spud & co - ebay - general 276 (2)What is a Thimble;

A thimble is a small metal cup with dimples, which is worn over the finger tips for protection, this prevent damage to the finger when the needle is pushed through the material, especially rough or thick cloth, the thimble acts as a barrier to protect either the finger or thump, from being pierced…

Usually, thimbles with a closed top are used by seamstress today, but in the past were used due to the tough cloth or sacking they were stitching, there are special thimbles for different tasks such as a thimble with an opening at the end are used by tailors as this allows them to manipulate the cloth more easily. Finger guards differ from tailors’ thimbles in that they often have a top but are open on one side. Some finger guards are little more than a finger shield attached to a ring to maintain the guard in place…

The Old English word þȳmel, the ancestor of thimble, is derived from Old English þūma, the ancestor of our word thumb.

A typical tailors thimble is shown on the left, whilst shown on the right is a finger guard

Lacis Open Top Tailor'S Thimble Size 15 mmImage result for sedwing fingrer guards

Thimbles… a quick guide through the ages…

One of the most common finds when your metal detecting, is the humble thimble, in various shapes and sizes, some seem to have travelled through time unscathed but most are rarely whole, due to their shape and manufacture, except maybe the cast Beehive Thimble from the Medieval Period, which, because most were cast makes them a lot robust… A common consensus is that Thimbles started to be used from the mid-medieval period, so the time frame we are looking at, is from the Fourteenth century onwards, & being made from brass, copper, silver and even gold, although other materials were used like mother of pearl or non metallic thimbles which would not register on a metal detector, so these have been excluded from here, and  you need to visit a Thimble collectors website to garnish more info on these;

All Thimbles, are sized, and some have their size number, stamped on the body of the thimble…

Before we have a look at the thimbles most likely to be found in the soil, I have included a 14kt Childs Gold Thimble which is hand engraved, & most likely this was given as a gift & not for general use, although not hallmarked this American Thimble dates from circa 1870…[please note, quite clearly the size 5 can be seen, even on a gold thimble the size is stamped onto the body…]


Shown below is an English Sterling Silver Thimble Hallmarked 1911…

 spud & co - ebay - general 276 (2)

Above; although damaged this is still a beautiful, Tudor Silver thimble. 

 Yet the whole thimble shown above and below the broken one is an Indian thimble ! bought back from the days in the Raj, perhaps…

so Tudor or Indian ?

Although there are quite a few exceptions here is a rule of thumb to dating Thimbles;

Beehive shape – 14th century  –  Hole in crown – 14th century  –  Tonsured crown – 14th to early 16th century  –  Spiral indentation pattern on body – 14th to 16th century

Manually produced indentations  –  14th to early 18th century

Rimless body  –  14th to early 19th century

some show a makers mark  –  Early 16th to early 17th century

Waffle-shaped body indentations  –  17th century

Ring-shaped indentations  –  17th century

Clock-dial crown  –  17th century

Strap-work on body  –  17th century

Slightly rimmed body  –  Mid 17th to late 18th century

Waffle-shaped crown indentation pattern  –  Mid 17th to late 18th century

Mechanically produced indentations  –  Mid 17th century onwards

Steel-topped body  –  Late 18th to early 19th century

Fully rimmed body  –  19th century onwards

Edwin F Holmes, Sewing Thimbles, Finds Research Group 700-1700, Datasheet 9
Edwin F Holmes, A History of Thimbles
Bridget McConnell, The Collector’s Guide to Thimbles
Nigel Mills, Medieval Artefacts

United Kingdoms, Silver Assay Office Marks; 

Shown below is how to read any date and marks on silver, this an easy task once you have the right tools, shown below is an example, we start of with the first two letters, which represents the ‘maker’s mark’., with the Anchor showing that it was assayed at the Birmingham Office, whilst the lion passant is present on all hallmarked silver since1544 and considered to represent the assay office coming under royal control, and lastly there is a date letter; 

Shown below are some of the town assay marks:











For further ref. here is a site on Google that deals with the Identification of Silver Thimbles…


all a good read…