When is a pitcher not a pitcher? When it’s a jug, flagon, ewer, creamer or any of the other words commonly used to describe a vessel with a handle and a spout. In general, pitchers are open at the top and too wide to be stoppered with a cork. That said, the words pitcher and jug are often used interchangeably, with pitcher being more common in the United States and jug favored in the U.K.
Sterling silver pitchers in Colonial America, such as the creamers made by Paul Revere as a part of silver tea sets, often had fluted sides and took on neoclassical forms. Revere pitchers were also produced in the Federal style, giving the silversmith lots of flat surface area for engraving everything from a simple monogram to a lengthy testimonial on the outside of a presentation jug.
In the 1800s, the jeweler Tiffany & Company produced wide-mouthed pitchers whose shapes and engraved floral designs took their inspiration from Persian decorative arts. Other Victorian Era silver pitchers had pear-shaped bottoms and flared spouts, with delicate, repousséd floral designs climbing up their sides. Many pitchers of this period also had lids, topped by finials in the shapes of acorns and swans.
Some of the most popular techniques used on pitchers included applied decorations, in which, for example, a collar would be affixed to the outsides of a pitcher’s mouth, interrupted at the handle and spout. And the interiors of silver pitchers were often gilded to protect the metal from the corrosive liquids such as wine.
A hybrid of silver artistry and art glass can be found in the claret pitchers produced from the early 1800s to the 1930s, in styles that ranged from Victorian to Art Nouveau to Arts and Crafts. In claret jugs, the glass vessel held the wine while the silver was used for the pitcher’s handle, spout, and base. In most cases, the handle was attached to the spout and the base, making it easy to pour wine from the jug, but there were also jugs in the shapes of animals, from crocodiles to monkeys, whose silver elements were not linked to each other.
Creamers, which are also called milk jugs, remain one of the most diminutive types of pitchers. Some came in the shapes of cows, with an opening in the mouth so the milk or cream could be poured into a cup of tea. Others resembled upside-down helmets, while character jugs, which were all the rage in the 19th century when made out of porcelain, were also popular when formed from silver.