Types of Spoon/flatware
The most common form of asparagus tongs are similar in design to oversized sugar tongs with the addition of a restraining bar, usually held in place by screws, across the centre of the stem (see photo). The large blades are often pierced, for straining, and have a lip at the end of one to help hold the spears. Earlier forms of asparagus tongs have un-pierced blades with a corrugated inner surface for improving grasp. This style of server has also been linked with other serving purposes e.g. chops, steak, salad and sandwiches (basically for whatever use the owner can find!). Other less common forms of asparagus tongs include the scissor action type and those with spring loaded blades - these generally date from pre-1800.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early examples & unusual patterns.
There are several names given to this elegant, long handled (usually in the region of 12"+) spoon; basting, stuffing, gravy or hash. The last title is usually for the extra large bowled examples produced in the mid-18th Century. They have been manufactured from the late 17th Century onwards with the first examples being the Canon handled type, and ever since they have followed the form of the standard patterns.
The image shows the difference in size between the basting, table, dessert and tea spoons.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Canon handled & other early 18th Century examples, Scottish Provincial & Irish, sought after makers & unusual patterns.
This type of spoon can be found in many forms; teaspoon, dessert spoon, table spoon, sugar sifter spoon etc., and would generally be used for serving soft fruits. The bowls are elaborately embossed with fruits, the stems are often engraved and are either wholly or partly gilded to protect the silver from the corrosive effects of fruit acids. Most examples found in this category have been later embellished e.g. a plain Georgian spoon decorated by a Victorian hand. Any examples found hallmarked prior to 1840 should be viewed with suspicion. There are two fields of thought regarding these spoons. Firstly, that an elegant spoon has been vandalised and secondly that an attractive single spoon contains the tastes and craftsmanship of two distinct eras. These spoons are not fakes and are legitimate on the open market, although I would suggest that they should be sold as "with later decoration".
MOST COLLECTABLE: Finely decorated pieces.
Butter spades have a triangular or heart shaped blade usually connected to a round, turned ivory or wooden handle, although completely silver examples are found. They are very collectable and generally date from the mid-late 18th Century. Examples from late Victorian and Edwardian times are found, often attractively engraved with mother of pearl handles.
Butter knives with scimitar shaped blades replaced the spade in the 19th Century, originally they too would have had turned handles, but by the 1820ís were made in one piece of silver and followed the standard flatware patterns. By the middle of the century they were being produced with resin-loaded handles made of either ivory, bone, agate, mother of pearl or other materials. From this date the handles tended to be carved as opposed to turned.
Butter spades tend to be tea to dessert spoon sized, but the earlier butter knives increased in length to table spoon sized, before being reduced by the end of the 19th Century to teaspoon size.
Beware of mistaking fish knives with butter knives.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early and pretty spades, nicely decorated handles, attractively engraved blades.
This is one of the most collectable forms of spoon, and as such command high prices. The rare novelty examples, such as eagle wings, can fetch thousands of pounds.
Caddy spoons are used for scooping a measure of tea from caddy to pot. They have been made from the 1750ís and exist both in standard pattern form and as decorative or novelty pieces. Beware of forgeries.
Caddy spoons, in line with other small London-made spoons, will be marked only twice (lion passant & maker) on examples made prior to 1781, three times between 1781 & 84 (addition of date letter), four times from 1784 (addition of duty mark) until finally, in 1821, the leopard's head mark was added to make up the full complement of hallmarks. See teaspoon section below for a full explanation.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Novelty, unusual shapes/engraving, Scottish Provincial & Irish, rare marks, sought after makers.
Generally smaller in size to a teaspoon, and become progressively smaller through the 19th and into the 20th Century. The bowls are either shield-shape, or have a little indenture to the bowl on either side of the handle. Another form of egg spoon is very similar in style to a mustard spoon but have a long handle, are found in sets and are often Irish hallmarked.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Unusual patterns & rare marks.
Marrow Spoon & Scoop
These items are distinguished by the elongated scoops, which were used to remove the nutritious marrow from bones. The marrow spoon came first (circa 1700), generally table spoon sized with the standard bowl at one end and the scoop at the other.
The marrow scoop has two scoops one being roughly twice the length of the other. When in pattern form the distinguishing decoration is found on the front between the two scoops and the hallmarks are in the centre of the underside. Beware of Forgeries.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early examples, basting spoon size, Scottish Provincial & Irish, rare patterns.
A very collectable form of spoon that generally occurs in one of four forms.
The earliest form has a very short handle and dessert spoon sized bowl. A second form is often referred to as an invalid's spoon and has a part covered bowl with an aperture at the tip to allow drinking without spillage and dates from the end of the 18th Century. This form of spoon was revived in the 20th Century. The third type dates from the mid 19th Century and has two different sized bowls at either end of the central stem. They occasionally occur in presentation boxes, presumably given as gifts to members of the medical profession. The most sought after medicine spoon is the very rare Gibson's patent dating from the 1820's, it has a push-down stem which forces open the hinged covered section of the bowl and allows control on the quantity of medicine administered (see picture).
MOST COLLECTABLE: All types are rare.
One of the most unusual and intriguing forms of collectable spoon is the mote spoon. Itís purpose has caused much debate, itís use as a punch, tea or lemon strainer, sugar sifter, olive spoon, caddy spoon and others have all been put forward as possible uses. The most likely use however was to skim the surface of tea with the pierced bowl to remove the floating solids (motes) and to use the pointed terminal of the stem to poke inside the spout to remove blockages.
Mote spoons are generally teaspoon sized and were made from the late 17th Century through to the 1770ís. They are generally bottom struck twice with the lion passant and makerís marks. The pierced bowls vary from simple round holes to elaborate decoration. Beware of Forgeries.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early examples, Fancy backs, attractive piercing, large examples
Similar in appearance to the covered bowl medicine spoon, the moustache spoon became popular in the mid-Victorian era to protect those large handlebar moustaches from soup. They have a strip of silver across the bowl with the opening to the left-hand side of the bowl - I'm yet to find one to the right-hand side for left-handed men!
MOST COLLECTABLE: All types are rare.
The mustard spoon is often confused with the salt spoon. The bowl of the mustard spoon is always elongated to form a scoop, whereas the bowl of a salt spoon is round and deep and conveys the salt like a ladle (see photo). Another confusion can be made with the generally bigger egg spoons, this style of egg spoon is particularly numerous amongst Irish marked items. Most examples began life as part of a canteen and follow the form of the patterns, but variations on mainly Birmingham marked pieces, such as engraved decoration and variations in form can be found. They date from about 1760, and have tended to become much smaller in size from the late Victorian era.
Mustard spoons are classed as small items, and were hallmarked in a different manner to larger items during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries - see teaspoon section below for an explanation of the methods employed.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Fancy backs, unusual forms, decorative examples, Scottish & Irish Provincial.
Famous for it's appearance in the nonsense poem "The Owl & The Pussy Cat" the function of the runcible spoon is often a mystery. They are about the length of a sugar shovel, but their bowls have three tines. The combination between a spoon and a fork gives it the alternative name of "spork". Their intended use was for serving pickles and chutneys, but as with all spoons they are multi-functional.
Condiment spoons have been produced since the late 17th Century and were multi-purpose in use. The earliest types were in the Trefid Pattern with oval bowls. Distinctive salt spoons were produced from the mid-18th Century and can be classified into two main types; ladles and shovels. Ladles are distinguished by their deep round or oval bowls (see above photo), whereas shovels have flat oblong bowls with sides either wholly or partly along two edges. The earliest form was the shovel, which was produced throughout the 18th Century. Salt ladles were first made during the rococo period, were cast, and either highly decorative or in the whiplash form popular during the 1750ís. Throughout the 19th Century they generally have a similar evolution to the mustard spoon, conforming to canteens and becoming smaller in the 20th Century.
The hallmarks on salt spoons from the 18th and early 19th centuries follow the pattern described under the teaspoon section.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Whiplash, cast examples, fancy backs, unusual forms, Scottish & Irish Provincial, rare marks,
The in between size to the salt and soup ladles, is the sauce ladle. The earliest examples date from the Rococo period and are often very grand and ornate. Since this period sauce ladles have matched the standard patterns. Small Scottish examples with round bowls are known as toddy ladles and can often be found in sets.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Rococo period, shell bowls, Scottish & Irish Provincial, sought after makers.
Varying in size from approx. 5" long for poultry and game skewers to 12" long for meat skewers, these long, pointed, flat items were used to hold and check on the state of cooked meat. The most common type has a finger ring terminal, but earlier examples have cast motifs to the end. The cross-section of the blade changed from oblong in the mid-late 1700's to having a ridge running down the centre. Later examples appeared in the standard pattern forms.
MOST COLLECTABLE: early examples, cast terminals and rare patterns.
Very small in size is the diminutive snuff spoon. They are generally less than three inches in length with the bowl proportionately reduced in size. Confusion can be made with miniature or toy spoons. They were made from the early 18th century. Beware of Forgeries.
MOST COLLECTABLE: All are rare.
The largest standard serving item is the soup ladle. Generally they measure in excess of 12" long, and some very hefty examples could give a nasty thwack on the head in the wrong hands! Ladles measuring about 7" long are often mis-described and are in fact sauce ladles. Early examples from the mid-18th century have fluted or shell shaped bowls, later pieces have either round or oval bowls. Irish ladles from the mid-18th Century can sometimes be found with a hooked terminal. Soup ladles from the late 1700's conform to the standard patterns and are an integral component to a canteen.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early examples (esp. Rococo style), Irish hook-ends, rare marks & unusual patterns.
Stilton or Cheese Scoop
First appearing in the late 18th century, stilton scoops are now highly sought after, both as a collectable and practical item. Early examples tended to have ivory or bone handles, towards the middle of the 19th Century they also appeared in the standard pattern form.
They have deep sided trough-shaped bowls and should be made of sturdy construction. Interesting variants have a sliding mechanism to help push the cheese on to a plate. Beware of Forgeries.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early examples, sliding actions & unusual patterns.
The ladle shaped sifter spoon can be found in much more varied styles than itís sauce, soup and salt cousins. As a dessert course implement it is not only found as part of a canteen, but also as a single entity. It occurs in a rich variety of forms; cast, naturalistic or novelty handles, intricately pierced bowls, etc. It was first produced circa 1770, and has become a much smaller item during the 20th Century.
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early & novelty examples.
Sugar Nips (Tea Tongs)
Scissor action sugar nips superseded tongs at the beginning of George Iís reign (circa 1715) and were in turn superseded by tongs in a different form in the 1770ís. They reappeared, usually in novelty form during the midĖ19th Century.
18th century sugar nips are usually only part marked on both finger rings with the lion passant and maker's mark. They can however be accurately dated by their form. Bowl form developed from plain with rattail through plain to shell-shaped. Arms and finger grips developed from plain to ornate.
Recently, Dr. David Shlosberg has discovered that the true name for these implements in the 18th Century was tea tongs - his findings can be read in his book "Eighteenth Century Silver Tea Tongs".
MOST COLLECTABLE: Early, unusual & novelty examples.
A very common item, often found in association with teaspoons or canteens. They were used for pinching lumps from sugar loaves and pre-dated sugar nips with the highly desirable andiron type in the early 18th century. However, from circa 1715 sugar nips were fashionable and the tongs did not make their re-appearance until the 1770ís when cast tongs with pierced sections and attractive bright cut engraving became popular. Being so widely produced there are many examples of the standard patterns, especially Old English and Fiddle patterns, therefore the market tends to revolve around decorative examples or rare and unusual marks. Small examples were supplied with cased sets of teaspoons in the first half of the 20th century for serving sugar cubes.
Sugar tong prior to 1790 are rarely marked with a date letter but can be given an approximate according to the following rules:-
1770-84 Marked twice; lion passant and makers mark. More exact dating is reflected in the design i.e. cast examples earlier, fancy bright-cut later and simple bright-cut (e.g. feather edge) somewhere in the middle!
1784-86 Marked three times; lion passant, makers mark and incuse duty mark
1786-90 Marked three times; lion passant, makers mark and intaglio duty mark.
MOST COLLECTABLE: early examples, cast examples, attractive decoration, unusual form, Scottish & Irish Provincial, rare marks,
The combination of beauty in form and the availability of this type of spoon means that the table spoon is one of the most collectable of flatware items. Originally a multi-purpose item, but also used for serving, or in sets of six as soup spoons. The title of "table" is generally only applied to this size spoon from the end of the 17th Century, when dessert, tea, basting spoons etc. came into general use. A collection of the standard patterns is fairly simple to build, therefore rare patterns, rare hallmarks and early dates are the most sought after. This is the usual form to build a collection of a spoon from each year of the 18th Century, with the date letters of London made spoons (early teaspoons tend to have no date letter).
MOST COLLECTABLE: early examples, fancy backs, Scottish & Irish Provincial, rare marks, rare patterns.
This is the most commonly found form of spoon. They have been produced in their millions; as part of canteens, as cased sets of six and twelve, as souvenir items, prizes etc., as such they represent the most accessible spoon collecting area and can be purchased for as little as £5 (approx. $7.50) . To their advantage is the huge variety of forms and patterns available, but many can be discounted as rather mundane and not especially appealing. They occur in all the more interesting collecting areas too, and are found more frequently than any other form of spoon.
Teaspoons (as are all small spoons and tongs) hallmarked by the London assay office are not full marked until 1821. The main reason for this was the lack of space on the spoon stem or terminal. The methods of marking were as follows:-
Pre 1781 - Bottom-marked with only 2 hallmarks (lion passant & Maker). Their date of manufacture can be estimated by their style and where possible from the working period of the silversmith. Early 18th Century teaspoons may only be marked with a maker's mark or sometimes none at all.
1781 - 1784 Three top-marked stamps; lion passant, maker and date letter (i.e. no leopards head crowned)
1784 - 1820 Four top-marked stamps; lion passant, maker, date letter and duty mark (i.e. still no leopards head crowned).
1821 onwards A complete set of hallmarks in line with other silver articles.
MOST COLLECTABLE: early examples, cast examples, fancy backs, Scottish & Irish Provincial, rare marks.