Trivets with mottos date to the 1880s and reflect the Victorian obsession with inspirational quotes and scriptural passages. You may be familiar with the Victorian Mottoes of punch paper embroidery, where cardboard (much more affordable than linen) was stitched with colored strands of thread.
Here are several British trivets from that era with similar messages cast into the surface. Each is of brass, ranging from 7.5″ to 9″ in length. Typically you’ll find the front surface well polished and smoothly worn with age. The backs were not polished; note the dark greenish verdigris on the reverse of all three trivets.
OUR AIN FIRESIDE ~ “ain” being Scottish for “own”
GIVE YOUR HEART TO GOD NOW
CHRIST THE SINNERS FRIEND
They appear delicately made but are surprisingly strong. However, overt damage (D) can devalue a trivet. Signs of age-related wear (A) are to be expected in antique trivets over 100 years old and don’t necessarily affect display potential. Inspect a Victorian motto trivet for:
● one or more hairline cracks (D)
● a missing letter or missing part (D)
● details on the surface may be worn smooth (A)
● the platform itself might not be perfectly straight (A)
● if the legs are bent (A) determine if the trivet wobbles on a flat surface (D)
In cleaning and polishing brass trivets, remember the metal is easily scratched. Hardware stores sell soft nylon toothbrushes that are useful for carefully scrubbing the soft crevasses in brassware, where dirt and old polish often accumulates. Follow with a liquid or paste brass polish. Often just a simple cleaning, buffing and polishing is all it takes to bring out the concealed beauty of an antique brass trivet. And never use a brass cleaner on modern lacquered brass trivets!