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A heartbreaking, yet beautiful memento of a life cut short, coffin plates of dearly departed loved ones were often kept and displayed on parlor fireplace mantles and tables during the Victorian era.
The practice of using casket plaques began in the 17th century and was primarily reserved for those of extreme wealth. By the 19th century, the use of casket plaques began to gain popularity in North America.
Early plates were made by hand by a blacksmith or metalworker and varied in size, metal and ornateness depending on the financial resources a family had. They were traditionally made of a soft metal like lead, pewter, silver, brass, copper or tin.
In the late 1840s, the first machine stamped plates appeared, which allowed the plaques to be cut into elaborate shapes and stamped with intricate designs and details, like the one you see here. By the 1860s, mass produced coffin plates could be ordered from a number of catalogs at a price point every family could afford.
The practice of using coffin plates peaked between 1880 and 1899 before falling out of favor. It was also during this time that the practice of removing casket plaques prior to interment became popular.
This striking plaque was made sometime in the 1880s and was most likely ordered from a catalog. This plate is machine made in a beveled edge design and silver plated with a lovely antique patina, which we chose to keep and not polish.
It is stamped with the inscription "Brother," and decorated with a number of masonic symbols including the Eye of Providence, the square and compass, two pillars, an hourglass and a sickle, masonic gavel and trowel, and the letter G.
These masonic casket plaques are extremely rare and highly collectible.
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