This is a rare 16th-century silver toothpick, decorated in the form of a mermaid. It is missing the tail, likely once forming an ear scoop. This tool would have hung on a chain, used at the banqueting table as part of high Renaissance etiquette. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, gold and silver toiletry tools were fashionable dress accessories in Europe. Ear pickers were used by all levels of society in medieval and post-medieval England. The 17th-century English knew about the plaque, which they called “scale” or “surf,” and they were encouraged by their doctors to scrape their teeth frequently. They also knew that a buildup of earwax could cause deafness. A similar Ear-picker was excavated at Jamestown V.A. (see the last photograph).
DATE: c. 16th - 17th century
SIZE: 34mm x 20mm
WEIGHT: 3.08 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. European Private Collection
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