Dressed for Dinner: Three centuries of silver cutlery and tableware

A new selling display showcasing the finest silver for the dinner table opens at London’s historic silver shopping emporium, The London Silver Vaults.  From 24th February until 24th May 2014,  Dressed for Dinner will present the very best silver cutlery and accessories any modern or traditional dining table could ever need.

image yable setting with silver cutlery antree dish, salt cellar, bonbon dish and gobletToday’s open-plan dining spaces give an opportunity to display and appreciate, in Image of modern silver apple jam-pot, plate and chased pierced vine cutlerypride of place, a few choice articles of stunning English silverware designed to adorn the table: a pair of candlesticks, a silver fruit bowl.  Dedicated dining room users relish the prospect of setting out all the best silver to create a special ambience for guests, from silver wine coasters to salts and serving spoons.  Whichever your living style, kitchen table, super-room or dining room, fine silver is the graceful accent to any dinner of occasion!

In the 18th century, fashionable Georgians liked their desserts to be an occasion, the dining table set with elaborate miniature garden centrepieces and myriad sweetmeats, preserved fruits, cakes and jams piled around the table, as much for show as for eating. Dinner was served ‘à la française’: a wide variety of dishes were placed upon the table for diners to help themselves. All manner of dishes with covers and tableware such as sauce boats, cream jugs, spice and sugar shakers and salts, were designed for impressive presentation, and all served a purpose. The Georgians also enjoyed suppers served at a late hour after balls and card playing evenings; candelabra would cast their glow, silver salvers glimmered.

The Victorians were renowned for their numerous dinner courses all punctuated by flavoured sorbets to aid the overtaxed digestion. The tables were set with silver and china tableware in perfect symmetry. The invention of electro plating base metal with a silver coating in Victorian times opened up the market to everyone and the designs of the day could be copied in much cheaper ‘silvered’ versions. About the same time, the 1850s, the fashionable new style of dining was ‘à la russe’: each course was handed round (by servants), and the variety of silver cutlery was more important: fish and fruit knives and forks, and berry spoons appeared. Apart from bread and certain fruits, touching food became frowned upon so 19th century diners were presented with a growing range of specialist eating utensils for particular foods. One had to recognize asparagus tongs, lobster picks, marrow spoons and grape scissors, and know how to use them.

By the time of Art Deco and the ‘functional’ ideology of the Bauhaus, life was getting simpler and dining styles much less ornate. In Wartime there was little new design emerging and the Forties with its austerity and rationing was a design desert.  Not till the Fifties and the affluent Sixties did design take off again and bring us the Mid Century names such as Benney, Devlin, Lawrence and Mellor from the English school of silversmiths. They created modernist styles and added new textured finishes and coloured enamels to enhance their streamlined designs.

Dressed for Dinner at The London Silver Vaults will bring together the finest silver for the dinner table designed in the last three centuries and still in use and enjoyed today.

There will be classical Georgian serving dishes, soup tureens, sauce boats and creamers, wine coasters, dessert cutlery and dishes. From the Victorians there will be flamboyant centrepieces, intricate cutlery patterns such as chased vine designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition, specialist cutlery from fish sets to fruit sets and ice cream spoons, embossed goblets, claret jugs, decanters and elaborate candlesticks.  And from the 20th< century there will be the pared-down designs of the 1930s onwards, everything from flower holders, cruets, enamelled silver, tableware to cutlery.   All items will be for sale and prices will range from £50 to £25,000.