Cruets are small vessels, in decanter style, used for holding liquids. The earliest cruets were used in Biblical times. A few cruets from the medieval ages have been preserved. It was not until the late 1600s that cruets were used on the dining table. The first noted culinary cruets held oil and vinegar.
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Cruets used by the church in the medieval ages were made of gold or silver and were used on the altar to hold wine and water.
By the early 1700s cruets were made from glass. Typically a cruet is made with a stopper. Some glass cruets were made with silver tops, but most glass cruets were made with cut fluted glass stoppers.
In 1715, a cruet set from the table of The Earl of Warwick is believed to be the earliest prototype of what historians call the Warwick cruet. This was a combination of cruet bottles and five silver casters fitting into a silver frame. The retaining frame was made of moulded wirework. The name Warwick Cruet was given indiscriminately to all cruet sets having three casters and two oil and vinegar bottles.
During the 18th and 19th centuries many varied styles were made. Among the most popular was a boat shaped stand with handles. It was fashionable at this time for the casters as well as the oil and vinegar cruets to be made of cut-glass. The domed covers of the casters were made of silver while the cruets stoppers were made of cut-glass. This particular design held eight glass bottles in all. These held the contents of oil, soy, mustard, lemon, vinegar, ketchup, pepper and cay-an.
With elaborately designed cut-glass cruets came very elegant silver frames that held the cruets and casters together. A tall handle was made as part of the design on the frame. This made it easy to pass the condiments around the table.
In 1803, a four ogee footed silver frame carried seven fluted-cut glass bottles all with silver tops and was called a silver cruet. There were silver cruet stands made with scroll feet, shell finials and stamped with a friezes of stylised bulrushes and flower decorated repousses. The glass in any one cruet set matched in pattern, style and cut. Over time if a bottle was broken it was hard to replace. Many of the cruet bottles and its companions were ornately designed cut-glass with large and small details and seldom made in colours. Two popular colours were cobalt blue and ruby red.
Other types of cruets followed with pierced foliate frame sides and central scroll-chased loop handle holding up to as many as eight cut-glass bottles. Very tall, round, silver plated cruet stands graced the table in the early 1900s. Standing as tall as 14 inches with deep circular insets. The cruet bottles were designed with long narrow bases to sit deep into the stand. This circular style frame introduced individual bottles with supplied labels, similar to those used on decanters to identify the contents. They were heavy and somewhat awkward to lift so they were place on a credenza in the parlour.
As the age of advertising came about glass companies capitalised on the name of famous people in history. Fostoria Glass Co. has had a successful run of 100 years in business. The company advertised the “Dolly Madison” line in 1939 to 1973. The Colonial Revival brought the figure of Dolly Madison to mind. She was know for her hospitality. One of the companies popular pieces is the Dolly Madison cruet set. The simplistically designed frame held four bottles stored in a Sheffield-plate caddie with a mesh design. The set included oil and vinegar cruets with cut flutes and glass stoppers with a pair of salt and pepper shakers.
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