Secret Life of Antiques: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Silver


Antiques at the table are back. Entertaining has become an art again.

Personally, that makes me want to jump for joy.  There was a time, not that long ago, that entertaining meant going out for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well prepared meal in an elegant restaurant as much as anyone. But there is an undeniable pleasure in sharing your home with friends or family, setting a beautiful table, and enjoying a relaxed, lingering conversation at the table without feeling badly because you are keeping your waiter from seating the next party at his station.


It brings me great joy to hear young couples say they are learning how to set a table with more than paper plates, watching Food Network for inspiration for home cooked meals, and asking for actual dishes and silver again for weddings, birthdays and holidays. The tradition of Fine Dining is once again au courant.  More of us are appreciating the items that once adorned a beautifully set table, and have discovered the lasting beauty of fine antique sterling, and silver plated pieces.


The Victorians, got to love them, had a specialized silver fork, spoon and contraption for every single thing they could possibly eat.  For the Victorians dining was an event. An event that could make or break a hostess in the upper echelons! The Victorians left us an extensive range of unique and unusual silver pieces to be used at the table. We have quite a nice collection of antique silver, any one of these pieces would add elegance and sparkle to your table. Not to mention that they spark conversation.  That beautiful Nautilus Shell, above, is a spoon warmer.  It was decidedly déclassé to have a cold spoon serve hot food, so enter the spoon warmer, filled with boiling hot water, placed on the sideboard so that your James could reach for a hot spoon to serve you your haricot verts. Wouldn’t this spark some fun conversation at your table?


This silver encased glass beauty above is a Claret Jug. This looks gorgeous on display, but is just as happy to serve water with a slice of lemon for your guests, or to hold a floral bouquet. That, to me, is the great advantage we have over our Victorian ancestors, we can enjoy the beautiful silver pieces they did, but we are not stuck with all the rules. While our great great grandmama would never ever think to arrange roses in a claret jug, we can, and we can truly enjoy all the charm that it brings to our table no matter how we use it, free from guilt and worry “what others would think.”


Of all the things I bought on my last European buying trip, I have a special place in my heart for the silver.  {which is why some of it is mysteriously stuck to my display cabinet at home!}  Definitely an heirloom set, of investment quality, this rare Antique Ice Cream Spoon Set. The centers are beautifully engraved with Aesthetic floral, foliage and bug motifs on a vermeil (gold-washed) background. Each spoon is hand chased and adorned with a different pattern of exquisite floral and foliage design on the squared, hand hammered bowls in gold vermeil. Each one is a work of art, makes eating  ice cream a refined eating pleasure.


Once the preferred gift for favorite wedding couples, Bride’s Baskets, like the one below, were extremely popular in the 1880’s when they were often given as a luxury wedding gift. The happy couple then used the basket to present cakes, candy or fruits while entertaining, as a centerpiece or displayed on the sideboard for holiday celebrations with friends and family. {They went out of favor as “the gift” in 1904-1905.} These make a gorgeous display on the table, filled with cakes, fruit or flowers. I have used one of these at home for all of the above, but also in our guest bathroom with exquisite soaps and antique hand towels, filled with shells in the summer on our coffee table, and filled with antique Christmas ornaments for the holidays.


Another type of Bride’s Basket, the cut glass bowl of this one makes it perfect to serve fruit compote, strawberries, or anything else that would normally damage silver bride’s baskets.


See that lovely Antique Silver Peacock? This Sterling conversation starter has wings that can move up and down, a detachable head, and quite a presence! Meant to hold vinegar at the table, these days collectors love these heirlooms for the pure fun quotient.  A collection of figural table antiques like this look great in a decorative display, but their true magic is apparent when you set a special table with them!


You can start enjoying Antique Silver in small ways, perhaps you are fortunate enough to have inherited your grandmother’s silver, or received the gift of a set of six spoons. The spoons below are for bouillon, but could serve up gumbo in style too.  Eating with them elevates any meal time to a special time.  Silver has a way of connecting our hearts and minds to the past, reminding us of celebrations and holiday dinners with those we love most. 


Next time someone asks you “What you would love to receive as a gift for your birthday (or holiday)?” , think of asking for a small piece of silver or silver plate. Antique Silver keeps its value, it will bring you joy for the rest of your life, and it’s something you can pass down to your children and grandchildren.  Silver is the perfect gift and the perfect thing to treat yourself to!  Unlike so many other things we spend our money on, silver lasts, it brings its inherent beauty to our every day lives.


To learn about how to take care of silver, read my post How To Care for Your Antique Silver to read more about the history of eating utensils go here. See our latest antique silver finds here.

If you want to romance your Home and Garden with antique and vintage treasures to make you smile each time you come home, visit our shop FrenchGardenHouse.

4 thoughts on “Secret Life of Antiques: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Silver”

  1. These are ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS pieces, Lidy! I love using the beautiful pieces I’ve collected over the years when I entertain! Beautiful elegant pieces like these just add so much to the occasion!
    xoxo Kathleen

  2. Cherisse

    I have been so enjoying your blog, filled with beautiful things and information. As a collector, I appreciate your generosity with your knowledge, I love learning more about my antiques and you have such a wealth of knowledge. Thank you, Lidy, for sharing these wonderful historical pieces.

  3. Robert

    Great article, my wife and I have just started a collection of antique silver. Just ordered something for her birthday from you, can’t wait to receive it. Thank you for the excellent customer service, she loved the bracelet last time, and I loved the fact that it was packaged in a nice box and ribbon ready to give to her on our first anniversary. Best, Robert Gaulliet

    1. Thank you so much, Robert, I hope that she loves it! (and you, too, of course.)

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