Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Samovar

In what way are Skype and Samovars related? Well, in no way. So: off topic…

It is easy to buy new objects you like and when you have a medium (or minimum) budget, rare new objects are mostly out of reach. Only mass production is available. Even then you can find nice things you like to decorate your house with.

Though I come from a family who always loved antiques. My grandfather who was as much addicted to books as I am, often visited the “Waterlooplein” in Amsterdam and more then once he returned with an antique object. I am now talking about before the 2nd World War.

All 4 children of my grandparents inherited the love for antiques and even in Canada with my Mother’s sister, you find precious objects.

My uncle stayed in the 500 year old house they lived in most of their lives (once painted by Monet) and filled it with even more antiques. My Mother and her eldest sister went into the antique business and my Mothers greatest joy was giving neglected antiques a second life.

And those genes I inherited. Browsing Car Boot Sales, Second Hand Markets, Charity Shops is fun. Not seldom you find an object which purpose is long forgotten.
Needles to say that programs like Flog It, Antique Road Show and Bargain Hunt are some of my favourites.

And bless the Internet. Because I only search close to home (radius 25 km’s), I prefer Marktplaats and subscribed to many RSS feeds. I am patient, I can wait for years to find the object I am looking for and the price I want to pay for it. I don’t mind if it is a totally neglected object as I love, like my Mother, to use my hands to give it a second chance. I never buy anything that I don’t want or which doesn’t go with the other decoration. And I don’t sell it again!

The feeling of creating and improving is a wonderful feeling. Achieving the result you wanted, gives great pleasure. Often during the “restoration” objects tell you a story. Like my recently purchased Samovar (or Samowar) -->

For those who don't know what a Samovar is, it is a heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water in and around Russia, as well as in other Slavic nations, Iran and Turkey. Since the heated water is usually used for making tea, many Samovars have an attachment on top of its lid to hold and heat a teapot filled with tea concentrate.

I always fancied one but for many years they were hardly for sale. But I found one not far from where I live, advertised as a “tea pot”. It is good to use your imagination when searching.
The man who sold it, got it from an old lady who never explained what it was. He did not know what to do with it and sold it to me for € 10. The once so beautiful yellow shiny brass was now brown and unattractive. But I knew what was underneath and looked forward to giving it a proper polish.


The Samovar is not complete, some tiny little parts are missing but I know I will find them one day. Home I started polishing and doing this, I discovered a very old and well used Samovar. Inside it was full of boiler scale. Caused by the water in the country side? Also some miner repairs were done to it with great love. The foot was black from standing in coal to heat the water.
Not a rich man’s Samovar but definitely from a family who treasured it because they either inherited it from loved ones or were to poor to buy a new one. Maybe it has been a wedding gift. From a more wealthy family member, friend? Or paid for by many people together? It served a purpose and heated water for endless cups of tea for probably several generations.

I browsed the Internet for pictures and the history of Samovars and found (where is that site again??) pictures which explained the age of Samovars judged by their parts. This way I found out that mine dates back to 1880.
How many generations is that? Seven? Will it have been used by a farmers wife to cook tea when the family came home after a hard day working? Did the endless cups of tea warm cold hands? Did it get an extra polish when visitors came over for tea?

Did it always stay in one place until it moved to Holland? Were the previous owners immigrants or did they buy it somewhere?
I know it is slightly damaged but it is not leaking. The careful repairs took care of that and still hold. But I will not use it to boil water for my own tea. Not because I don’t have coal to heat and put the Samovar on top but because it deserves a well earned rest 127 years after it was used for the very first time.

Could it speak, it would tell me a fascinating history, painted in colourful words. Now it only speaks to me by the shine of the brass, the careful repairs and the missing parts.
I listen carefully...

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