The coconut triggered an art movement in 14th century northern Europe, as craftsmen and silversmiths used the nut to fashion extravagant goblets decorated with gold and silver (The Irish Times, Feb 18, 2020)  .
The first coconuts brought to Ireland as a tradeable commodity were probably carried by a merchant ship that sank off Schull, Co. Cork around 1630 (The Irish Examiner, May 23, 2012). The wreck was discovered in 2012. Because coconuts were considered exceptional at the time, they would have been valuable . In the early seventeen-hundreds coconut would still have been extremely rare in Dublin. Its use in Sherwin’s dish would have made this item very exotic, an attractive conversation piece, desirable and prized.
Limerick silver is very much rarer than Dublin silver, and consequently many times more valuable. Henry Sherwin’s beautiful coconut dish shares a shelf with three pieces from his almost contemporary Limerick silversmith, Joseph Johns, described as “the most prolific and arguably most successful of Limerick goldsmiths”. Johns (died 1775) lived and worked in Main Street, Englishtown (now Mary Street), opposite Fanning’s Castle. Johns served as Mayor of Limerick in 1773 .
The pieces by Johns in the Hunt museum are an intricately decorated salver, a finely crafted ladle, and an exquisitely simple pap boat.