According to US Customs Laws an antique is defined as an item 100 years old or older. Antique trivets have distinctive characteristics of design and workmanship that differentiate them from later trivets. Since some antique designs were reproduced in the mid-20th century, how can a collector tell the difference?
✽ See this list of Reference Books that can be invaluable in researching the trivets in your collection.
Casting is a process in which a liquid metal is delivered into a mold containing a three-dimensional negative image of the intended shape. The metal is poured through a hollow channel. The metal and mold are then cooled, the casting is extracted, and the access point(s) broken off ~ leaving a sprue, wedge, or one or more gate marks.
Sprue and Wedge marks are evidence of early methods of individually casting trivets. Mass produced, modern trivets are produced in volume through gate(s) along the edges, which are then ground off and polished into oblivion.
● Sprue Mark (above): A trivet with a round sprue most probably predates 1865. This circular scar will be found on the center reverse and measures 5/16″ to 1/2″ in diameter. Some sprue marks appear as shallow, smooth depressions; others may be elevated above the surface and feel rough to touch.
● Wedge Mark (above): A raised, rectangular wedge mark is another early casting mark, likely pre-1865.Again, it's found on the reverse of the trivet, near the center of the design. Usually about 1/8″ in width, the length can be anywhere from 3/4″ or more.
● Gate Mark (above): This casting mark appears along the edge of a trivet. One or more prominent, unfiled gate-marks signify a casting from around 1865 to 1900. After 1900, most castings were finished using machine grinding; those grinding marks, when visible, are uniformly spaced. Should you find a trivet with irregular grinding marks, it would suggest a casting before 1900, since the gate-mark would have been smoothed by a hand file.
The prefix "sad" in sad iron refers to the fact that the metal of the iron itself was heavy and solid. Sad irons came in many shapes and sizes, from small toy irons weighing mere ounces to the largest tailor's irons weighing up to sixty pounds! Some sad iron stands mirrored the shape of an iron, while others were square, round, or oval.
Sad iron stands were manufactured both with and without handles. They often featured commercial advertising and were sometimes sold in a set with companion sad irons. Most were made of cast iron, with an occasional brass, bronze, or aluminum stand to be found. Nickel plating was popular, as it resisted rust, but few fully plated stands have survived
The electric iron appeared in the late 1910s, and completely dominated the ironing market by 1930. Electric irons, manufactured with an inset heel rest that enabled them to sit upright, soon made a sad iron stand or trivet unnecessary.
Trivets from the United Kingdom are interesting to collect. The designs of those that bear an Rd Diamond (above) or Rd number (below) can be dated using this information. The Diamond, or Lozenge, is the oldest identifying mark (pre 1883). In 1883 this system was replaced with the Rd Number System. To learn more see Phoenixmasonry’s Dating English Registry Marks.