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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Decorative Arts > Our Opinion: Walking Sticks

Directoire Furniture

Eastlake Table

Walking Sticks


Walking sticks were at their most popular in the Regency and Victorian periods and any 19th-century house would have had a varied collection of men's and women's sticks in its hall.

Click on any thumbnail for a detailed view and identifying features of these fake Faberge Walking Stick handles.

Cane Handle

Cane Handle

Cane Handle

Parasol Handle

Cane Handle

For centuries walking sticks were functional objects, carried partly as a defensive weapon to ward off unsavoury characters and partly as an aid for negotiating rough overgrown tracks.

 By Regency and Victorian times they had become more of a fashion accessory.

 Malacca and ebony canes with silver or gold tops were very popular, but there were many other designs.

 The 'Constable', for example, was a short stick with a gold-plated cap, rather than a handle, that became fashionable in the 1860s.

 Sticks with carved heads were continually popular and some of the most attractive are topped with the carved ivory heads of well known personalities and reigning monarchs.

By the mid-19th century both short and long sticks were in fashion.  Longer sticks were made of bamboo or ebony and topped in gold or agate.

 By the 1890s short sticks were out and fashion favoured light canes of malacca or whangee, the stem of a tall woody grass.


 The most popular novelty stick was the sword stick. The hidden sharp blade ensured that an elegantly dressed man could protect himself from footpads.

 Another innovation, the oil fired lamp stick, provided the wary pedestrian with light in the foggy night-time streets.

 The fashion-conscious man might carry a clothes brush or flask of cologne in his stick, while other sticks conveniently held spectacles or gloves.

 Screw-topped handles concealed snuff, tobacco or a small pillbox and, as most men smoked, walking sticks often held pipes, cigarette holders, cigar cutters and vesta cases.

 The best carved ivory handles in the 18th century came from Germany.  Plainer types came from London and Sheffield in the 19th century but the most daring designs came from Dieppe.

 The most ornamental French handles date from the 1860s, when the ivory was inlaid with gold and adorned with stones.


 Canes with particularly ornate handles, made in fine quality materials such as ivory, fetch high prices. Novelty sticks are also popular with collectors.

 Walking sticks can usually be found in antiques street markets and many antiques shops have a few, though often of very ordinary quality.

 More interesting selections can be found in auction rooms where complete collections are sometimes sold, and good sticks may be found lotted together in an umbrella or hall stand at a local house sale.

 A marriage of handle to stick is common.  As walking sticks were often misused by their original owners, replacement wooden parts are common. This is acceptable if the style for the handle is correct.  However, old repairs were often carried out clumsily.

 Perfect examples are preferred by collectors and are consequently more valuable.  Sometimes the original owner can be traced through a monogram on the silver band or handle, though examples with a coat of arms give a much more reliable lead.


 Canes should be kept away from extremes of heat or cold. Silver tops can be cleaned with any good dip or polish, and gold sections just need rubbing with a soft cloth.

  Ivory handles should never be cleaned, as this spoils the attractive patina. See article on cleaning ivory.  Porcelain handles can be washed, but take care not to dampen the adjacent wood too much.

 The wooden part of a stick can split if kept in too dry an atmosphere.  It is sensible to polish or oil the wood regularly to keep it in good condition and to prevent it splitting.

 Hollowed out novelty canes are particularly prone to splitting.  Check heavily varnished canes carefully, as the varnish itself may conceal evidence of an earlier repair.


Blackthorn Walking Stick

by Orvis



Rare and very hard to find genuine early 20th century golf walking sticks were also known as a Sunday stick or Sabbath stick. The name comes from the story that in Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th century the playing of golf on a Sunday was considered sinful. Very keen golfers had walking sticks with handles like golf clubs so that they could knock a ball about on a Sunday when no-one was looking! It is doubtful that the golf club would have been very effective as the size of the handle is much smaller than a normal golf club head.