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Pulling Their Own Weight

Ever wonder about the history of scales? They've become so ubiquitous, and these days digital, that we sometimes forget what fascinating necessity must have led to their invention. Let's take a quick look at how the scale came into our lives, and then we'll share some of our favorite scales that we've seen over the years.

The oldest type of weighing device is the balance scale. When you hear the word "scale," this is most likely the picture that comes to mind. The oldest evidence of a weighing device is from the Indus River Valley near modern-day Pakistan and dates to 2400-1800 BC. These devices were used to standardize trade among civilizations as the ancient world grew and advanced, with little change, until the 3rd or 4th Centuries BC when innovation began to, ahem, tip the scales. Rather than stone and wood, craftsmen began making scales from bronze, brass, iron, marble, and other materials.

Most of the scales that we've bought and sold in our business over the years have been of French origin. And the French being the design and aesthetic pioneers that they were in the 17th and 18th Centuries, many of them have lovely adornments and were made of downright splendid materials. With polished marble and shining metals, these otherwise utilitarian instruments began to take on a decorative quality as well. Now of course the French weren't the only ones to decorate their scales, but we sure like the way they did it!

Modern scales are largely digital and most of them lack the panache of yesteryear. As our business moved online, we even use modern scales to accurately determine shipping prices for our pieces. But we would personally never have one of them as a showpiece in our home, for example. But an ornate and interesting antique scale can really make a space pop with intrigue and charisma. We especially love speciality scales. Here are a few unique scales that we've seen:

This scale was used by an herbarist, sort of a holistic predecessor to a pharmacist, to measure herbs and tinctures. You can even see one of the brass plateaux has a spout for pouring. We love its petite stature!

We simply can't get over the grandiosity of this textile scale. It was used to measure the weight of fabric bolts and it is just so cool.

This stylish red scale was used to measure produce in a grocery store in the 1950s. So retro!


We hope you've enjoyed this brief history of weighing scales. We thought we'd weigh in on it. And we hope it was worth the weight! Ha, don't you love puns??

posted on 1/26/2021