Although sugar cane is believed to have originated in New Guinea the first commercial sugar plantations were in India Circa 350.
The Indian’s had managed to produce it in a crystallized form which made it an internationally trade-able commodity which came to be known as a ‘fine spice’ and in the 15th century was set in enormous earthenware moulds and turned out as ‘sugar loaves.’
These loaves were known to be 3 feet in height & 14 inches in diameter. This necessitated a sugar hammer or axe to break it down into manageable sizes so it could then be nipped into smaller usable lumps.
Sugar hammers and axes were generally made of steel, consequently I believe our brass example to be more ceremonial than practical and that it’s elaborate design & ostentatious decoration is more a mark of it’s owner than its purpose, though having said that it does exhibit a serious amount of wear.
It would no doubt have been a special commission and the feathered parrot that is engraved upon it’s fluke would be an emblem of the family that owned it themselves most likely plantation owners.
A Sugar Hammer is ceremonial because the ‘breaking of sugar’ took place in the presence of a retinue of invited guests.
Philip Cooper Fecit: