In the 18th century most women had to or wished to sew in order to make, mend or modify their clothes. The Charles Horner retail jewellery business sold a wide variety of thimbles in silver or gold. They soon found that ordinary silver thimbles were popular but were not particularly durable. Steel needles pierced the softer silver of the thimble – very painful for the user!

In the early 1880s, Charles Horner patented the relatively simple idea of a silver thimble sandwich with a strong, steel ‘middle’. He went on to design, perfect and patent the steel-cored silver thimble, registering his famous trade name ‘Dorcas’ – an inspired invention on which the Charles Horner business thrived, selling many thousands of the thimbles throughout Britain as well as abroad.

To the thimble collector – and there are thousands throughout the world – Charles Horner and the ‘Dorcas’ thimble are almost synonymous.

In view of the significance of Charles Horner’s invention for the whole future of the business, Norma Spicer, a thimble collector and a leading researcher and writer, was asked to write a complete chapter devoted to Horner thimbles in the Book Charles Horner of Halifax. The chapter has colour and black-and-white photographs illustrating more than 260 ‘Dorcas’ and hallmarked silver thimbles, as well as patents, registered designs, unusual thimbles, promotional material and the thimble packaging used by Horner’s. The unique Charles Horner pattern book reproduced in Chapter 7 (click on ‘Further Information’ for a sample page) includes many thimble designs from the early 20th century.

For more information about Charles Horner and the business, click on History

Silver 'Dorcas' thimble
A silver ‘Dorcas’ thimble, marked C H, 11 (size), Dorcas.
Gold 'Dorcas' thimble
A gold ‘Dorcas’ thimble, marked 9ct gold, steel-lined, CH, 7 (size), Dorcas.