Early Spoons (pre-1715)
This is a brief list of the more well known spoons dating from before 1715:
Undoubtedly the most well known and easily recognised of all the antique spoons, with its diagnostic figural finial, is the apostle spoon. The ideal set of apostle spoons, numbers thirteen, and includes the Master (i.e. Jesus). The other twelve are of varying rareness and are as follows; St. Andrew, St. Bartholomew, St. James The Greater, St. James The Less, St. John, St. Jude, St. Matthias, St. Matthew, St. Paul, St. Philip, St. Simon Zelotes and St. Thomas. Each apostle is recognised by the emblem he is carrying. St Paul and St. James are the most frequently encountered, probably due to St. Paul being the patron saint of London, and the popularity of the latter being given as a christening gift to children.
The apostle spoon dates from the 15th Century, possibly even as early as the 14th Century, and continued to be made in large numbers until the mid 17th Century. On top of each apostle (except some very early examples) is a nimbus, i.e. a round halo or disc, often pierced or impressed with a depiction of the sacred dove. The evolution of apostle spoons through the centuries is a study in itself, and the appropriate books should be referred to. Beware of Forgeries.
Seal Top Spoon
The seal top is the most commonly found type of spoon from the 16th and 17th Centuries. The finial is in the form of a column and can vary in length and design, but always with a flat disc at the end in the form of a seal, but they were never intended to have this dual purpose.
Slip Top Spoon
Generally considered to be an early to mid 17th Century spoon, however they do occur from the previous century. They are very simple in design with a hexagonal stem with the end cut off at an angle. The placing of the hallmarks is generally characteristic with three marks placed at the bowl end of the stem, and the date letter sited near the slip end (provincial examples differ).
A very plain spoon, particular favoured during the Commonwealth period, and owing to this short span of production in the 17th Century, tends to be quite rare. Provincial examples tend to be more common than London specimens. They were the first style of spoon to have a flat stem, previously hexagonal was the standard form. The stem is plank-like and ends without decoration, the bowl shape changed to almost oval, and in later examples the first appearance of a small rat-tail under the bowl is noted, to improve the strength of the join between stem and bowl.
Dating from the post Commonwealth period, circa 1660, the Trefid spoon appears in many different forms, but always has a flat stem and the diagnostic terminal where the stem is divided into three sections. In the period between 1660 and 1700, when the Trefid was superseded by the dog-nose spoon, a multitude of variations occurred.
The most sought after are the lace-backs and flame-backs. The lace-backs have intricate chasing to the reverse of the bowl, and occasionally to the front stem terminal. The flame-backs have very ornate all over engraving often obliterating the hallmarks.
Variations in the three lobed terminal, and the decoration around the rat-tail to the reverse of the bowl (e.g. beaded rat tails, and reeded rat tails), are also sought after.
The successor to the Trefid at the end of the 17th Century was the dog-nose spoon. It has a very distinctive shape with a shaped, rounded terminal, always has a long rat-tail to the reverse of the bowl (occasionally decorated). Itís span of production, circa 1690 to 1715, coincides with the period in English silver where the Britannia Standard (95.8% pure) was used, hence all spoons produced at this time will carry these marks.
Other Early Spoons
A number of other rarer styles of spoon existed prior to the 1660's when Trefids became the dominant pattern, for example Diamond Point, Acorn Knop and Wrythen Knop. Plus an assorted range of spoons with finials similar in style to the apostle such as Maidenhead, Buddha Knop and Lion Sejant.
Following on from the Dog nose spoon, towards the end of Queen Ann's reign, came the Hanoverian rat-tail pattern. The evolution of later styles and patterns can be found in the flatware patterns section.