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Used by permission of Ripley's Auctions.

Used by permission of Ripley’s Auctions.

If brides don’t register for china or crystal because they aren’t practical, then it’s safe to say that one highly collectible vintage item—a bride’s basket—has no modern corollary—a bride’s basket. Never heard of a bride’s basket? Nor had I until I spotted this one in a catalog by Ripley’s Auctions. Always torn between choosing what’s beautiful or what’s practical, I wondered about its purpose.

With a modest amount of research, I learned this: in the late 1800s, bride’s baskets were considered a lavish wedding gift, usually made of silver and adorned with cherubs, fruit, birds and other symbols of vitality. During the wedding reception, a bride displayed her wedding bouquet atop the basket. Thereafter, she used it to serve sweets, cakes and fruits when entertaining at home. Some were designed with removable plates or frilly glass bowls like the one above.

In the same way china has fallen out of fashion today, bride’s baskets waned in popularity in the early 1900s, but they are highly-coveted collectibles today, especially among people who enjoy entertaining and setting a beautiful table. They are also a luxurious way to display soaps, hand towels, shells and antique Christmas ornaments.

Used by permission of Ripley's Auctions.

Used by permission of Ripley’s Auctions.

If you are in the camp that supports the marriage of form and function, you might bypass this ornate walnut writing desk…unless, of course you’re still devoted to the arcane practice of letter writing. In that case, I think you would find it very useful—maybe even inspiring—for your practice. The cherub that sits on top leans on its side, beckoning a writer’s sweetest words. I wish there were room for it in my small house.

For additional letter writing inspiration, read Nina Sankovitch’s latest book, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing. From the salacious to the hilarious, Sankovitch praises a forgotten art and digests correspondence between famous and not-so-famous people throughout history. A good friend of mine carries in her wallet a handwritten note of condolence sent by two friends after her father died. If you can appreciate the significance of that, then you will enjoy this book.

(After reading this New York Times article about use of the words “bespoke” and “artisanal,” I’m convinced letter writing could make a big comeback if only we used the correct language to market it.)

The bride’s basket and writing desk are from the estate of J.I. Holcomb, a Hoosier entrepreneur who became very wealthy from a business that manufactured everything from popcorn machines to refrigeration equipment. They’ll be sold at a live and online auction on August 20, 2016 at 11 a.m. Whether you can attend or not, it’s easy to bid online when you register at Invaluable.

How often do you entertain at home or send a handwritten note? Fortify your stationery supplies and help a good cause when you purchase a set of 10 notecards. Each card is adorned by a fashion illustration of the vintage sweater worn by 14 fashion bloggers who helped us raise awareness of Pink Ribbon Connection, a local organization that supports people recovering from breast cancer. The fashion illustration was done by Indianapolis artist Sarah Anderson.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.