Cane eyelets

Cane eyelets first part of the 18th century
During the first part of the 18th century (by then cane use was widespread), holes were drilled in the handles of canes.

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Cane eyelets middle of the 18th century
By the middle of the 18th century, holes migrated downward and were drilled in the upper part of the shaft.

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Whalebone figural bird with unadorned eyelet, Malacca shaft, ca. 1850.

The years preceding 1860 saw a decline in this practice, about the time when crook handles first appeared, rendering the need for eyelets obsolete.

Not all canes were made with eyelets, which was most likely a matter of personal preference and status of the owner.

Through this hole a cord was passed, often with a tasseled end, forming a loop and hung from the wrist, creating greater ease in carrying and freeing the hands for other things. To prevent wear and tear of the hole and for adornment purposes, the holes were dressed on both sides with most commonly precious metals, although bone, ivory or even horn was not uncommon. Not all holes were thus adorned.

early 18th century eyelets with tasseled wrist cord

Eyelet decorations came in various shapes and sizes. During the second half of the 18th century, eyelets are generally thin circlets or ovals of metal, most often silver, but of the same metal as the handle or collar.

Ivory handle with ivory eyelets
Ivory knob with ivory eyelets.
Eyelet ca 1780
Ca. 1780, silver knob with silver eyelets.

Cane eyelets turn of the 18th century
Around the turn of the 18th century, eyelets began to have somewhat thicker rims, most often oval in shape.

Gold eyelets on damascene cane_l
Damascene cane handle with gold eyelets.
Gold handle with matching gold shield shaped eyelets (2)
Gold handle with matching gold shield shaped eyelets.
Oval eyelets_l
Silver handle with matching silver oval shaped eyelets.
Square eyelets_l
Ivory handle with silver rectangular shaped eyelets.
Diamond/triangular shaped silver eyelets with silver handle.
Massive whalebone handle with baleen spacers, modified and elongated diamond shaped whalebone eyelets.

Cane eyelets after 1860
After 1860 when the crook or umbrella handle became prevalent, one could hang the curved handle over the arm, making the wrist cord with tassel unnecessary and unfashionable.

In general, eyelets and wrist cords are less commonly seen on canes during the period 1840 to 1865.

Resources:

1.  Tradewinds Antiques & Auctions
2.  Monek, Francis H., Canes through the Ages, P. 88.
3.  Stein, Kurt, Canes & Walking Sticks.

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts