Question: My photo shows a silver thimble found in an antique sewing basket bought at a flea market. I think the band of red stones are coral, and marks above the band are "925" and "10." The thimble is gold-colored inside and its top resembles an opal or moonstone. I would appreciate anything you can tell me about it. - D.V., Longport

Answer: Important needlework tools for centuries, thimbles were functional necessities used for the production and mending of clothing, household linens and quilts as well as decorative tapestry, embroidery and needlepoint pieces. Quality and design of thimbles have ranged from plain wood, bone, steel and plastic utilitarian models to diminutive works of art fashioned from precious metals and gems.

Although produced worldwide for centuries, most of the thimbles collected today were made in England, France, Ger-many, Italy and the United States. Scrolled, chased, en-graved, enameled, painted, printed and figural, thimbles frequently were exchanged as tokens of friendship and affection, purchased as souvenirs and served as advertising or political giveaways.

Placement of your thimble's marks is typical of those found on examples made by Gerbru-der Gabler, located in Schorn-dorf, Germany from 1824 to 1963. "925" indicates it is sterling silver while "10" is one of Gabler's large sizes. The company's flower trademark, usually stamped on a Gabler thimble's metal tip, often is hidden by inserts such as yours which range from gemstones to art glass. Tiny authentic and faux turquoise and coral cabochons were popular thimble decorations from the 1880s to the 1930s and the golden glow inside the thimble is a gold wash.

If your early 20th-century thimble has no pinholes, cracks or dents and its stones are genuine, it currently is valued at $35 to $50.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email: treasures17@cfl.rr.com

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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