As the oldest type of flatware, spoons have existed in some form or another since Ancient Rome, at least. In medieval times, spoons were given as baptism presents in wealthy circles. Because inns did not have anything as luxurious as spoons for their guests, innkeepers expected their well-heeled customers to supply their own.

Indeed, the phrase “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” actually reveals quite a bit about the time—whether or not one had a spoon, not to mention its quality and value, spoke volumes about an individual’s socio-economic status.

As with all other metalware, spoons marked as sterling silver are 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper and other trace elements. This standard originated in England in the 13th century and got the backing of British law in 1300, when Edward I mandated that sterling silver bear a hallmark in order to prevent fraud.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1840s, this standard became increasingly important with the development of electroplating, which required significantly less silver to produce something that looked like solid sterling. Suddenly, spoons and other utensils were mass-produced, with a wider range of silver content than ever before. The sterling-silver standard is still enforced in England today by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

The earliest surviving spoons of note are the Apostle spoons, which generally date from the 15th century. Each bears a small, full-figure bust on the end of its stem. These silver spoons were produced in sets of 13—one for each of the 12 Apostles, plus a larger “master” spoon for Christ.

The 17th century saw major developments for spoons. Setting tables with flatware finally came into vogue, thanks to practices in the French court. In England, the teaspoon was introduced to help tea drinkers remove floating leaves from their tea. (Previously, tea drinkers had simply swallowed them.) The teaspoon, combined with the introduction of the fork in the middle of the century, sparked a process of differentiation for utensils.

In the 1680s, trefid spoons emerged, which had shallower bowls and a trefoil end. A few decades later, these spoons evolved into the “dog-nose” shape. In the years to come, a var...

From the 1890s to 1920s, commemorative spoons also enjoyed a burst of popularity. These spoons paid tribute to cities, scenery, events, people, and more. In the West, for example, some spoons depicted the robbery of a stagecoach. Some businesses also gave out spoons as a form of advertising. Naturally, serving silver commemorative spoons are generally more valuable than those which are only silver-plated.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Chicago Silver

Chicago Silver

Paul Somerson's incredible reference on handwrought metalwork from the American Arts and Crafts movement of the ear… [read review or visit site]

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

An extensive reference guide to silver marks, hallmarks, trademarks and maker's marks found on antique and vintage … [read review or visit site]

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

This is a great reference site on silver, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can view silver items acc… [read review or visit site]

The Gilbert Collection

The Gilbert Collection

The late Sir Arthur Gilbert's collection of European silver, gold, enamel, and other items is now housed at the Vic… [read review or visit site]

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

“Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj” was the title of a 2008 exhibition at Columbia University’s Mi… [read review or visit site]

TheStieffCompany.com

TheStieffCompany.com

Scott Perkins is an enthusiastic evangelist for The Stieff Company, a significant Baltimore silversmith and maker o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Most watched eBay auctions    

Sterling Silver Pierced Serving Spoon 5" Long Weighs .5 Oz.10 Antique Reed & Barton Sterling Silver 925 Francis I Demitasse Spoon Teaspoons10 Antique Gorham American Sterling Silver Ice Cream Dessert Spoon Fork SporksSet 10 Antique Reed Barton Sterling Silver 925 Francis I Spoon Teaspoon FlatwareAntique Boxed French Sterling Silver Dessert Hors D'oeuvres Pierced Spoon ForkRare Set Of 6 Denmark Sterling Dansk Tjorn Solid Iced Tea Spoons Spoon 9 InchesVintage Solid .800 Silver Ornate Pierced Caddy Or Preserve SpoonLovely Sterling Enamel Caddy Spoon - Liberty & Co. No ReserveAu2: Set 6 Heavy Kings Pattern Sterling Silver Tea Spoons: Elkington London 1883Au1 Set 6 Geo. Sterling Silver Hallmarked Pudding Spoons: R Comyns London 1802No Reserve! Gorham Chantilly Sterling Silver Baby Child Spoon No Monogram5# Old Rare Antique Islamic / Ottoman Silver Snuff Box With 4 Silver SpoonsVery Elegant & Unusual Antique Walker Hall Silver Plate Hot Water Spoon WarmerSet 6 English Sterling Silver Gilt 1973 Comyns Queen's Beasts Teaspoon Spoon BoxFine Antique 1880s French Sterling Silver-gilt/vermeil Dessert Spoon & Fork Set Rare Irish Silver Fiddle Tea Caddy Spoon, Dublin 1830 Buckton Georgian SterlingJob Lot Solid Silver & Silver Plate, Napkin Rings Goblets Spoons Etc Partial Set Georg Jensen Cactus Antique Sterling Flatware Spoons Knifes Forks .Fine Imperial Russian Silver Niello Spoon # 4, No Reserve Price!Superb Set Of Six Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Tea SpoonsCrested Georgian Silver Fiddle & Thread Pattern Caddy Spoon Birmingham 1816 PughSuperb Vintage Set 6 Sheffield A1 Silver Plated Kings Pattern Coffee Tea SpoonsSolid .800 Silver Vintage Caddy Spoon Edwardian Stewart Dawson Australia Sterling Silver Christening/annointing SpoonVery Rare Scottish Provincial Silver Table Spoon. Hugh Ross Tain C1740. Last OneLot Of 6 Denmark Viking Aage Weimar Modernist Sterling Spoons ScandinaviaReed & Barton Sterling Francis I Lemon Plate, Spoon, & ForkCased Sterling Silver Ltd Edition 39 Of 500 Buckingham Palace Tea Caddy Spoon.Solid Silver Spoons,rolls Royce,golf.Tiffany & Co. Solid Sterling Silver Wave Edge Salad Fork Spoon Server 2pc Set NrAttractive Georgian Sterling Silver Tea Caddy Spoon London 1803 Elizabeth Morley5 Sterling Silver 5" Round Bowl Soup/bouillon Spoons In "versailles" By Gorham 117 Grams .800 Solid Silver Floral Vintage Continental Ornamental Tea SpoonsMixed Lot Of 11 Vintage Salt Cellar Spoons Sterling Silver Mini SpoonSmart Boxed Set Of 6 Antique Solid Sterling Silver Tea/ Coffee Spoons 1914 GjdfAntique Pair Of 1905 Boxed Silver Salts And Spoons By William Davenport, George Ii 1753 Feather Edge Silver Bottom Marked Spoon 59g Ebenezer Coker TFine Imperial Russian Silver Gilt Enamel Spoon #2, No Reserve Price!Unusual Boxed Set Of 6 Antique Solid Sterling Silver Tea/ Coffee Spoons 1899Good Set Of 6 Seal Top Solid Sterling Silver Tea/ Coffee Spoons 1959/ L 10.3 CmNice Vintage Antique 6.25" Sterling Silver Cereal Scoop Serving Spoon Look Nr Vintage 1800's Sterling Silver Mermaid Spoon 19 Grams(144j)Set Of 4 Solid Sterling Silver & Enamel Bean Top Coffee Spoons 1951Estate Lot 18 Sterling Silver 925 Scroll Floral Repousse Master Salt Spoons Crs Chantilly Sterling Ice Tea Spoons 6 CountSuperb Georgian Style Silver Caddy Spoon - Sheffield 1977 - Jubilee MarkPair Georgian Sterling Silver Serving Spoons London 1820, Old EnglishChantilly Sterling Coffee Or For Tea , Demitasse Spoons With The Letter 'sVintage Antique 3" Sterling Silver Glass Mustard Horseradish Jar Pot & Spoon Nr Antique Chrysanthemum 1893 Pattern Sterling Silver - Bon Bon Spoon By Durgin Vintage Solid.800 Silver Dutch Ornamental Souvenir Tea Spoons X 6Fine Victorian Silver Caddy Spoon. Figural Terminal. Shell Bowl. London 1892Antique P. A. Lafee Solid Coin Silver Medallion Server Spoon Ornate W/mono 65.1gChantilly Sterling Fruit Spoons 9 CountGeorg Jensen Denmark 925 Sterling Silver SpoonNice Pair Of Antique Solid Sterling Silver Salt Spoons 1850 Ga/ L 11 CmNice Georgian Sterling Silver Serving Spoon London 1820, Old EnglishC Whiting Sterling Silver 925 Louis Xv Serving Piece Pierced Vegetable Spoon 79gThree Wallace Grand Baroque Sterling Silver 7 3/4" Ice Tea Spoons 121.7 G3 Large Antique Solid Sterling Silver Mustard Spoons: Exeter/ Edinburgh/ London