What type of bell and what is it made of?
September 16, 2018 at 9:23 pm #27184
I just started cleaning up this old bell that my grandfather previously owned. It’s pretty dirty but I’m not sure I’m using proper cleaning materials since I don’t know what it’s made of. Can anyone give me some history and an idea of what it could be made from? Any info is very much appreciated.
Every picture I try to upload says it exceeds maximum file size. Is there anyone I can text them to or email them to so they can be posted?
- This topic was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by jdr2004cats. Reason: Pictures won’t upload
September 19, 2018 at 4:00 pm #27188
Good day JDR! Sure, send them to me and I’ll reduce the size for you for posting.
e-mail: email@example.com (yes the periods are there!)
Or you can use one of the online photo resizing tools such as: http://picresize.com/ (not recommending any particular one, this is just one that popped up on a search).
September 19, 2018 at 5:13 pm #27190
Cleaning antiques in general is something to do very carefully, even with metals!
Remember that often, over cleaning removes the patina, which can actually destroy the value of the item.
There was even a case where a metal statue with a dark brown ‘stain’ was ‘cleaned’ back to the bright brass stage, only then did they discover that the ‘stain’ was actually a deliberate patina put on by the artist. They had ruined the piece!
I think the Victoria and Albert Museum puts it quite well: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/cleaning-metals-basic-guidelines/
Avoid harsh pastes and acids (no salt, vinegar, lemon juice…) unless you know it’s not really an antique.
I basically just use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Wipe, don’t soak, and dry immediately. Avoid over polishing.
September 19, 2018 at 5:16 pm #27191
September 20, 2018 at 9:53 am #27198
September 20, 2018 at 10:52 am #27206
Jen, Thanks for the additional information you provided with the images you sent for posting! The English connection actually makes good sense.
To first answer your question: “what type of bell and what is it made of”
What you have is a brass cow bell with an iron loop handle. The bell would be worn around the cow’s neck by a wide strap through the handle (see photos below). The design is Swedish, notice the Sweden ‘cross in shield’ on the side. Most such bells had flowers and farm type animals in the design, yours has garlands and what looks to be a lion, deer, and cow. I think it is likely an exported bell from Sweden to England given that design decoration!
These bells had a wide skirt to prevent mud from collecting inside and deadening the sound. The strap handle is designed to accommodate a more comfortable wide strap and allow the handle to rest gently on the cow’s neck rather than rub like a round one would. That way the cow is less likely to try and dislodge it due to discomfort.
What you appear to have is a medium sized brass cow bell that has been repurposed for use at least once, possibly twice. The strap has been removed and a hole drilled in the top of the flat strap handle. The bell was then mounted to a decorative planter bracket (used for hanging plants). This type of mounting does not permit the bell to swing freely. Likely it was used as a Gate bell. That is, hung on a gate and rings only when the gate was opened or shut. This is supported by what wear pattern I can see on the inside of the bell. I see only one strike point, likely towards the back or front where the clapper would swing due to momentum. It is likely a matching wear point is exactly opposite (but weaker), but doesn’t show in the photos that I can see. Victorian gate bells of this nature/function were quite common.
Later, someone appears to have tied a rawhide bootlace to the clapper inside. Likely to mount and use the bell as either a door bell or a dinner bell (they could swing the clapper). As people swing clappers in different directions (back and forth, left and right, etc.) the inside wear patterns would show multiple strike points after a while. I don’t seem to see that inside your bell, so likely it wasn’t in use this way for a long period of time. Perhaps this was done when it was brought to Cleveland? I am not sure why it was cut off instead of untied though, but the following is also possible…
Alternatively the rawhide might have been used to cushion the clapper to ‘soften’ the sound if the bell was remounted on, say, a household door. It would ring quite loudly inside a building! That would explain why it’s still on the clapper.
I also posted, in prior postings above, some methods to clean the bell and why. There is a plethora of pastes (retail and home brew) and methods for cleaning available on line. Remember that anything corrosive or abrasive removes METAL as well as corrosion (metal that is oxidized), not just plain old dirt! So you are also erasing the object as well as the grime if you use them! The best way I have found, if you have to clean it, is the simple soap and water trick (don’t soak, just wipe on – wipe off – and rinse) then dry immediately. To prevent further oxidation, a light wax treatment seems to be the least invasive as wax can typically be melted off quite easily to remove, but prevents air from re oxidizing the metal. Anyway, follow the links above to see what those folks say as well.
Enjoy your bell! Hopefully this helps your source remember more about it.
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November 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm #29624
It’s likely an animal bell, presumably from Europe, although I admit to knowing little of bells from South America, etc.
I would suggest it’s likely related to transhumance.
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