A cute baby's rattle / teether / whistle. Decorated silver with 3 hanging bells and coral. Marked "GU". Circa 1900.
Rattles are one of the oldest toys in the world and, while they are used to distract babies and to keep them calm, they were also believed to carry protective powers. In the 1900's, during the Victorian era, when infant mortality rates were high, these rattles were regarded as extravagant christening gifts for teething, but they also took on the role of an amulet.
The use of coral is significant as many cultures believe it to have medicinal and protective powers. Ancient Romans would hang coral pendants around children's necks to keep them safe from danger, evil and illness. Coral is often referred to as an organic gemstone and while it was hugely popular during Victorian times, much of the coral used in jewellery today is fashioned from artificial material to save coral reefs. The bright colour is one reason for its popularity - as red is regarded as the colour of love. Another is for the belief that it will ward off diseases.
This rattle is made in the typical English style of the time and has a whistle and three hanging bells to entertain a baby. The teething coral is fashioned into an oblong bead, which is typical of how coral was shaped, and a ribbon would have been strung through the hanging loop so that the rattle could be tied around a child's neck.
The GU stamp was registered in 1832, and stands for George Unite, a well-known silversmith from Birmingham.
This lavish gift will soothe a teething baby, and, if you believe in the power of coral, it will also help to keep the child safe.