Thursday, 12 April 2012

Antique Silver Spoons

 From early times, a silver spoon was a sign of wealth and prestige. A functional item, antique silver spoons are both highly collectable and wonderfully satisfying to use. A traditional Christening present, this is where the expression "born with a silver spoon in your mouth" comes from! A collection of antique silver spoons can be many things. Some collectors like to collect different makers marks and date letters. What object is better to do so with than the noble spoon. They are both affordable and beautiful, and don't take up huge amounts of space! Others are interested in collecting spoons from many different towns and countries of origin, for example.

Examples of very early English silver is almost unheard of, except for spoons. 14th and 15th century antique silver spoons are extremely rare, while 16th century silver spoons are rare, but not excessively so. A patient collector might be able to acquire an example or two, but not cheaply! By the 17th century antique silver spoons are much more plentiful, at least in part due to the increasing affluence in British society, and the amount of people who could afford them. Before the restoration of the monarchy silver spoons were owned individually, and it was the custom for a person to take their own spoon and knife to dinner, even when asked to a banquet. It was not until Charles II returned from Holland and France, bringing continental customs with him, that the British begun also to make cutlery in sets which belonged to the household, and not the individual.
Despite this fact, silver spoons were still often given as Christening presents, in the old tradition. At this time too, we begin to see specialised spoons for different purposes- the dinner spoon continues, but we also see the dessert spoon, the tea spoon and even the sweetmeat spoon.

18th century silver spoons are usually, but not always found as individuals, as larger sets became broken up, lost or melted down. By this time we start to see the fascinating array of different spoon designs and silver cutlery patterns, which are quite plentiful, whereas before silver spoon designs were relatively uniform by comparison. The number of specialised spoons for different tasks increases. Salt and mustard spoons are commonly made for the table, and to match the general eating cutlery. Now we need a different spoon with which to eat an egg- a simple silver tea spoon will not do! We also see strange spoons for more unusual tasks such as silver Marrow Scoops for removing bone marrow, and even Moustache Spoons to consume soup without making a mess of ones magnificent facial hair! There is also, of course, the famous tea caddy spoon. Silver caddy spoons are found from the late 18th century onwards in a dizzying array of designs and patterns.

In the 19th century, antique silver spoons are commonly found both as individual examples, or as part of larger sets. The array of different silver spoon designs and cutlery patterns increases enormously. The Victorians loved variety and let their imaginations run wild. Silver spoons and cutlery were, generally speaking, always made and sold as part of larger sets. At the same time the quantity of different uses for the simple spoon increased greatly, and Victorian spoons for specific and highly specialised tasks begin to be seen. We see Jam Spades and Sauce Spoons, Specialised Soup Spoons and Sugar Sifters.

The 20th century sees a continuation of all the same sorts of eating cutlery as previously, and silver spoons exist as parts of large services of dining silver. But with the Arts and Crafts movement we see a return to the old idea of a single spoon for a single person, either as a christening gift or as a prized possession. These are often made by well known and well collected makers such as A E Jones and Omar Ramsden.

The original Antique Silver Spoon Article can be found here


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