The original purpose of a decanter was a replacement for the wine bottle when serving wine at the dining table. Prior to around 1760 these were mostly just serving vessels. The wine would be decanted from the wine bottle or barrels into the vessel to be served at the table. These would normally have a simple ring around the neck where plugs of either oiled hemp or tapering corks could be held in place by a thread secured under the string ring. Around 1760 saw the introduction of the decanters we are more familiar with today. A glass vessel with normally a ground in stopper which could be used for storing as well as serving (the contents) at the table.
The late eighteen century saw a progression in the styles of the decanter from the shouldered decanter with spire stoppers around 1760, the mallet or sugar loaf decanter normally with a clipped disc stopper C1770 and the taper decanters with a facet cut disc stopper C1780 - 1800.
It was the custom to engrave the name of the intended contents on a faux label on the the body of the decanter. Names commonly found are Claret, Lisbon, White Wine, Port and Madeira. Rarer examples include beer, Mountain, Calcavella, Ale, Cyder (sic) to name a few.
These early decanters are quite sought after by collectors and I am pleased to offer a small selection on my website.