It has been said that cutlery was once considered immoral, unhygienic and reminiscent of the devil! Most people preferred to eat with their hands. There would be an ewer and basin at the table for cleaning hands, and the table napkins and tablecloths were frequently changed during the course of the meal. If a utensil was really necessary, then a spoon was used. The nobility might eat their meal using two knives, one in each hand.
Spoons are the oldest eating utensil and during the 16th century were an important part at meal times before the introduction of forks. Silver and metal spoons were thin handled with small motifs or seals tops and wide bowls. We have collated a range of international antique spoons from a family of Demitasse spoons, to anointing spoons to retro Japanese airline pieces and gold Egyptian mocha spoons.
Knives for eating in the 16th century were long thin and elegant. Towards the end of the century the handles became more decorative with figures carved in wood and ivory. Our Knives are for spreading and poking, many of them have solid sliver blades to keep werewolves at bay.
Forks were introduced much later and their popularity began to grow in the late 16th century. Initially they were only used to hold meats while carving for hygiene purposes. In the 17th century people started to use them to transfer food to the mouth. Forks at that time only had two tines with straight thin handles. As the fork began to increase in popularity, the design changed. The straight, two-pronged fork was fine for spearing foods but not well adapted to scooping. The addition of a third or fourth tine, made food less likely to slip through, and the addition of a slight curve to the tines made it a better tool for scooping.
As the style of the fork changed, so did its usage.
It’s said that many men rejected forks, as they were considered too feminine. Brilliant!
By the 17th century, people would carry their own knives and forks with them at all times resulting in cutlery becoming a status symbol.
From the late 17th century to early 18th Century matching sets of knives forks and spoons emerged. It became commonplace for the upper classes to have silver cutlery sets.
We say mix it up! No matching sets at the dinner table, different materials and shapes add texture and character to any food setting.
Our collection of cutlery is somewhat selective. The Victorians have given us far, far too many flatware examples to choose from. We have collated some decorative and desirable spoon sets, specialty forks and knives, fruit spoons and sugar sifters (these work really well as a tea strainer).
How did they keep up with the utensil at the dinner table? Perhaps these were left for the servants to stress over, not the diners.
In the traditional of the Gorham Sterling flatware catalogue from 1888, you will find:
knives: ice cream. melon, butter 4 types, fruit
forks: cold meat, pie, toast, asparagus
spoons: berry, salt, egg, horse radish
ladles: oyster, punch
tongs: bon bon, ice
Some TUVA Facts:
Cutlery - usually referred to as Silverware, Flatware or Tableware. Cutlery means ‘that which cuts’, and can be anything from pocket knives, to scissors, ice skates and scythes.
Cutler - a person who makes or sells cutlery.
Apostle spoons – decorated with a figure of an apostle, they are the most valuable of the spoon world. Usually in sets of 12 , sometimes 11 as some did not make one for Judus. Fair enough!
Mate spoons – used to sieve out tea leaves. The ends were also used to clear out the spout of the tea pot and were 1-2 inches longer than a tea spoon.
Mote skimmer - used to scoop twigs and bugs from the afternoon tea. The ends were used to remove tea dregs from the pouts.
Bread fork - from the European Traditional Ceremonies, we share salt and bread to welcome someone to the table.
Monograms - do also consider anything with a monogram for great for personalizes gifts.
A Bit of Etiquette – Transfer Style
After a bite was cut, the knife would be placed on the edge of plate, and the fork was transferred to the right hand to take the bite into the mouth. This style of eating was called transfer style and was popular in France until well into the 19th century. The English chose to use the knife as little as possible and the majority of the meal was eaten with the fork held in the left hand. The transfer method was adopted by 19th century Americans and is now sometimes called “American” method.
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