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What is this? Answered

Does anybody know what the object in this photo is?  The thing was in a box of stuff I got at an auction and neither myself or several friends know what it is for. It is 6" long and made of metal (I think it is brass) and is kind of heavy in my hand. The tip on the smaller end of it unscrews at the narrowest point and reveals a hollow shaft. Thx for your input!



6 years ago

i do believe this mystery has been solved! thx do a response at reddit which referred to this link:


I did not mention the other items in the auction box lot included fishing paraphernalia because I did not think it was related. I even did a little research which apparently, incorrectly ruled it out.

I am still only 99% sure only because I am still unable to find an image/photo online which closely resembles it and the hidden compartment remains unclear, but the context of the fishing gear is overwhelmingly convincing.

Thank you Ian01 for the suggestion to try reddit!

I have no idea what that is, but if nobody here knows, I recommend you post it here. Almost everything that gets posted there gets figured out.

Thanks so much! I was looking for a site like that. And thanks to everyone's comments. Great suggestions - so far I like the almirez idea the best, but due to lack of finding an image close enough (size, material, overall shape, hidden chamber explanation all good, but no images are similar enough - none with completely rounded end) is enough to be unconvincing. I'm gonna try reddit and see what comes up there. I'll let y'all know if I get an answer I'm satisfied with.

Oh yea, I regretfully sold this thing at the flea market, so I can't take it to a dealer for advice. The guy who bought it claimed to not know what it was either - he said he just thought it looked cool. I'm hoping I don't see it on antiques roadshow next year appraised at 10k.


6 years ago

Its looks like a mortar (in spanish "almirez") to pulverize food, spices, medicines or drugs. It may be the reason for the hole (to strore drugs or poisons), or may be by construction, to add differents endings.

example: http://www.subastasfernandoduran.com/images/subastas/360/312.jpg

pictures: google-it in spanish: "almirez" or "mano de almirez"; add the words "bronce" or "laton" if you want to see only brass or bronze results.

None of the photos nor any in my experience have flutes (rings) on the working end. They are always rounded or mushroom shaped.

Yes, you are right, but the almirez it is also used as a traditional musical instrument, and can be used also as decoration, The general shape, size and material match, so it may be contructed to one of this two purposes.

An example may be anise's bottles, which in Spain are used in the same three ways, to contain anise liqueur, as traditional musical instrument and for decoration, and may be manufactured with this special purpose in mind.

The images you linked to are very similar. It would be interesting to know what this item actually is... I hope the OP takes my advice and brings it to an antiques dealer to have it officially identified. :)

It sure looks similar and the size is right also.

In my opinion, it is a needle case of some description.

What kind of needle?

Not at just 6 inches long. Maybe crochet hooks or lace bobbins?


6 years ago

Maybe an antique to store ashes?

I was watching some random TV show yesterday set in the Victorian period and a Judge had a gavel that looked quite a bit like this. I wonder if this might be a fancy gavel.

If the hollow shaft extends from end to end, then I would venture a guess that this is a "scroll holder", especially if you also found a cradle type base that this item would sit upon.

To be sure, I would suggest you take it to an antiques dealer as they usually know more about old, rare items, and can at least direct you to someone who may know.

Looks like a "pull", goes on the end of a cord. (attaches to an antique flush-toilet)



6 years ago

It looks very like an aspergillum, a Holy water sprinkler, used in some Catholic religious services.

Interesting, but I should have included that the object is sealed all around - no holes. Thx for the idea!

+1 I think that's exactly what it is.

Nope - there are no holes in the pictured object.

How can you tell? On the image I see, the upper third of the sphere is black. There's not enough definition to determine if there are holes or not

Based on pictures of actual sprinklers, where the holes are visible, even in the thumbnails.


6 years ago

A small hammer for a brass gong (no idea what that is called in english) perhaps it is hollow just to decrease weight slightly and make the head comparatively heavier than the handle

Though like others mention, it could be quite a lot of things, might even be just a decorative piece someone made for the fun of it.

hmm, a gong hammer? have you seen one like this before? it could be that it was cut to be hollowed then rejoined with screw threads to appear seamless - not necessarily to be opened again. that's another good suggestion.

and yes, i agree, it could be just a decorative piece, but for some reason i have this feeling that it was designed for a specific purpose. i figure if i ask around enough, someone will have seen something exactly like this before and know exactly what that purpose was.

i know it 'could' be a lot of things and am very curious to hear others' ideas even if none are the definitive explanation, so thank you for your thoughts.

From the picture the larger end seems to have some indentations which could be from using it to hit something with an edge (like a gong). Though knowing myself, it could also just be because someone used it as a makeshift hammer :)

I also tried googling the image and came up very short. (in case anyone is unaware of this, you can drag-and-drop an image into the google.com searchfield
and it will try to find similiar looking images)

Good luck with the detective work though.

Wow I knew there was some image recognition software out there but I had no luck finding it. I since checked that out and realize it would not have helped at all. Seems to be based on color palette more than anything. But thank you so much for that tip. And the good luck!

Finial for a curtain rail, Decorative handle for....


Quite a good amount of money for the scrap Brass

I see it as a steam engine but that will require some work and a lathe.

it does resemble a finial of some kind, but only on one end. both ends are rounded and finished and would not easily/obviously attach to something else unless something was fit to hold it in place or it slipped into something else [like a cane/umbrella as mentioned below] however the small end seems too ornate for a function in which it is not seen. unless, it was used by spies or the super super rich extravagant. and again, why the hidden compartment?

thanks for your input!


6 years ago

The top of a cane or the handle of an umbrella maybe , the possibilities are endless,.

yes, it is possible and a good answer. a friend of mine suggested the same, but then why the hidden compartment which is too small for liquor? some question/answer page i consulted suggested [based on my description and without seeing the image] that it was a tubular flask which holds black powder. i thought that was feasible especially if used as a cane/umbrella handel, but when i looked up images of tubular flasks, none of the results resembled this thing and they mostly had a distinct funnel shape, so i ruled that out. i do still think it could be, but i'm really hoping to find another example that closely resembles if not matches it, or someone to say, "yes, it is such and such and here is why..." thanks for responding!