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    

Rare Gorham Sterling Silver Narragansett Oyster Shell Crab Figural Bowl & SpoonSuperb Rare Antique 18th Century Georgian 1770 Solid Sterling Silver Mote SpoonVintage 1950s Frigast Denmark Sterling Silver Tea Spoons - Enamelled (g17)Rare Set X 9 Solid Silver Edwardian Sorbet / Ice Cream Spoons, 1903, 265gmAntique 20thc Rare Russian Solid Silver & Enamel Kovsh & Spoon, 11th Artel C19106 Antique Scottish Sterling Silver Fiddle, Thread & Shell Tea Spoons Dated 1833Set Of 6 Solid Silver & Enamel Art Deco Tea Spoons 1958 Hallmarked Sterling NrLrg Early 20thc Gorham American Sterling Silver Versailles Pattern Serving Spoon6x Vintage Australian Sterling Silver Golf Club Spoons William Drummond & CoSuperb Antique Silver Rat Tail Trefid Tea Spoon, William Swadling, London, 1696High Quality Pair Of Georgian Silver Hanoverian Table Spoons London 1763 By BcFab Irish Silver Hanoverian Pattern Table Spoon Dublin 1758 Georgian Baron CrestSet Of 8 Norway Sterling Silver Demitasse Guilloche Enamel Spoons David-andersenAntique 20thc Gorham American Sterling Silver Versailles Pattern Serving SpoonStunning C1899 Reed & Barton Love Disarmed Sterling Silver Serving Fork & Spoon3 Antique Reed & Barton Francis I Sterling Silver Serving Spoons ... Nr1728 Old English Hanoverian Rattail Silver Dessert Spoon 31g Better Than Scrap? Exeter Silver Table Spoon, C.1727, Rat-tail1950s Set Of Six Silver Gilt And Enamel Spoons BirminghamAntique Sterling Silver Fiddle Thread & Shell Shape Tea Caddy Spoon Dated 1824Barker Brothers Birmingham Victorian Silver Plate 4 Egg Cup Cruet/ Stand, SpoonsOutstanding Set Of Six Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Decorated Coffee Spoons.Extremely Rare Solid Silver Gold Gilt & Enamel Stuart Devlin Boxed Caddy SpoonSuperb Georgian Silver Hanoverian Table Spoon London 1747 Roker 76g Ducal CrestVintage Lot 150 Piece All Spoons Many Fancy Serving Silver Plate Flatware StylesSet Of 4 Francis 1st By Reed & Barton 248g Sterling Silver Dinner Spoons 7 1/4”Superb Set X 12, `king`s` Pattern Victorian Silver Dessert Spoons, 1867, 771gmExeter Silver Table Spoon, 1735, HanoverianSuperb Pair 1830 Georgian William Eaton Fiddle Silver Serving Spoons 118gVery Nice Hand-engraved Antique Solid Silver Butter Knife & Preserve Spoon 1909Guild Of Handicraft Sterling Silver Set Seal Top Caddy Spoons Pristine ConditionPair Of King's Honeysuckle Pattern Silver Gilt Salt Spoons, London 1837Boxed Condiment/salt/mustard Sterling Silver Shell Shaped Spoons, Twisted StemEdwardian 1909 Antique Sterling Silver Sugar Sifter Spoon Josiah Williams (g27)A Cased Set Of Twelve Dutch Solid Silver Spoons (hallmarked)Sheffield Hallmarked Silver Spoon & Tongs Set 1897Walker & Hall Solid Silver Cruet Set, Mustard Pot Pepper Pot Salt & Spoons 1946Norwegian Marius Hammer 930s Sterling Silver & Blue Enamel Guilloche Spoon Exeter - Set X 6 Victorian Silver Dessert Spoons, 1845, 297gm4 Vintage Towle Sterling Silver Bouillon Soup Spoon Chippendale Pat. 1937Antique Set Six Solid Silver Tea Coffee Spoons 1903 Hallmark London Sterling NrSix Scottish Georgian Solid Silver Tea-spoons Glasgow 1822 (mitchell & Sons) Fine Ottoman Turkish Antique Silver Spoon Embossed Mosque Tughra C1880Antique Solid Silver Spoon Set Of 4-ball Handles-barley Twist Stem-coffee SpoonsAntique Sterling Silver & Mother Of Pearl Handle Preserve / Jam Spoon Dated 1920C1890 Monot-stumpf French Art Glass Salt Dish W/silver Stand & SpoonImperial Russian Silver Spoons - 1885. - 8 Pcs - 342gr. Superb Pair 1854 Savory Victorian Queens Pattern Silver Serving Spoons 205g4 Vintage Towle Sterling Silver Iced Tea Spoon Chippendale Pat. 1937Harrods Cased Hm1937 Solid Silver Egg Cup & Spoon Christening Set Antique NrAlvin Sterling Silver Set Of 4 Iced Tea Spoons Chateau Rose Flatware No MonogramNice Pair Of Art Deco Solid Silver & Enamel Bean Top Coffee Spoons, 1934Set Of 8 Sterling Silver & Enamel Saint Kilda A.n.a Rifle Gun Club Spoons 1930sSuper Victorian Solid Silver Scallop Shell Salt `1895 With Shell Spoon12 Sterling Silver Demitasse Spoons, Denmark, Gold & Enamel, Original Cases !!Large Sterling Silver Berry Spoon - London 1784 - Hester BatemanAntique Imperial Russian 84 Silver 6 Spoons 55 Gr 1870-1909 Year6 Antique Sterling Silver Relief Decorated Tea Spoons From Sheffield Dated 1921Exeter Silver Table Spoon, C.1759, HanoverianTop Quality Antique Georgian Silver Hanoverian Table Spoon London 1735 Vgc