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    

Reed And Barton Francis I 1st 12 Sterling Silver Iced Tea Spoons No ReserveRare Provincial Queen Anne Silver Disc End Spoon Exeter C1702 Phillip JermynSet Of 6 Solid Silver Tea Spoons With Matching Sugar Tongs 1932 Walker & HallEvald Nielsen Denmark 5x Solid Silver Coffee Spoons Set With Gems Nouveau 1929Antique Spoons Russian 84 Gold Wash Coin Silver Ladle Sterling Teaspoon 8pc LotSuperb Victorian Irish Silver Caddy Spoon C.1885Coffee Spoons X 6 Sterling Silver Birmingham 1940Scarce Military Thread Silver Serving Spoons - London 1845 - 12oz - Lias BrosAntique Russian Silver 88 Champleve Enamel Berry Spoon By Ivan Khlebnikov 52 Gr1802 Antique Georgian Solid Silver Tea Caddy Spoon By Joseph TaylorSuperb Georgian Silver Tea Caddy Spoon By Samuel Pemberton Birmingham 1804.Boxed, George Iii Silver Berry Spoons & Sifter Ladle, 1818Lot Of (4) "wallace" Grande Baroque Sterling Silver Iced Tea Spoon No Reserve2 Superb 1775 Scottish William Davie George Iii Silver Serving Spoons 135 GramsUs Sterling Co. Art Nouveau Nude Mermaid Spoon Handle Nude Spoon Ring ? Mustard Pot And Spoon Victorian Sterling Silver Sheffield 1891 Antique Chinese 19th Century Silver Export Duck Salt & Pepper & SpoonCased Solid Silver Sugar Tongs And Sifter Spoon [sheffield 1873]Large And Heavy Antique Russian Silver 84 Niello Enamel Serving Spoon Circa 18312 Superb 1765 John Lampfert Neptune George Iii Silver Serving Spoons 130 GramsA Fine Antique Solid Sterling Silver Georgian Shell Tea Caddy Spoon London 1820.Vintage - Superb Set Of 6 Solid Silver Tea / Coffee Spoons + Tongs - BoxedAntique Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Set 8 Mint Julep Straw Spoons - No Reserve78 Piece Alvin Sterling Silver Flatware Silverware Set Fork Spoon Knife Box SaltSplendid Joseph Rodgers Set 6 Heavy 1916 Rattail Silver Soup Spoons 480 Grams Antique Tiffany & Co Holly Sterling Silver Heart Bowl Spoon Nut Server 34grBirks Sterling Silver Mustard Pot + Blue Cobalt Glass Liner + Condiment Spoon Nr2 Superb 1765 John Lampfert Neptune George Iii Silver Serving Spoons 133 GramsSuperb Georgian English Silver Caddy Spoon By Samuel Pemberton C.1808Superb Set Of 6 Liberty & Co Silver Tea Spoons In Original Wooden Case.Georgian Silver Berry Spoons - London 1816 - Eley & FearnAntique Victorian Silver Plated Nautilus Shell Spoon Warmer Circa 1880 Rock BaseStunning 18th Century Dutch Silver Figural Spoon, C1778Antique Victorian Solid Silver Set Of 6 Apostle Spoons 1868 Sheffield Boxed Alvin Chateau Rose Sterling Silver Lot 8 Pc Tea Spoons,salad Forks,dinner KnivesHester Bateman, Silver Stuffing Spoon, 1775, 102gm12 Vintage Sterling Silver Georg Jensen Denmark Cypress 4.375” Demitasse Spoons Antique 1880 Sterling Silver (3) Demitasse Spoons; Gorham Medici-old Pattern Antique Sterling Silver Salt Cellar & Spoon Bamboo Aesthetic Movement C.1900 Vintage Set Solid Silver & Guilloche Enamel Spoons In Box By Suckling Ltd 1964Reed & Barton Flora Sterling Shell Serving Spoon Pat 1890 9"9x Hallmarked Silver Antique Vintage Condiment Mustard Jam Spoons 80g George IiiSuperb ~ Solid Silver ~ Georgian Styled ~ Tea Caddy Spoon ~ S'field 1931Chinese Export Silver Table Spoon, C.1820, "w"Set Of 6 Sterling Table Spoons In The Wedgwood Pattern By International No Res12 Heavy Sterling Silver Georg Jensen Denmark Cypress 7” Gumbo/cream Soup SpoonsAntique Silver Egg Cup With Matching Spoon In Original Box Sheffield 1936 R881/3Very Rare 18th Century Dutch Silver Figural Spoon, C1778Solid Silver Mug,spoons,coins,bookmark,re-sale Or Scrap,120gFine Jonathan Hayne 1824 Georgian Fiddle Silver Large Tea Caddy Spoon 33 GramsAntique Santa Holly Christmas Tree Scene Sterling Silver Spoon By Johnston & CoVintage Silver Plated Silverware Demitasse Spoons Set Craft Or Use Lot Of 466 Sterling S Kirk & Son 7 1/4" Oval Soup / Dessert Spoons Repousse Set Of 6 Boxed Sterling Silver Tea Spoons - Sheffield 1918 Cooper Brothers 72g12 Antique Sterling Silver Albany Pattern Tea Spoons & Sugar Tong Set Dated 1899Large Irish George Iii Silver Serving Spoon 1824. Dublin AssayUnique Salem Witch Miniature Sterling Salt Spoon P & B Co. Early 1900's!!!Fine Vintage Solid Sterling Silver Christening Set Cup Spoon Hard Cased Boxed Nr12 Vintage Spoons, Sterling And Other Neat Finds.20c French Porcelain & Silver Plate Sauce Boat W/ Spoon By Linzeler For Cartier