A lot of antique collectors start off with an interest in old coins. Coin toning is a term used to describe the discolouring of coins which happens due to the oxygen in the air and its effects on the metal of the coin.The word of the day today for the budding numismatist is toning. I’m sure the antiquer in you is eager to figure out how toning applies to you and your love for antiquing.If you have a conversation with someone interested in coins, they will give you varied opinions about toning. For some of them, they think that toning is a good idea; it not only reflects age, but it also can add beauty to the coin itself. But some are of the opinion that all toning does it take away from what the coin is supposed to look like.
A Bit More About Coin Toning
Basically, coin toning is a process in which the metal that the coin is made of corrodes over time. But before you start worrying about how it affects your collection, it happens really slowly over years and that too only if it’s not packed in vacuum. Natural toning in fact is very pretty in most cases as it changes colour gradually, but sometimes really old coins can turn very ugly as well. You want to keep an eye out for the coins you pick up or buy.
Things You Should Know
There are a few things here to consider though, if you do like the look of toned coins.There is natural toning that happens over the years, but there is also artificial toning that is done by experts in the field, they are known as coin doctors. So the real question here then becomes “What is the value of a toned coin?(be it artificial or natural toning).
When a coin starts tarnishing naturally, it can turn rather ugly, especially if it an old coin. An old coin definitely has more chances of being sold if it presented better after being cleaned and toned and made to look good, shiny and attractive. But on the flip side, considering numismatists are not crows and don’t look for shiny stuff only, there’s always a chance it won’t be popular with them. It comes down to which side of the fence you fall on, on this.
Should you find yourself on the tarnished side of this fence, considering you are a newbie here, what should you be looking for? Coins turn different colours when toned based on the metal that they are made of. Different metals turn different colours.
Silver coins – Silver, before it tarnishes to a complete dark black, can take on a very beautiful rainbow colours. Sterling silver also corrodes over time, but definitely presents with a completely different set of colours and tones. This difference is most noticeable in the way ancient British and American silver coins looks different even if they belong to the same age.
In the case of silver, the coins turn colours because of the metals that it has been alloyed with. Ancient silver coins are black because of the sulphides the metal reacts with. Sometimes in the case when they are alloyed with copper, they can turn green.
Gold coins – The same way, gold being one of the most inactive metals to make coins with, can end up with a reddish orange colour. By virtue of being gold, it turns dull before any other reactions appear on it.
Copper and aluminium coins – Copper can go from the typical orange-brown to a reddish colour to nearly all brown. And Aluminium, one of the most used metals for coin making around the world becomes a dull grey.
In all these cases, if it is a natural tone, it can add value to the coin.
The problem with artificially toning a coin is that when the instant colour is applied to a coin in whatever manner; the coin’s value automatically decreases. So, since recognizing a coin that is artificially toned is pretty hard to identify, you want to be careful about buying it for a lot of money.
There are several kinds of artificial toning:
Monster toning (wild toning)
Target toning (colours that change from the edge of the coin to the centre)
Toning in rainbow colours
This can sometimes make it make a higher grade based on what it looks like.
Figuring Out The Value Of A Coin
It is not very hard actually. All you really need is a coin catalogue to begin with. Most coin catalogues will not just give you information about the coin, but will even give you the value of the coin. Since they are subject to change every year, just make sure that you consult a current catalogue. ‘The Standard Catalogue of World Coins’ is a good place to start if you are an amateur.
If you have the time and the means to do it, try contacting a certified appraiser. An appraiser is someone who is trained to evaluate coins based on their condition. You can contact an appraiser by talking to your local coin dealer.
Last but not least, here is what a numismatist says about buying coins (both ancient and modern) for amateurs:
Buy them only from reputed dealers. That way, you won’t get cheated and won’t end up with fake coins.
Make sure you keep the bills and receipts and invoices related to the coins you buy along with their history.
If you are getting them imported, make sure they are declared and their history checks out.
Just because you see a coin does not mean you have to get it. Make sure you have a full appreciation of what the coin is before you get it.
You are all set then, you are good to go! Happy hunting!
I am one among those millions world over for whom a cup of freshly brewed hot coffee early in the morning is a heavenly delight. My coffee should be a South Indian filter coffee with fresh decoction taken from well roasted coffee beans with the right blend of chicory powder mixed with fresh hot foaming milk with a balanced mix of sugar. The first coffee in the morning is divine with the pleasant aroma giving a heady feeling.Without this golden brown brew stimulating the taste buds and the rest of the system,the daily routine will never be triggered.
To have that wonderful coffee,you need a thick fresh aromatic coffee decoction .There is a simple device called Coffee filter which gives you that miracle brown liquid called decoction. The decoction mixed with fresh hot milk and sugar makes an excellent south Indian coffee that is normally served in davara set that consists of one saucer like cup with a rim and a tumbler placed inside the davara. The beautiful antique brass coffee filter shown in the picture has served thousands of tumblers of coffee since more than 100 years and must have witnessed the grateful smiles of satisfied coffee lovers. I am really proud of having this most enchanting antique piece in my collection.
The Coffee filter set
The traditional South Indian coffee filter has two chambers that sits one over the other, a lid to cover the top chamber and a plunger. The top chamber has the perforations to allow the filtration to happen.The bottom chamber serves as a collection point of the decoction. Coffee powder is put into the perforated chamber, and the plunger is kept on top of the powder and pressed gently. The plunger is basically a convex disk with perforations and a pin that is welded vertically at the centre of the disk. The purpose of the pin is to lower the disk to sit on top of the coffee powder and to take it out when not required. Hot water is poured on the upper chamber and covered with the lid. The plunger ensures that the falling water do not make a hole in the coffee powder when poured from a height. The plunger takes the pressure of the water and distributes uniformly around the plunger. The hot water seeps into the coffee powder through the holes in the plunger. Over the time, the coffee gets brewed and the decoction percolates to the lower chamber drip by drip carrying the essence and the aroma of the coffee powder. The decoction collected from the first drips mixed with fresh thick milk with adequate sugar makes the perfect coffee and I know people who wake up early in the mornings only to sip this wonderful coffee. Coffee is the motivation for most of the South Indians to get up early in the morning.
The precious gift
This beautiful brass antique coffee filter set was gifted to me by Shrimathi Janaswami Saraswathi garu (“garu” is the respectful way of addressing elders in Andhra Pradesh). Saraswathi garu and her husband Janaswami Venkatappayya garu are closely related to us through our niece Vani. Vani is the daughter of my brother-in-law Machraju Purushothama Rao and his wife Machiraju Parvathi. We used to have frequent mutual visits with Janaswami family while we were in Mumbai. Saraswathi garu was heading a reputed school in Mumbai and Venkatappayya garu was a general manager of Canara bank. Subsequently we settled in Hyderabad and by a pleasant coincidence they have also shifted to Hyderabad and our frequent visits continued.She used to encourage my antique collection and one fine day she gifted this antique brass coffee filter in the year 2006. I was told that the filter was passed on to Saraswathi garu by her grandmother and it must be by any means more than100 years old.Those were the days the stainless steel has not yet invaded into domestic utilities and hence this filter is made of pure brass. Moreover, the coffee tastes at its best in brass filter and served in brass davara set. I am always grateful to this noble lady for her gracious gift.
My experience with coffee
My first experience with coffee was in the year 1950 prepared by my mother in our village Someswaram. My grandfather Shri Yenugu Krishna Murthy Garu is a connoisseur of coffee and he was one of those privileged people in the village to have coffee in those days .My grandfather used to buy coffee beans in bulk from the nearest town Rajahmundry and store them. My mother is to pick up one week’s consumption, roast them to a dark brown colour and pound them to a fine granular powder.Subsequently he used to buy fresh readymade powder. There were no metallic coffee filters available those days around my village. My mother used to keep coffee powder in a bronze tumbler and pour over it hot boiling water and keep a lid for brewing. Then she used to filter the brew through a fine cloth which would allow the fine decoction to filter down and arresting the residue. We used to call the process Gudda coffee (“gudda” means cloth in Telugu). My next taste of coffee is in Kakinada, Dwaraka Lunch Home in the year 1956. I did not know how it is made but there is nothing special to mention about it.
My first real filter coffee experience was at Madras (present day Chennai)in the year 1961.My sister and brother-in-law used to stay in West Mambalam, Madras, the core area for typical Tamil culture. My sister adapted quickly to Tamil culture, particularly to the early morning filter coffee and I had my first taste of filter coffee in my sister’s home. When I used to go for a stroll in the streets of Mambalam in the morning, the air was filled with aroma of freshly ground coffee and occasionally mixed with fragrance of jasmine flowers from the plaited hair of passing by women, with M.S Subbalakhmi rendering Venkateswara Suprabhatam in her melodious voice, the gents with “Hindu” newspaper sipping hot fresh filtered coffee.I cannot forget this nostalgic experience of my early days at Madras. Subsequently, I stayed in Chennai for 12 years from 1967 to 1973 and from 1983 to 1989. But by then the cultural romance has gone out of daily life.
How to prepare good south Indian filter coffee.
The taste and Aroma of the coffee comes from quality seeds like Pea berry, Plantation, Arabica and Robusta. You can also use the combination of these two verities of seeds to get the best out of the both seeds. The seeds have to be roasted to dark brown shade till they emit the deep aroma of the roasted coffee.The roasted seeds are to be grounded to granular powder neither too fine nor too rough.It is ideal to grind coffee powder just before the filtration by using the traditional hand grinding machine. Addition of Chicory is optional.Some people like to add chicory because it gives extra texture and colour to the coffee.Taste of the coffee also depends on the quality of water used and the milk.Ground water with lot of minerals,corporation water with too much of chlorination will spoil the taste of the coffee.Use good potable water for making decoction.The milk should be fresh and thick to get the real zing out of the coffee.In this occasion I should mention about the “Degree Coffee of KumbaKonam” which is very popular for its authentic south Indian filter coffee.In southern states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Coffee is affectionately called as “kaapi”. In Tamil Nadu hotels, restaurants and dairies buy milk from the vendors by testing the quality of the milk with a lactometer and the quality is rated in degrees.Hence any milk that measure up to the degree standard is called degree milk. In Kumbakonam, coffee is prepared with degree standard milk and hence it is called as “Kumbakonam degree coffee”.
How to prepare a good South Indian Filter coffee
1- Boil pure water(mineral water recommended) in a steel vessel.
2- fill the upper chamber of the coffee filter with fresh coffee powder depending on the size of the coffee filter and the number of coffee tumblers required.Minimum you should keep fourheaped tea spoon full of coffee powderif the filter is small and six if the filter is large. If you keep less,the water will just run away from the upper chamber without percolation. Even for single person there should be a minimum amount required.If the number of tumblers required is more additional coffee powder is to be added.
3- The coffee powder in the upper chamber should not be too loose or too tight. Just press the coffee powder with your fingers gently. If it is too loose hot water will just run through the powder without any percolation. If the powder is too tight the water settles down on top of the powder and will not percolate down and even if it does it takes lot of time.
4- Place the plunger on top of the coffee powder.
5- Place the upper chamber on the top of the lower chamber tightly.
6-Pour the boiling water on top of the plunger and keep the lid.
7- Keep aside the filter for 20 to 30 minutes for brewing. The decoction will be collected in the bottom chamber.
8- Boil the fresh degree milk in a stainless steel vessel.
9- Take the tumbler from the davara set, add 1/2 inch level of filtered decoction, and add hot milk to the required strength of the coffee.If you want your coffee to be strong add less milk and for lighter coffee add more milk. Add sugar as per the taste. The proportion of milk to the decoction has to be experimented initially till you hit the required taste.
10- Hold the coffee tumbler in your right hand and the davara saucer in your left hand and start whisking the coffee from tumbler to saucer and saucer to tumbler in quick motions repeatedly for three or four times till a nice brown froth is collected by the aerated coffee. Take care not to spill the coffee in the process. By practice you develop the art of whisking the coffee.
11- Keep the coffee tumbler in the davara saucer and serve.
The culture of Coffee Serving
The tradition of serving coffee in davara set started with the practice of echai(no contact with saliva) by orthodox Iyer and Iyengar and other Brahmin families of Tamil Nadu. With echai practice the tumbler should not touch the lips and hence they used to drink coffee by pouring directly into the mouth from a respectable distance. To regulate the heat of the coffee to avoid the burning of the mouth, the saucer is used to cool the coffee till right temperature is arrived.Then the coffee is transferred to the tumbler and then to the mouth. The davara saucer is also used to whisk the coffee into the tumbler and vice versa to aerate and achieve the right temperature.
It is a tradition in Tamil Nadu to offer coffee to the guests. The coffee should be a filtered coffee served very hot. It is considered as bad manners if you serve cold or staple coffee and there are chances that the guests will get offended.
In some traditional families the coffee filter should be brass (not stainless steel) and served in brass davaa set. The well maintained brass items shine like gold and brass is considered as Laksmipradam (equivalent to goddess Lakshmi). In some well to do Tamil families, they also use silver coffee filter and silver davara set. As a mark of respect, most Tamil families offer the coffee made out of the first collection of the decoction to the elders of the families.
The Modern coffee house sand coffee bars.
Time has its own magical effect on people.Things have changed.Now with NRI culture huge coffee mugs have taken the place of good old davara sets. The convenience of instant coffee has taken upper hand over the time consuming filtered coffee.The beautiful coffee filters have become a collector’s items.
Now, the youngsters prefer the modern coffee houses that sprang in all cities and towns.These places are trendy lounges where people can sit leisurely and sip mugs and mugs of coffee with friends or with laptops in front .Drinking coffee in joints like Cafe Coffee Day,Barista,Costa coffee, cafe Mocha and Starbucks is all about cooling with friends and catching up social get-together.Coffee today signifies bonding and great reason to spend time with people you like.Inthese up market cafes you get variety of coffee selections with really magical names.I have tried some of these coffee menu and I am sure you may also would like to try if not already done.
Expresso: Expresso is a strong black coffee made by forcing steam through dark- roast aromatic coffee beans at high pressure. A perfectly brewed expresso will have a thick, golden brown foam on the surface. Adding a dollop of steamed milk completes the drink.
Cappuccino: A Cappuccino is a combination of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk froth. This luxurious drink, if made properly, can double up as a desert with its complex flavours and richness.It is common to sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or grated dark chocolate.Iced Cappuccino makes a great summer drink.
Americano: An Americano is a single shot of expresso added to a cup of hot water. Many coffee houses have perfected this brew which is a creamy, rich coffee that one can savour.Get the maximum flavour from your Americanoby keeping the amount of milkto a minimum.
Caffe Latte: This is a single shot of expresso mixed with three parts of steamed milk.Pair this with cookies,sponge cakes and even Italian bread for a unique and satisfying breakfast.
Caffe Mocha (Mochachino):This is Cappuccino or Caffe Latte with either chocolate syrup or powdered chocolate.This versatile drink can be made in several ways.Add cocoa powder or grated chocolate for flavour and garnish with whipped cream to make it more delish.
Caramel Macchiato: The most common method of making caramel maccciato is by combining espresso,carameland foamed milk.Steamed milk is usedsometimes and vanilla is often added for extra flavour. You can add sugar as well,but be warned, the drink is already sweet as it is.A caramel sauce topping makes it all the more lip-smacking.
Long Black: As the name suggests,this is a cup of rich-bodied black coffee,and black coffee alone.It is usually made by topping a single shot of espresso with a cup of hot water,with or without sugar.
Flat White: This is ideal for those who enjoy the strength of cappuccino,but not the foam that goes with it.To make a flat white,simply top up an espresso with steamed milk,but make sure that you only add the milk and not the foam.
The story of coffee- How it is discovered
I will not be doing justice to this article if we do not appreciate how this wonderful drink is discovered and passed on to our generation for us to enjoy and admire. I read from Wikipedia that a goat-herder discovered this coffee plant and the story goes like this
“ A 9th-century Ethiopian goat-herder, Kaldi, who, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to a Monk in a nearby monastery. But the monk disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed and the monks came out to investigate. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee. The story is first known to appear in writing in 1671, and thus may be fanciful.”
Diwali, the festival of light. The best of all, silly reason to go bonkers bursting firecrackers. As children we learnt that Diwali is the celebration of triumph of good over evil, light over darkness.
Lamps have been a way to show our adoration to the deity. Our day begins with the lighting of the lamp; this lighting takes a different meaning on Diwali. The Kingdom of Ayodhya wanted to celebrate the return of their King Rama, who is an incarnate of Lord Vishnu, from his fourteen year exile. This was an issue because that night was Amavasya (new moon) dark without a silver of moon. To ward off the darkness every house in the kingdom lit lamps. The same tradition has been handed down to every Indian household and to this day we all await the day to illuminate our homes with lamps. This is the time when the streets look like a million stars have descended to earth. The joy of lighting an oil wick and the pleasure of smiling in its flickering warmth. The bite of cold and glint of fire, all reminding us of the Great War and triumph.
The concept of lamps and decoration are symbiotic during Diwali. Most of us think of earthen lamps when it comes to decorations. This season do something different bring out that brass lamp that was closed in the four walls of pooja chamber, make it the epicenter of your rangoli and the earthen pots play minions. Brass Diyas are made with a great variety of detail like the deity and his representations crafted in form symbols. Apart from this the functional utility of the diya is also kept in mind so as to aid multiple purposes. Here are a few lamps from Yk antiques that might give you a few ideas for decoration.
Gaja in Sanskrit means Elephant, and Diya is an oil lamp with a wick. This oil lamp is crafted to show an Elephant carrying a diya on its back.
It is customary that Gods, Kings and Dignitaries sit in a howdah placed on a caparisoned Elephant. They do not sit directly on the back of the Elephant. In this picture showing Gaja diya, the diya is not placed directly on the back of the Elephant but is placed on an elevated place representing howdah and there is caparison design on the back of the Elephant. Diya in Hindu mythology is very sacred and equivalent to Goddess Lakshmi and hence given such an elevated position in this Gaja diya. Gaja and Lakshmi have a strong association in Hindu mythology. Airavata, the first elephant, and Goddess Lakshmi, both have emerged from the celestial milky ocean (Samudra madhanam) when Devatas and Asuras churned it for getting Amrut, the nectar that gives eternal life.
In Hindu mythology, Lakshmi is worshipped in eight forms (Ashta Lakshmi) and one of her aspect is known as Gajalakshmi. In Gajalakshmi form, she is seated on a Lotus flower flanked on either side by Elephants performing Abhishekam (sprinkling water on the Goddess) with their raised trunks.
Elephant has lot of significance in Hindu mythology. Airavat, the white elephant (the first of the elephant species) that emerged from the milky ocean is the mount of Indra, the chief of Devas. There is another version of the creation of Airavat that says it has come out of the egg shell in the right hand of Brahma followed by seven more Elephants that are called Ashta Dig-gajas who guard the eight directions of the universe. An Elephant represents abundance, fertility, richness, boldness, strength, wisdom, and royalty, and its presence in the house even in the form of a picture or sculpture or an object of art will bring prosperity in the house.
This antique exquisite creation of Gaja diya was designed and crafted taking into consideration all positive aspects of Gaja and Lakshmi to bring prosperity to the house in which it is used.
Deepa sundari (Deepa means the flame from the lamp and Sundari means the beautiful lady).Thus, the Deepa Sundari Diya depicts the beautiful lady holding the diya. Deepa Sundari figure made out of brass is really beautiful with well-proportioned body and a long and well-adorned hair plaited upto the hips. Part of the hair is dressed like a bun on the top of her head and the other part of the hair is woven into a charming long plait resting on her hips.
The features on the face and some of the body parts are smoothened due to continuous usage, cleaning, and antiquity. This Deepa Sundari idol is there in our family since more than 5 generations and is estimated to be more than 100 years old. Since any idols that do not have clear and sharp features are not merited to be kept in the pooja, this Deepa Sundari has come into my antique collection from our pooja room.
Traditional Oil Lamp
This is an enchanting design of Oil diya. It has a solid base to support the oil cup. The upper part of the oil lamp is in oval shape instead of the typical round shape with a long snout to hold the wick. The base is in a round shape tapering and joining the cup. The joint near the oil cup is deliberately kept narrow so that the user can slip the fingers around the narrow neck of the diya and the cup of the diya rests on the palm of the user for safe handling and to prevent the spillage of oil. The rim of the cup has a design to give some aesthetic appeal to the diya.
This diya is used in our pooja room since 5 generations. My paternal grandfather’s mother -in-law had brought this diya from her family to our grandfather’s family. She had only one daughter and after the death of her husband she moved into her daughter’s house (that is my grandfather’s house) with all her belongings including this enchanting diya. From my grandfather, it had come to my father and from there to me. This diya was used in our family prayer room from generations in order to light a long cotton wick filled with Til (sesame seeds) oil.
This is a typical Kerala bronze oil lamp. Kerala is a state in South India and is famous for temples and brass oil lamps. Kuthu Vilakku has robust design with a solid round base and an oil cup of the same shape and size. Both the base and oil cup are joined with a long rod with ring like grooves throughout the length of the rod to provide a strong grip for handling.
Even if oil spills by chance, these grooves provide the strong grip against slippery oil. No snout is provided to the oil cup thus giving the freedom to keep any number of wicks anywhere.
There is no functional value for the projection in the center of the oil cup but there is a symbolic value. It is sometimes interpreted that the design is symbolic of female and male reproductive system. The protruding central portion is symbolic of male genitalia on a female womb depicted by the oil cup and the burning light representing the creation of life.
Deepam Kundi (Decorative Diya)
Deepam Kundi is an oil lamp that can be placed anywhere for decorative purpose. These Kundulu (plural for Kundi) are placed at a strategic place in a pooja room or to decorate a ceremonial religious event.
Varasa Deepalu (Row Diyas)
These Varasa Deepalu are row diyas (serial lamps) created on a single sheet of brass .They are used to enhance the lighting arrangement on special occasions like Lakshmi Pooja on Diwali festival and Tulasi Pooja in Kartika masam (Month of October).
Kada Vottulu are the cotton wicks that are used to light the oil diyas. One end of the wick will be in the oil and the other end will be lighted for the flame.