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

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique 205g Solid Silver Spoon Job Lot Georgian Mixed Scrap Vtg SterlingAntique Gorham Sterling Chalice Goblet, Pantin, Spoon Holy Water Bottle Host BoxAntique Georgian Silver Filigree Tea Caddy Spoon Birmingham Made C1800Antique 20thc Turkish Ottoman Empire Solid Silver Glass Holders & Spoons C.1900Quality Cased Elizabeth Ii Sterling Silver Caddy Spoon, Ich Dien, 24 Grams, 1981S.kirk & Son Solid Sterling Silver Floral Repousse Bon Bon Serving Spoon | J Bl #10 Three Antique Sterling & Enameled Souvenir Spoons W/ Black Boys Nr #8 Antique Sterling & Enameled Souvenir Spoon W/ Black Boy & Watermelon NrSolid Silver Edwardian Art Deco Tea Spoons & Caddy/sugar Spoon Sheffield 1926Arts & Crafts Hand Beaten Silver Antique Caddy Jam Spoon Newlyn Keswick Ksia ?Excellent Georgian Silver Tea Caddy Spoon, London 1800 Thos Wallis ThreadA Fine Sterling Silver Georgian Tea Caddy Spoon By Richard Crossley London 1794.Solid Silver Art Deco 'coffee Bean' Coffee SpoonsNice Collection Of Antique Hallmarked Solid Silver Boxes/lighters/spoon/matchboxWedgwood Dark Blue Jasperware Marmalade Jar W/ Metal Lid Sterling Spoon Vintage.800 Hallmarked Silver Pair Of Spoons 138g - 58 N17 Antique Chrysanthemum Pattern Sterling Silver Bon Bon Spoon By Durgin NrAntique Solid Silver Tea Caddy Spoon - Hallmarked - T.b & SAntique Hallmarked Silver Spoons Dated 1839 92g - 58 N17Set Of 6 Antique Dutch Solid Silver Coffee Spoons C. 1900Very Fine Pair Russian Silver & Enamel Spoons. C1890. Maker Mh. 16cmNice Set Of 6 Picture Back "i Love Liberty" Solid Silver Tea Spoons 1900/1908Silver Kings Honeysuckle Pattern Table Spoon & Table Fork, London 1821 GeorgianFabulous Set 12 X Silver Queens Pattern Dessert Or Soup Spoons, Sheffield 19056 Antique Gorham Sterling Silver Bouillon Spoons, Kings Iii Pattern, NrOutstanding Set Of Fourteen Antique Dutch .800 Hallmarked Silver Tea Spoons.Fine Cased Pair Antique Georgian Sterling Silver Berry Spoons, 1734, 146 Grams #3 - Five Antique Sterling Souvenir Spoons W/ Black Boys Nr #1 - Four Antique Sterling Souvenir Spoons W/ Full Indian Handles NrJob Lot Solid Silver English Coins , Tea Spoons , Pin Dish , Butter Knife, Etc Usa Int’l. Royal Danish Sterling Silver Demitasse Spoons-pat. 1939 -classyCased Set 6 Antique George V Sterling Silver Coffee Spoons, 1925, 50 Grams26 Antique / Vintage .800 & Sterling Silver Enamel / Figural Souvenir Spoon Lot4 Silver Fiddle Thread & Shell Pattern Table Spoons, London 1836 Eatons CrestedFine English Georgian Silver Caddy Spoon. Dog / Hound Crest. London 1817Antique Gorham Medallion Sterling Silver Serving Spoon ~beautiful~Guilloche Enamel Solid Silver Spoons 1948 Birmingham By William Suckling LtdSix Sterling Silver Demitasse Coffee Spoons Alexander Clark & Co 1904 With CaseQueen Anne Silver Double Drop Spoon, Britannia Silver, Hallmarked London 1712Georgian Sterling Berry Spoon With Gold Gilt Bowl - London C.1783Set 8 Signed Towle Sterling Silver 925 Old Master 1942 Teaspoon Flatware Spoons2 Rare Old Indian Themed Sterling Silver Souvenir Spoons Unspecified Location #16 Antique Sterling Souvenir Spoon Mother Bear & Cubs - Yellowstone NrSheffield Sterling Silver Tea Spoons X 6 With Case Walker & Miller 19325 Antique Gorham Sterling Silver Demitasse Spoons, Kings Iii Pattern, NrVintage David Andersen Norway Solid Sterling Silver Collectible Art Spoon J BiReed & Barton Sterling Silver Sugar Spoon * Goldwash Bowl * Trajan Pattern 1892Solid Silver Victorian English Basting Spoon, Exeter 1858 Rare No ReserveLot Of Sterling Silver Souvenir Spoons 155.1 Grams Scrap Weight Massive / Large Apostle Spoon Of Paulus By David Andersen- Sterling Silver & BoxBoxed Set 6 Art Deco Solid Sterling Silver Tea Spoons From Sheffield Dated 1945Set Of Six Victorian Sterling Silver Tea Spoons By Job Frank Hall (hall & Co).Fine Elizabeth Ii Modernist Sterling Silver Spoon,geoffrey Guy Bellamy,1956, 31gSimpson Hall Miller Sterling Silver Serving Spoon Frontenac Pattern Set Of 6 Sterling Silver & Enamel Demitasse Spoons Marius Hammer Norway 1920sVintage Denmark Georg Jensen Sterling Silver Serving Spoon Caddy Cased Set 6 Elizabeth Ii Sterling Silver Oe And Shell Coffee Spoons, 1950, 54 GrRare 1940s Wallace Solid Sterling Silver Rose Point Salad Spoon Server 9" LongBox Set 12 Pretty 1908 Nouveau Rm Eh Silver Coffee Spoons & Tongs 169 Grams DGreatjunk Drawer Lot Russian Silver Enamel 84 Coins Spoon Plaque Amulet Dimes