Silver for the Dining Table
The early 18th century not only saw the dawn of silver tea ware for new beverages, but it also saw the growth of silverware for the dining table. From soup tureens to sauceboats to cruet sets. Here, we take a look at some of the most common items of Silverware that would have been used for dining in the 17th and 18th Century.
Early 18th century soup tureens are rare to locate and were an extremely popular item to have on the dinner table. They were usually very heavily ornamented and used mostly as a centrepiece for the table. One of the reasons it is thought they became so rare is that due to their size they would have been melted for their metal content. We are very lucky to have a magnificent example in our inventory of an antique George II sterling silver soup tureen made in 1758. It has a classic oval rounded form, applied gadroon decorated borders and a grand domed cover supported by four cast volute scrolling feet. This exceptional tureen is embellished with an engraved coat of arms, which was common to find on silver at that time. Without the lid, tureens look like wine cisterns (wine coolers) due to their size and appearance.
Sauce boats were another dominant item at the dining table and still are today. They were introduced at the time of George I. The earliest style made was a double lipped design with handles on the sides. A classic example would be our antique Edwardian pair of Britannia standard silver sauce boats, made in 1908 in the English George II style. Later styles were oval-shaped, with a single lip and one handle, and were raised by supports or were on bases. This was a trend that certainly followed through on to various items of silver from jugs to teapots and even on to bowls over the following years.
Most common designs of salvers around the 18th century were circular, square, or rectangular. As can be seen from the example here, they are usually raised on a central foot or on three/four supports. The most attractive are thought to be those with escalloped or angular rims. Some, although not many, have cut card work on the base and around the foot; this method can add strength to an item, as cut card work requires sheets of silver that are cut into a design and then soldered onto the piece. Again, this pair of antique George II sterling silver salvers are engraved in the centre with a coat of arms, which makes these pieces very desirable, along with the ornamented raised borders and regency style feet.
Dinner plates from the 16th-17th century are extremely rare. The borders can differ greatly on these items, from plain to gadroon to reeded rims. This fine example of twelve Paul Storr dinner plates comes with an engraved crest at the head of the rim and each plate retains the silversmith’s centre punch mark. They are a truly exceptional example of their time. Undulating borders on plates followed much later, about thirty years or so later. In fact, it was common practice for plates to be reshaped and have borders added at later times. Dinner plates were of course accompanied by second course and meat dishes, which each had different rims depending on their makers and dates they were made.
Another item which could also be found, in particular on the French dinner table, would have been an Ecuelle. This is a two handled bowl used for soup. It is very rare to find these in England; in fact the use of these in England is unknown. This item had a strong custom in France throughout the 18th century. They were given to mothers on the birth of their first child and were known in French as 'bouillons d’accouchee'. Usually, they were rounded in shape with handles at either side, and they had a lid, the decoration to which changed over the course of their production. They were also known to have been produced in porcelain as well as silver.
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