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    

69g Gold Plated Sterling Silver Ela Denmark Enamel Spoons - 140 F25 Antique Russian Silver & Cloisonne Enamel - Kovsh Salt Cellar & Spoon #1Antique Silver Hallmarked Spoon 1906 ~ Liberty & Co Ltd ~ Rare Antique 1889 Moscow Russia 875 Silver Niello Decorated Tea Caddy Spoon - SignedAntique Russian 84 Silver Enamel Spoon1810 Very Rare Georgian Solid Silver Large Veined Leaf Tea Caddy Spoon3 Georg Jensen Blossom Sterling Silver Pcs Relish Spoon, Cold Meat Fork, ForkSet Russian Soviet 916 Silver Gilt Enamel Cups & Saucers Spoons 420 Gr 14.8 OzSix Beautiful Antique Imperial Russian Silver Spoon M.f Sokoloy C1880 Tea CoffeeFine Antique 1890s French Sterling Silver Tea Spoons Set 7 Pc Neoclassical StylePaul Storr Pair Of Solid Silver Spoons 1814 A Must Have For Any Collector Rare Buccellati Figural Leaf Spoon (sterling Silver, Tea Caddy Scoop+bag Rest)Souviner Spoon Sterling Silver Black Americana Eating Watermelon Shreveport La. Cased Set Of Four Victorian Silver Gilt Shell Salts Spoons Birmingham 189812 Wallace Louvre Pattern Sterling Silver 8-1/8" Table Serving SpoonsAntique 1890s French Sterling Silver Ice Cream Spoons Set 6pc Neoclassical StyleSet 12 Whiting Lily Sterling Silver Round Bowl Soup Bouillon Spoons, Mono RAntique English Solid Sterling Silver Pierced Pea Corn Spoon Ladle Strainer VbdArt Nouveau Norwegian Sterling Silver Guilloché Enamel Spoons By David AndersenFancy Victorian Reed And Barton Sterling Silver Francis I Pierced Bon Bon Spoon12 Tiffany & Co. Chrysanthemum Sterling Silver 18oz. 5 3/4" Tea Spoons - No MonoReed And Barton Francis The I 1st - Sterling Silver - Demitasse Spoons -set Of 45 X Good Victorian And Georgian Hallmarked Silver Salt / Mustard SpoonsAntique Pair Solid Sterling Hallmarked Silver Open Salts - Mustard & Spoons 1886 Antique Russian Silver & Cloisonne Enamel Spoon #2Fine 18th C American Coin Silver 7 Tea Spoons "ct" MakerLot Of Seven Reed And Barton Sterling Silver Francis I Floral Demitasse SpoonsBoxed Pair Of Small Silver Open Salts & Spoons - All Matching - Birmingham 19198 X Good Antique Hallmarked Silver Salt / Mustard SpoonsGeorge I 1718 Hanoverian Pattern Silver Bottom Marked Spoon 68g William StreetAntique Georgian Hallmarked Solid Silver Fork & Spoon - 1808 / 1814The Main Course Silver Silverware Set- Forks, Spoons, Knifes, Wooden Case ServerAntique Early 20thc Native American Artisan Trade Silver Spoon Turquoise #12 Similar Antique Solid Sterling Silver Coronation Spoons 1901Antique Lot Of 12 Sterling Silver Demitasse Spoons With Mythological CentaursAntique Misc Silver Content Pieces For Meltdown-forks +pie Server + Spoon EtcA) 25 Assorted Silver Plated Vintage/antique Sugar Spoons OrnateVintage Sterling Silver - Towle Turquoise Spoon Religious Cross 21.3g - PendantSigned Hector Aguilar Taxco Mexico 940 Silver Twist Rope Handle Demitasse Spoon 6 Wallace Sterling Silver 925 Heart Bowl Mint Julep Iced Tea Straw Spoon StirrerLot Of (4) International Sterling Silver Soup Spoons 6 1/2" Prelude **no ReserveVintage Signed "fj" Native American Trade Kachina Form Silver Spoon Turquoise #2 Three Antique Russian 875 Silver Niello Decorated Spoons W/ Buildings #118 - Coin Silver Spoons & 1 - Coin Silver Ladle All Marked But I Can't Identify6 Towle Sterling Silver Lunch 5 3/4" Fork Spoon Old Colonial Pattern Antique Mexican William Spratling Sterling Silver Serving Ladle Rosewood Spoon Fantastic Vintage Silver Tea Infuser Spoon - London 1998 - Boodle & DunthorneVintage Sterling Silver - Towle Hand Made Scroll Spoon 12g - Ring (7.5) Ab6053 Serving Spoon Antique Russian Silver - Dated 1868 W/ Scene Of Moscow #7Keswick School Of Industrial Arts Sterling Silver Salt Spoon Chester 1921, 12gmsMixed Lot Sterling Silver Jewelry Rings Earrings Spoons Scrap 184.7 Grams Sterling Silver Whiting's Lily Pattern 1902-3 Berry Serving Spoon 7 1/2" Nice!1897 Antique Strasbourg By Gorham Sterling Silver Berry Spoon Large 8-1/8"Lot 1 Vintage Silver Plated Etc Silverware Spoons Forks Knives Lot Of 34Antique Solid Silver Pictorial Souvenir Spoon Steamship Finial Ndl Cruise LineAntique Georgian Hallmarked Solid Silver Spoon - 1803 - Thomas DicksJob Lot Antique Silver Plated Cutlery Spoons Forks Walker & Hall Sheffield W&hsVictorian Whiting Sterling Silver Lily Of The Valley 1885 Shell Sugar SpoonGeorge Ii 1740 Hanoverian Pattern Silver Bottom Marked Spoon 66g Ebenezer CokerSet 4 18th Century London Sterling Silver Open Salts W/ 4 Salt Spoons