Napkin rings are thought to have originated in 19th-century France, where sterling silver serving implements of every imaginable shape and purpose were the rule on the fashionable dining tables of the well-to-do. In the United States, silver manufacturers like Gorham and Reed & Barton emulated the French, but they did so largely in silver plate rather than sterling. Their napkin rings were often figural, depicting all sorts of animals, from dogs to horses. By the end of the 19th century, Tiffany & Co. in New York and Liberty in London were producing Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts napkin rings, too.


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