The first book on exclusively on corkscrews was published as recently as 1981, but since then, several dozen others have appeared.
The doyen of corkscrew collecting clubs is The International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts (ICCA), but its membership is by invitation and the numbers are strictly limited to 50. The largest club is the CCCC - The Corkscrew Collectors Club of Canada - which is actually international in its membership. In Britain there is the ABCDE - the Association of British Corkscrew Devotees and Enthusiasts - well, that says it all doesn't it!
Our stock of corkscrews is, as with other areas of wine accessories, primarily centered around high quality and practicality. That does not preclude rarities, but it does mean, for example, that we would prefer to have a superb example of a plain T corkscrew at £75, than a Hull's Presto with a bent and shortened helix at £750. However, we have been known to have some fine examples which are also rare.
Antique wine funnels have a curved spout to deflect wine down the side of the decanter and prevent it from dropping straight to the base of the decanter. Funnels without a curved spout were for culinary and other uses. Glass wine funnels are rare, but silver examples are often seen; they are made in two or more sections so that the inside surfaces could be cleaned.
Generally, 18th century wine funnels are lightweight and of a standard design, while 19th century examples are heavier and either more elegant, or with decorative details. All silver wine funnels were fitted with a 'tang' - a tab which descended from the edge of the bowl to allow the filter to be used over a punch bowl. Originally wine funnels also incorporated an inner ring, sometimes with holes drilled in it, so that a fine muslin could be attached for fine filtering of the sediment from the wine.
For many years, actually it was 40, I bought and sold antique furniture, silver, clocks and a variety of other objets d'art. My preferred period was the Georgian one, although occasionally I had earlier pieces and even less frequently Victorian ones. I started the wine-related aspect of my business in 1978, but following my first exhibition that year, I continued to deal in good quality Georgian antiques.
Although the business is now solely in wine accessories, I have a few pieces of my previous business which have been in store, and which I would now like to make available to readers of my website. Each piece was carefully selected by me for its quality, condition and practicality. Please enquire if you would like to know more about anything in this new category.
While my pricing policy is quite firm so far as the wine-related side goes, there may be a little latitude in the prices of the following items.
Our business is antiques - and it will remain that way. However, it has to be acknowledged that few 18th century drinking glasses are really practical. They may be fine for a little showing-off between glass collectors, but for normal wine drinking, they are not only too valuable to risk breakage in use, but also, with a very few exceptions, they are not shaped to show the nuances of bouquet and taste of wine to its best advantage.
We therefore keep in stock a small range of modern glasses which are available in several sizes, and are shaped for bringing out the best that a wine has to offer, but there are two other factors. First, they are very inexpensive, and second, they are guaranteed to withstand 5,000 cycles in a dishwasher without going cloudy. If that were not sufficient, they are also delicate to look at, blown thinly and feel good in the hand; they are not coarse or heavy. We use these glasses ourselves, and recommend them wholeheartedly.
It will be noticed that antique magnum decanters sell at a premium because of their scarcity. We therefore also stock a large decanter at a modest price. It is advertised as being magnum size, but actually it will hold three bottles comfortably and 4 bottles at a pinch! Apart from it being too large for a dishwasher, we would in any event recommend it being hand-washed.
Now Stocked- Pourvin - the perfect aid for anyone who decants wine. Clever little light automatically switches on as the bootle is tilted, then turns itself off when you've finished decaneting! How clever is that!
Professional model in red or black
Collector model in hand polished stainless steel and beautifully presented in smart presentation box - the perfect gift!
Objects which have passed through our hands in recent times.
While this page does not have everything we have sold - by a large margin - it does comprise some of the more interesting, rare and unusual pieces we have handled. It also contains some 'standard' pieces, the type of which we would always be pleased to buy if they were offered to us.
On this page you will find a selection of fine antique wine accessories from the Hugh Johnson Collection. Hugh Johnson, the doyen of wine writers in the English language and much more besides, has collaborated with Robin Butler to source a superb collection of practical and genuine decanters and other wine accessories to help your enjoyment of wine. Each piece is guaranteed to be as described, in excellent condition for its age, a little exrtra-special, and be something that you can use when you serve wine to your friends - or even for your own personal use!
If more were needed to enhance your wine enjoyment Hugh's many books on wine (as well as horticulture and trees, incidentally) will amply repay your time in consuming their contents. From 'The Story of Wine', 'The World Atlas of Wine', and his autobiography, 'My Life Uncorked' among others, each is so fluently and utterly readable - they are essentials on the bookshelves of anyone who wishes to increase their knowledge of wine. However, here are some accessories you may feel the need to complete your journey into the sublime taste for wine.