History of the Thimble – Part Two

Old Brass ThimbleOddly, neither the Romans nor the Greeks before them appear to have used metal thimbles. It may be that leather or cloth finger guards proved sufficiently robust for their purposes. There are so-called Roman thimbles in museum collections, but the provenance of these metal thimbles is, in fact, not certain, and many have been removed from display. No well-documented archaeological data link metal thimbles to any Roman site. According to the United Kingdom Detector Finds Database, thimbles dating to the 10th century have been found in England, and thimbles were in widespread use in England by the 14th century.

 

Although there are isolated examples of thimbles made of precious metals—Elizabeth I is said to have given one of her ladies-in-waiting a thimble set with precious stones—the vast majority of metal thimbles were made of brass. Medieval thimbles were either cast brass or made from hammered sheet.

 

Early centres of thimble production were those places known for brass working, starting with Nuremberg in the 15th century, and moving to Holland by the 17th.

In 1693, a Dutch thimble manufacturer named John Lofting established a thimble manufactory in Islington, in London, England, expanding British thimble production to new heights. He later moved his mill to Buckinghamshire to take advantage of water-powered production, resulting in a capacity to produce more than two million thimbles per year.

 

History of the Thimble – Part Three – Here