At another table, they had a large display of antique silver pieces, mostly brooches, which were very nice but overly pricey. As we were about to move on, I saw something in the corner of one of the cases.
"Oh!" Says my logical mind, "It's an old buttonhook for shoes! How lovely!"
"DUDE!" Says my macabre mind, "It's an Egyptian brain hook! That is SO COOL!"
Hysterically giggling, I asked the woman at the table how much it was, expecting her to quote around $125 or so at which point I could nod and move on. "Ohhh..." she looked at it sadly. "I really can't move it, but since it's silver I couldn't let it go for less than the material cost of $40." I thrust cash at her and skipped off, cackling madly. When we found Paul again I unwrapped it without a word and showed it to him. "Dude, you bought a BRAIN HOOK?!"
I love my friends. We think alike.
Once we had shopped the place to death, finding a bunch of other incredible bargains, they drove me back home and I unloaded the various schwag to show James. I worked through all the gifts for other people then unwrapped my personal purchase.
"You bought a BRAIN HOOK?!"
I love my husband.
As I was showing it to him, he and czarina noticed something under the light that I hadn't spotted previously... odd, almost-worn-invisible crests. I broke out a teensy magnifying glass and we looked them over, gleeful at the new mystery.
I've been able to decipher most of them and they SORT of determine where it's from, but not entirely. The main marks are a maritime anchor and lion-en-passant, which indicates it was made in Birmingham, England. The third in that row is a lowercase "k", which depending on font indicates it was made in either 1909 or 1808. Unfortunately, it's so worn, I can't tell which of the nearly-identical fonts it is. So it's either Georgian or Edwardian era. The actual maker's mark is "G&CL", which I haven't been able to find any reference to in listed English silversmiths, except as an unreferenced notation on a silver coin purse for sale in an antique mall. It's also got several tiny, very worn/chipped-off stones set in it that the czarina said might be garnet, but they're too beat-up to really tell. Also, instead of being a solid-cast handle it looks like it is two pieces of stamped silver plate folded and seamed, then attached to the hook itself.
If I hadn't been shopping with the czarina I'd be really tempted to think it was a semi-modern knock-off and I got gypped a bit. (The stones are so worn and discolored they could be really old blobs of resin for all I know.) But she's a professional so I'm sure that it is silver and they are some kind of stone at least. So looking around the net at other items of the era, it looks like it's worth anywhere between $45 and $300. So if nothing else, I got my money's worth.
But now I'm all deathly curious to find out if "G&CL" is a valid smith or what, just because I'm persnickety that way. I want to know when and where it's from, what it's worth, etc. Not for resale but just because. Hell, I have my "Chinese horseman's sword" that I got from a guy on eBay who made up a total BS backstory to try and rip me off. I looked up the marks on it and found out it's actually a WWII Japanese officer's katana worth about twice what he "ripped me off" for. I just like knowing the real story behind things.
And dude... BRAIN HOOK. =D