History and Information on Antique Silver Spoons from Antique Central.

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Antique Silver Spoons

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A History of Spoon  Knops


Is This Antique Spoon Valuable? The antique silver spoon below once featured in Antiques Roadshow may at first glance look like nothing more than just an old spoon, and not particularly special.

But this English diamond point silver spoon is actually over 600 years old, made during the reign of King Richard II and valued at up to $20,000!!!

By the end of the 19th century silver spoon designs, as well as other pieces of flatware, exploded in artistic expression and usefulness, with varied shapes and sizes of specialized utensils made to fit every dish and condiment.

The collecting of antique silver spoons has long been a prized hobby of many collectors. What joy and satisfaction the collector receives when searching, and finally finding, that one unique and perfect antique silver spoon to add to the collection. The spoon as a tool dates back to as early as the prehistoric period. The Bible mentions giving gifts of gold spoons, and most early silver spoons were used for religious and ceremonial purposes. It is known that after the acceptance of Christianity in 312 A.D. an antique silver spoon was used for christening, and was engraved with the Chi Rho symbol, meaning "Christos" or Christ, and given to the child to confirm baptism. However,  spoons were only among the wealthy and royalty. Many of the ancient antique spoons did not survive due to the deterioration of the materials used, but fortunately, there are still many antique silver spoons and those made of gold that have survived to this day.

In England in the 1300's, every silversmith or maker of silver spoons was required to have his own mark, as well as city, date, duty, and standard marks, which makes it easier for the collectors and dealers to identify the age and value of antique spoons. Although many spoons were created for their beauty and general usefulness, many tell a story by their design and markings, depicting figures, faces, and places, and collectors are often amused by the whimsy and humor represented in many of the spoons. Some spoons denote royalty and display the crest of markings of the family. You can find antique silver spoons that display a variety of designs such as the antique silver spoons of the sixteenth century presented with birds, doves, owls, and pinecones, and others with flutes, balls, spears and scallops. 

The shape of the bowl and stem of the antiques silver spoons also began to change around the mid-seventeenth century. The stem became more simple and flat to suit the Puritanical taste, and knops on the end of the stem virtually disappeared. The previously round bowl of these old silver spoons, now took on more of an egg shape with the wider part of the bowl being next to the stem. Throughout the next century the shapes of the stems on the spoons began to display a variety of graceful artistic shapes. Some curved up, others curved down, and changes were made in the shape of the stem, from plain to ornate. The stems of the spoons of this time mimicked the graceful curves of a violin, referred to as "fiddle back," and of straight, boxy lines representative of a coffin, thus known as "coffin end." Many designs from this era, the die-embossed shell, flowers and wheat, have been carried into the modern years and are still reproduced today. 

The first English silver spoon known to exist was stated in an individual will of 1259, but with no description; however, antique silver spoons were given much more attention in wills two centuries later when fruited knops were described. Continental spoon knops during the fifteenth century frequently displayed fruits. France often used mulberries, Germany blackberries and strawberries, and England grapes.

During the fourteenth century knops on antique silver spoons are generally found in the shape of acorns or diamond points, followed by shapes of heads, bust, or half-bodied figures. Interestingly enough, spoon collectors also use the hairstyles, as well as hats or head dressings, represented on the these types of figures to determine the era and origin in which the spoons were made. Many human shaped knops designs continue to be prevalent particularly on antique collectible spoons and souvenir spoons, often fairly 
secular in style.

Animals, particularly birds, were on knops of early sixteenth century spoons. English spoons sported the lion, dove and falcon, French silver spoons sported the dove and falcon, while Germany was more impressed by the stork and eagle. Other knop shapes introduced at this time included the spear point, scallop, textured balls, and the more recognized pine cone and seal top. Religious figures were represented as well, many of which also bear an apostles emblem, thus referred to as an Apostle spoon. Lion knopped silver spoons, the most identified symbol of the kings of England, are actually much more rare, but other countries, namely France, also made lion motif knopped spoons, and this design has continued with many manufacturers even today. Twisted bulb-shaped spoon knops were introduced around 1487 and were short-lived, lasting only until about 1515.

Then, finally, around 1705 the stem of English silver spoons began to take on a new shape of which we are more accustomed to seeing today, beginning with spoon handles that broadened and ended in a trifid shape, and later into elaborately decorated spoon handles that curved back slightly.

Silver spoons became an avenue of artistic and individual expression. 
Etiquette demanded a different type of utensil for every food item, and 
spoons for every time and every reason began to increase throughout the 19th century. Silver salt spoons, silver snuff spoons, silver salt and pepper spoons, silver tea spoons, and even, "Monkey Spoons," the purpose of which originated in the Netherlands. The origin of this spoon was described by historian Mary P. Ferris: "Dutch drinking is called 'zuiging de monkey,' [so when] a worthy burgher was ready for his morning meal... and his morning tonic of Santa Cruz rum, this appetizer......must be a small one, hence the use of the monkey lepel (monkey spoon)." 

Not only are antique silver spoons useful and valuable as personal collectibles, they have historically been a top of the line gift item to commemorate special family occasions or gifted as a family heirloom handed down from generation to generation. For this reason, spoons have long been considered a prized possession, allowing the survival of many spoons and a virtual playground for antique spoon collectors. Antique silver spoons have not only proved to be rewarding collectors items, but continue to delight and amuse the avid collector.


The technique of enameling silver spoons with molten glass, used frequently in Russian silver, is represented in the late 19th century silver spoon above.





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