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I acquired this interesting piece of cast iron from a friend of a friend that was moving and trying to downsize. Unfortunately she had no idea what it was and stated she has had acquired it from an elderly gentleman a very long time ago. The entire piece is 18" high and 13 1/2" wide including the handles. The round cage is hinged to reveal an 8 1/2" opening (it looks to be about the right size to hold a gazing ball) The base of the pedestal is 6 1/2" wide and appears to have what may be religious crosses on 4 points of the circular base. It is too big to be a string holder so if anyone has any information on it's intended purpose I would greatly appreciate it !! Thanks

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Is that rust on the "saucer"?  If it is, might it have been used as a stand to hold a potted plant? (just a guess because of what appears to be rust)

Thanks for the suggestion Betty, however if this was to be used as a planter and a plant was allowed to grow up through the cage you would be unable to open the cage to remove the plant for any reason such as to re pot without destroying the plant, so unfortunately that would not be a practical use for this item. 

Three items I've seen that are hinged spherical cages like this on a pedestal are:

String Holder (though as you say, your item is quiet a big larger than most of those)

Caviar Server (which would mean yours would have originally held a glass dome in each half, with the bottom half being filled with chilled water or ice, then the caviar dish within)

Lastly, Candle Holder (For shorter stubby candles, like the commonly seen modern day tea, there are several of these online already)

All those said, I'm still not convinced on any of them, but it's what springs to mind so far.

Hi Michael,  A candle holder did cross my mind, but I have never heard of a caviar server so I will have to look into that and as far as a string holder it really is to big for a ball of twine so I thought maybe yarn for knitting but the cage is made out of iron straps not really cast iron like the string holders I have seen that have more of a rounded edge on the cage and so I think it would probably chafe the yarn so probably not for that either. The only other thing I could think of was that maybe this is just a piece of something larger and this piece sat on something else. I really appreciate your suggestions as I have been trying to figure it out for some time now, Thanks !!

Is that rust on the saucer? If it is, that might suggest avenues to explore.

Very interesting old item you have there! It's very cool. I had one thought, and this may or may not apply based on what your seeing as the decorative elements. You mentioned that it has Religious crosses as some points?

I've seen some items that are very similar to yours, and were used as one of many sacred items for a Christian Church service. One is where the Host would be placed before serving holy communion, to the parishioners. It may have been as simple as a clean linen cloth that the host would be placed into and sat on the alter, inside this reliquary.

The other items I've seen housed like this, are usually to do with Saints. That is, (yes, it's kinda creepy) but assorted or random body parts; heart, hand, finger, etc. of a beloved Saint would be kept in a holy reliquary such as yours. Sometimes it's other objects, like a nail from a Saints burial box, small bits of Robe from a Saint and etc.. 

Unfortunately your photos are very dark, and I really couldn't make out the decoration. But if you do have Christian crosses, and or other Christian symbols shown on the iron surface, this may be your answer.

Also do you have nay markings or letters of any kind on the base? Look very carefully, as it may be small and in a seam. Keep us posted. Very unusual and interesting!

Oh My yes that is a little creepy ! I am really not well schooled in the rituals of the catholic church so this is very interesting. I have looked very closely and there are no letters or marking of any kind on it. However on the bottom there is what appears to be 3 weld like marks that make me think that this was possibly attached to something else? a column or pole of some sort maybe ? 

I think it's a commercial string holder from a 19th-20th Century grocery store. They tied box lids upright with string. Meat came from a butcher who put the meat into brown paper, wrapped it and tied it with string. Here is one, slightly smaller, that sold for $120.

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=A86.J3QlFMpY_GAABpM...

It might also have held Holy Water,although there would have been a glass or silver bowl inside it. There are many on line but none that I could find that looked just like it.

I realise these three are not exactly the same as yours, however, these are examples of candle holders in the spherical shape.  In the first image you can see it has a glass internals, the other two do not have glass.  That's not to say that Tom's commercial string holder idea isn't possible either, I'm just offering ideas.

Annata Lantern

Etsy

Etsy

Thank you all for some great suggestions and examples ! As far as the string holder idea goes these examples are only about 9-10 inches high and mine is about 18 inches high so it is much bigger but more so is that the cage's on these are cast iron so the edges are smoother and mine is more like iron straps that would chafe the string as it was pulled through and there is no one single hole to thread the string through. I am not sure but the crosses on it make me think it was used for some kind of religious purpose.

Holly, twice I have asked you if that is rust on the saucer.  And once, I have asked you if it is removable.  Do you really not want to answer these questions?

Holly, Is that a removable "saucer" in the bottom AND is it rusted?  I think that its center of gravity would probably be too high for it to be useful as a string holder - at least I would be tipping it over on a regular basis.  My memory of string holders used in bakeries/meat stores is that the string came down from the ceiling area.  (One of the fond memories of my early childhood.)  Unless you believe that that saucer is a later addition, I think that it is a major clue as to what this object was used for. 
The saucer is indented in such a way that it might well have held a candle but then I don't understand what appears to be rust.  Of course its original purpose might have been to hold a candle and then at some later time, someone put a potted plant in it - accounting for what appears to be rust.

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