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Coral and Bells

1932.225 (RS203358)


This child's coral and bells is constructed from silver in a baluster shape, decorated with elaborately chased scrolls and roses, and hung at the "waist" with four silver bells (two are missing) suspened from small triangular tabs, each decorated with a petaled flower. For the child's amusement the top of the silver toy is made into a whistle. So the child did not lose it, a silver ring - set just below the whistle - would hold the toy on a silk ribbon around the child's neck or waist. The coral handle and silver end cap are both missing. Elizabeth Gilbert holds her coral and bells in a miniature portrait of her done in 1839 -- accession number 1932.224


A "coral and bells" is what parents would have called this toy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It combined a coral "stick" or handle with a hollow silver top that could be decorated with bells and formed into a whistle. Parents could use these toys to help their children teethe -smooth coral would have been a reslilient but palatable material for babies to chew - as well as to protect. Coral had long been believed to have protective properties and was a common material for children's jewelry and toys. Once the children were old enough, they might keep hold of their toy by wearing it suspended on a ribbon around their necks or at their waist. Both young boys and young girls were often depicted with such items. Coral or mother-of-pearl teethers attached to bells or rattles remained popular well into the twentieth century, when more affordable celluloid -- and later plastics -- began to replace coral.
Location of origin
American (use)
coral (material)
silver (metal)
Object type
Descriptive terms
coral (material)
Rattle, Baby
silver (metal)
silver and silver alloy
toys by function
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Grace Gilbert
Related Items
Title Brooch with miniature portrait of E. W. Gilbert Accession number 1932.224