From around 1550 to 1930, canes were a dressing accessory without which a lady or gentleman, properly dressed, would never leave the house. However their use went out of fashion after this, leaving the market to collectors.
For a collector, the main interest lies in the handle, which could be made of wood, bamboo, ebony, ivory, tusk, animal horn, or bone. Sometimes they were made out of porcelain, Bakelite, gold, silver, or glass; enameled or cloisonnéd; or sprinkled with precious gemstones. The height of good taste was a gold handle with minmal decoration, as silver handles were despised by the wealthier classes. However silver handled canes have survived in large numbers, and exhibit a wide variety of decorative treatment, from the comparatively plain, armorial or regimental style to the more flamboyant excesses of Art Nouveau.
Carved handles can be found depicting grotesque animal or human forms, and are highly prized nowadays. Also keenly sought are multi-purpose canes, with a concealed spirit flask, tobacco pipe or even a tiny fire-arm for personal safety.