In recipe books, the phrase “a pinch of salt” is an instruction to add a scant amount of sodium chloride to a dish in order to brighten its flavors, be they savory or sweet. But throughout most of human history, pinching a bit of salt between the thumb and forefinger, and then letting the captured crystals fall, was the only way to season whatever you were about to eat—salt shakers are a Victorian invention.

Pre-shaker salt containers, known as salt cellars or simply “salts,” were open on top and often paired with small spoons, lest one’s grubby fingers contaminated the salt that remained within. Early examples, sometimes called trencher salts, had flat bottoms, and go back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. By the 17th century, though, salt cellars resembled tiny cauldrons resting on a trio of feet. Often intricately decorated and made of sterling silver, pewter, and other metals, these salt cellars reflected the relatively high cost of salt, which did not begin to become the common commodity we think of today until the 18th century.

Because salt is a corrosive mineral, older salt cellars are often marked by black splotches or spots. From the late 19th century on, glass liners were added to salt cellars to protect their metal bases from the destructive seasoning. For the same reason, salt cellars were also made out of porcelain or pressed glass, while the interior surfaces of metal salt cellars were frequently enameled.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Feeding America

Feeding America

This archive of 76 influential American cookbooks from the late 1700s to early 1900s, assembled by the Michigan St… [read review or visit site]

Tupper Diva

Tupper Diva

Kristian McManus’ fresh, airtight collection of Tupperware catalogs and related ephemera from the 1950s and 6… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Silver Pepper Shaker And Matching Salt CellarFour Piece Set Of Very Rare Gorham King Shell Master Salts & Salt Spoons C1895Gorham Sterling Silver Open Salt Cellar Set Of Six A425 With Floral Repousse2 Deacon & Francis 1919 Sterling Silver Pierced Salt Cellars With Cobalt LinersPair Antique American Sterling 'repousse' Salt Cellars - Stieff (bssco.) C.19001895 Antique Imperial Russian Silver 84 Salt Cellar Written Proverb GiltComplete Japanese Sterling Silver Salt-pepper Cellar-shaker Bucket/tub & Spoon2 Webster Sterling Silver Salt Cellars W/cobalt Blue Glass Liners/spoons In BoxPair Gorham Sterling 1878 Salt Cellars 3.49 T OzSalt Spoon Sterling Silver ( Koala Bear )Vintage Raimond Silverplate And Glass Swan Salt Cellar Pair With Spoons In BoxPair Whiting Sterling Salt Cellars Matte Finish 3.74 T OzGeorgian Silver Salt Cellar London 1767 Ns & AnVintage Czech Intaglio Rare Unusual Glass Crystal Lovely Open Salt Dips CellarsPair Sterling Salt Cellars Gold Wash Interior 3.51 T OzAntique Indian Silver Salt Cellar/spice Pot C1900 50 GramsAlvin Manufacturing Company Salt Cellars Dips In Original Box Sterling OverlayOld Pair Of Silver Plated Cornice Shell Salt Cellars With Dolphin FeetPillivuyt White Porcelain Butter Block, 4 Pcs. Made In France, Spice/salt CellarLot/collection 32 Vintage Open Salt Cellars Many Different Styles Salt Spoon ( Nantucket Basket ) Sterling Silver Old Russian Silver Open Salt Cellar Dip Bowl Dish Mustard Pot & SpoonSet Of Six Willets Belleek Heart Shaped Salt CellarsVintage Sterling Silver Salt Cellar Spoon Lot Reticulated Hallmarked LotSalt Spoon Sterling Silver ( Crab )Vintage Signed Bulgari Bvlgari Sterling Silver 925 Master Salt Dip Cellar Nr MmpVintage Art Nouveau Sterling And Glass Salt CellarRare 1897 English Sterling Silver Open Salt Cellar Spoon 2 7/8"Antique Thos Hughes & Son England "flow Blue" Salt Cellar Dip ~ Stunning!2 Vintage Cut Glass Open Salts Cellars Sterling Silver Salt Hallmarked Repousse Chased Paw Feet BeautifulOnyx & "gold" Scales Double Open Salt Dip - Salt Cellar - Spoons - Free Postage Glossy Enameled Cloisonne Owl Open Salt Dip, Cellar, Dish!Marthinsen 830 S Silver Norway Mid Century Salt Dish Cellar And Spoon In Box VtgVintage Saart Bros. Company Sterling Silver Salt Cellar & SpoonVintage Intaglio Open Salt Dip Cellar - Oval Panelled Cherub Or Putti W GarlandVictorian Sterlng Silver Table Salt Cellars 133.3g John Harrison+co., SheffieldSilver Cupid Design Salt Cellar2 Whiting Sterling Silver Nut Bowl Salt Cellar Nouveau Victorian 2.3 Oz No ScrapTiffany & Co Embossed Silver Metal Open Salt Dip, Cellar, Dish W/grapes, ScrollsTiny, Pewter Flower-shaped Open Salt Dip, Cellar, Dish And Spoon!Superb Rare! Intaglio Horse Head! Pink Glass 8 Side Salt Dip Cellar Ribbed SidesOrnate, Silverplated Open Salt Dip, Cellar, Dish W/blue Glass Liner, Spoon!Silverplated Open Salt Dip, Cellar, Dish W/dog's Heads, Overshot Glass Liner!Lot Of 6 Baccarat French Crystal Open Salt Cellars - Signed - Gorgeous!Martin Mayer 800 Silver Salt Cellar With Glass Liner Circa 1900 - GermanySix Sterling Silver Salt Cellar Bowls In Feagans Bag Meriden Britannia HallmarkSilver Salt Cellar Birmingham 1981Open Salt Cellar Light Blue Glass Vintage Salt Dip Dish Set Of 12 TealightsVintage Clear Glass Small Salt Cellar Rabbit Lid 2 Piece EasterSix Bohemia Glass Czechoslovakia Salt Cellars Five Spoons Oroginal BoxNos Fostoria Strawberry Diamond Crystal Open Salt Dip Cellar Pattern 2793 Vintage Set Of 4 Open Glass Salt Cellar Dish / Dishes With Spoons Great Set Of Four (4) Silverplate Salt Cellars, Cobalt Inserts & Two SpoonsLot 6 - Antique China Open Salt Dips Cellars; Lenox/silver Spoon, Limoges FranceVintage Fenton Hobnail Salt Cellar Ashtray Square Aqua Blue Glass 3"x3" Vintage Swan Salt Cellar Moveable Silver Metal Wings With Frosted Glass BodyVibrant, Blue-violet And Black Ginkgo Leaf Pottery Open Salt Dip, Cellar, Dish!Salt Cellar With Silver Rim (birmingham)Salt Cellar With Silver Rim (london)