Some antique sleigh bells have unusual shapes or decorative motifs and do not fit tidily into the other general styles I have written about. A number of these specialty bells are shown below, but I am sure there are many more. While these bells may look quite different, they all have several characteristics in common:
A number of makers produced cast acorn bells with varying degrees of realism in the late 1800s. One style of acorn bell is still made today and is often sold as a "fake antique". More about fake antique bells.... Here are a few antique variations on this nutty style:
The bud bell also has a shape borrowed from nature. This bell has a delicate tapering shape and soft indentations that simulate a rose or lily bud ready to open into a flower.
Square bells have a wonderful, elegant shape, but unfortunately they are mostly "eye candy". Due to their angular shape, they have below-average sound and are unusually fragile. I think this design pushes past the limits for what works in sleigh bell design ... but it sure looks handsome!
I do not know what the original makers called this general style of bell, so I coined the name "Eastlake" bells, since the designs on these bells fit the ornate Eastlake style popular in the late 1800s. There are two variants in this bell design that I am aware of.
Top: This style with concentric circles and zig-zags was made by Bevin Bros. Mfg. Co., East Hampton, Connecticut.
Bottom: The "picket fence" style looks like a wheel of pointed fence stakes. This bell was manufactured in the late 1800s and 1900s by William E. Barton or by the Barton Bell Company, the company that took over his business.
Antique raspberry bells are hard to find and highly collectible. Modern versions are often sold as fake antiques. More about fake antique bells.... The American raspberry design is adapted from the old British "fish scale" style.
Top: This antique raspberry bell is the style you are most likely to find.
Bottom: This less common variant has an unusual star or zig-zag motif in the center, giving this antique bell an Eastlake flavor.
Antique sleigh bells from Britain are often decorated all over, but most antique sleigh bells made in the US are plain on the bottom half. These bells are unusual in that they have a busy pattern of X's and dashes around the bottom to match the rustic "daisy" design on top. Despite the folksy design, the bell itself is comparable in quality to other sleigh bells from the late 1800s. The steel rivet and a bit of the old leather strap are still attached to these bells.
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