Walking sticks or canes have been used for thousands of years. They were used in ancient Greece and over a hundred walking sticks were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Biblical references to walking sticks include mention of Moses and his staff; in Europe, the sceptre symbolised the power of the king. Some walking sticks in antiquity were made of gold, hollowed out to allow for hidden storage, elaborately carved or featured a pointed metal spike at the bottom to help with walking on steep inclines or to fend off attacks from animals and people. To be certain of the identity of the walking stick, enlist the assistance of a professional antique dealer who specialises in antique canes.
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Examine the structure of the cane walking stick to see if it can be used to hide something like liquor or gold or if it can be converted into another object, such as a seat or music stand. This would indicate that the item is a "system cane," which were popular from 1870 to 1915. Canes of this sort that were used during the French uprisings of the 1870s sell for up to £2,600, as of the time of publication.
Look for jewels, such as diamonds accenting the cane, that are Baroque in style; they are both fashionable and elegant. This type of elaborate walking stick was used by King Louis XIV.
Notice if the walking stick features extravagant Rococo styling with curvilinear and asymmetrical forms. European Rococo walking sticks made after 1715 typically depicted the flora and fauna of nature.
Inspect the walking stick to see if it displays a simpler classic design with steady lines and a feeling of balance, order and restraint. Canes fitting this description were popular in the middle of the 18th century.
Check the walking stick to see if it features an eagle. This may indicate that the cane is American and used after the American Revolution when national pride was at a high. Bust canes featuring the head of popular presidents and other rulers also were popular during this period.
Find out if the walking stick has a simple gold or silver handle with simple lines, which can indicate that the cane is Victorian. In America, Victorian canes became popular for well-dressed gentlemen in the late 19th century.
Look for an indication that the cane is designed by artists at Tiffany in America, Fabergé in Russia, Magasin Antoine in France, Thomas Brigg & Sons in England or the Meyers family in Germany.
Tips and warnings
- Folk art walking sticks are made from materials from an artist's environment, which can be a clue to the identity of the cane. For example, scrimshaw canes were popular during the age of whaling in the 19th century.
- Designs that express the culture of an ethnic or religious group can provide evidence of the origin of the walking stick.
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