Antique Napkin Rings

Antique Napkin Rings.



Antique Napkin Rings



This time of year always makes me nostalgic. You too?  And my goodness – what a year this has been!


I was recently interviewed for an article about silver napkin rings by the English magazine Homes & Antiques for the February issue coming up, and I can’t wait to see it!  I’ll share a little bit about my interview answers in this post, because this is the time of year I remember most fondly our family meals in Europe, the linen napkins in their beautiful silver rings by each plate.



antique napkin rings



Napkin rings, also called serviette rings, were originally used for practicality, more than beauty. Since most household linens were washed just once a week, napkin rings enclosed “personal” napkins at the family table. Each ring, personalized with either a name or often just a number, would identify which napkin had been used by which family member so that they could continue using the exact same one until the next laundry day.





Interestingly, a table laid for guests would never include napkin rings, as that was seen to indicate the napkins were not just washed and ironed and pristine.




Antique sterling napkin rings




Originally thought to be an invention of the European bourgeoisie, the serviette “rings” first appeared in France in the early 1800’s. As the upper middle classes became more wealthy, the use of napkin rings spread rapidly throughout Europe.




antique napkin rings




I have my grandparents napkin rings, and the one my husband’s grandmother used daily.  They have their names engraved in them, and I love having this little piece of history from them in my home. As a little girl growing up in Europe, we all had our own napkin rings with our name, too, and I cherish the memories that these rings hold.







As an antique dealer, my collection tends to change a bit each time I find more of the antique rings.  The rings I collect have romantic motifs such as cherubs and repousse floral designs. The photo above is (a bad one!) of my little collection in its antique case on our living room wall.



One of the questions the interviewer asked me was which napkin rings I personally collect?



I answered that the napkin rings that are made with great skill and care are ones that I gravitate to.  I mostly collect rings that capture my eye and heart.  I’m not a purist about my small collection, amongst the sterling “fancy” rings, one or two rings reside that are worn and scratched. Some of my favorite quite worn napkin rings with monograms, some are those that have ivy leaves all around and are inscribed “from a friend.”


antique victorian napkin ring


My best tips for collecting antique napkin rings:


Like all other antiques, I always advise collectors to buy what they love.  The joy of collecting antique napkin rings is to revel in their beauty and workmanship.

  1. Buy the highest quality you can afford.
  2. Look for hallmarks, but don’t rule out a particularly charming napkin ring because it doesn’t have one.
  3. Buy rings that tug at your heart, that perhaps have a personal meaning to you or to someone you love.



Napkin rings were a useful thing, loved and used daily by families long ago, so many of them are not pristine. That is what we love about them, they have history and stories!



antique napkin rings



Some of our clients collect quadruple plated Victorian napkin rings, and don’t mind if the silver has aged to a pewter like glow.




victorian silver napkin ring



No matter what kind of rings you collect, I hope that you display them, and use them at your table.  I say use the beautiful things you have!



Every day is another day to enjoy the beauty and history that antiques bring to the table, and our homes. If nothing else, I think that what this pandemic has taught all of us is that things can change in an instant, so don’t wait for the “perfect” occasion to enjoy your antiques.




shop silver




Don’t forget to enter to win our beautiful GIVE AWAY sponsored by Crown Linen Designs and Arte Italica!


Arte Italica Vetro gold





HERE IS HOW TO ENTER TO WIN,  you can leave me comments:

Follow  Crown Linen Designs on Instagram and/or Facebook, or Arte Italica on Instagram and/or Facebook and leave me a comment letting me know.

Follow  FrenchGardenHouse on Instagram and let me know.

Tell me what your favorite Crown Linen piece is, or Arte Italica piece is. 





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13 thoughts on “Antique Napkin Rings”

  1. I loved reading this history, Lidy, thank you! Although I’ve collected napkin rings for many years, I regretfully don’t have any passed down as you do. However, your display definitely inspired me to arrange and display my own in small brass and glass curios. Again, thank you!”

    1. Oh, Rita, I hope you take them out so that you can see and enjoy them. The little case on our wall always draws attention when guests come over (before….) and is a real conversation starter! : )

      wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. I love learning the history of these and how they were originally used in your family. I will look for the February article.

    1. Thank you Annie, they are a piece of history with such individual personality!

  3. Carolyn Harris

    I love tha silver napkin ring with the angel attached. How exquisite!

    1. Thank you so much Carolyn, I love him too! He’s a little worn over the century, but still charming.

  4. Theresa R Keller

    Lidy, We always used these growing up at home and at my Mother’s parents house. i still have a few of them and do love them. I will need to put them out in a little china cabinet that I have.

    Thank you for showcasing them and have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Oh, I hope that you do, Theresa! I am trying to use mine for the holidays…even thought Thanksgiving will be outside. : ) Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Melinda

    I follow on Facebook and Instagram and have admired all the pieces in both collections, but I think my favorite is Arte Italica’s Natale collection, particularly the planters (and a few double as champagne buckets/holders. Wonderful to admire and thank you for the opportunity to participate in the ‘give-away’. Happy Holidays!

  6. Alice Genzlinger

    I love learning something new every day and the napkin ring story is fascinating . I’m southern and would have thought I would have know the napkin rings are to be used to hold used napkins. It’s nice to know that each person gets to reuse their soiled napkin. Being a stickler for clean everything I probably won’t ever reuse my napkins but now I will think of this little history lesson each I I take my napkin from its ring.

  7. Alice, this was in the days before the kind of washing machines we now, or any kind of dryers. The laundry was only done once a week. : )

  8. Gloria Pulliam

    I just ordered the the betrothed gold chargers. I would say they are my current favorite of artitalica. As you know I love all the embroidered linens.

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