It is not know when coconuts were first introduced to Europe, but in 1259 the Bishop of Durham was able to leave one in his will. Early imports to Europe were great rarities carved by skilled craftsmen and converted into silver mounted goblets or the bodies of jugs. The incidence of coconuts increases throughout the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries to the point where they were often mentioned in the inventories of the nobility. Tudor coconut cups are usually mounted with silver straps uniting the silver rim with the silver stem and foot. They continued to be used for the bowls of goblets throughout the 18th and 19th centuries by which time the bowls are left plain, the ornament now confined to the silver mounts.
The exceptions to this rule maybe the work of the common man, a sailor or a soldier, to the close grained surface of a polished coconut, whereby scrimshaw-like decoration may be applied to a nut that is then likely used as a drinking flask, the craftsman finishing with an exceptionally personal item for themselves to use or to give to a loved one when returning from a voyage or campaign.
The stemmed coconut cup on this site demonstrates another exception to the same rule. Made by a Frenchman, the style and skill indicative of a craftsman previously employed as a carver, most probably in Dieppe, a long established centre for the carving of imported African ivory; the close-grained nature of the coconut’s wood offering the same potential for fine carving as ivory.