Item of the Week: Open Salts, Salt Dips, and Salt Cellars

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We enjoy learning the history behind the items that we sell. Each week we’ll feature an item and share a bit of its story!

For most of human history salt has been incredibly valuable, it has been thought to boost fertility, ward off evil spirits. It’s been used as currency, wars have been fought over salt, and cities founded because of it.

Despite it’s rich history, salt is something almost all of us take for granted. It’s cheap, accessible, and our primary thought of salt is “are we eating too much?”.

Did you know that modern, pour-able salt is a uniquely modern phenomenon. It was introduced by Morton’s Salt in 1911. The Morton’s Motto “When it Rains it Pours” is a reference to the fact that their salt is free flowing, even when the humidity is high. We take this for granted but it was a revolutionary development.

After the introduction of free flowing salt, our salt deliver method changed and the salt shaker became the way to dispense salt. Prior to this a salt cellar, salt dip, or open salt (all names for the same item) were used.

Salt cellars, salt dips, and open salts, were common features of table dating back to classical Rome. There have been salt cellars found that date back to 500 B.C.E. Our modern salt shakers aren’t even out of diapers by comparison.

Salt Cellars, dips and open salts are highly collectible and with the popularity of gourmet salts (many of which are too course to use in a shaker) are becoming practical again.

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These items can come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be simple or ornate, covered or uncovered, sized to serve an entire table or small individually sized. They can be found in any price range!

If you’d like to start your collection we have two Russian (soviet era) salt dips available for sale! One is listed on eBay and one on Etsy. It’s a two part salt dip, a small glass dish for salt and the silver plate holder. If you’d like to take a look here is the eBay link and Etsy link.

If you’d like to know more about salt, I’d recommend checking out the fascinating book by Mark Kurlansky: Salt, A World History. I know that a book about salt seems dry (haha) but Mark Kurlansky shares the story in a very compelling and interesting way.