Thursday, August 13, 2009

Silver Sleuth

I’m always drawn to wonderful tablescapes and elegantly attired dinner tables, so for that enjoyment I have acquired various tablecloths, napkins, napkin rings, fine and everyday china and glasses, etc. But fabrics get stained and dirty and china and glassware get broken. So, given that Jeff is a metallurgist and fond of all things metallic, one penchant of mine that he thoroughly endorses is silverware. It isn’t easily damaged, tarnish is simply an interesting chemical reaction (he does study corrosion, after all), and it has intrinsic value beyond its pretty appearance.

I have been collecting three sets of "good" silver; one purchased and two gifted. Until now, I had only identified the first set because it was useful to know the pattern name as I scoured eBay and antique stores for additional pieces. The other two came in more complete sets, so I never bothered to research them. Well, thanks to the instantaneous information available via the Internet, I now have names and dates for the other patterns!

Community Silver Louis XVI

The first set that I’ve been piecing together is Community Silver Louis XVI, dating from 1911. It has some of the most unique, food-specific pieces like a serrated grapefruit spoon, a seafood fork, and the original “spork”, the ice cream fork. I love the baby spoon (at the top of the above picture); it was to be used with a "food pusher", the most rudimentary of implements, but specifically designed for toddlers! I’m currently on the lookout for the demitasse spoon, the tiniest of intricately engraved stirrers for the itty-bitty espresso cups. We rarely drink coffee, but I’m sure I can find a use for such cuteness!

WM. Rogers & Son IS Burgundy

The second set Jeff surprised me with out of the blue for no particular occasion. I was glad to finally find the name and date for it. It is WM. Rogers and Son International Silver in the Burgundy (aka Champaign) pattern from 1934. All the pieces in my set are monogrammed with a lovely scrolled “R”, so we tell guests it stands for “Royalty”! I love that this set bears the mark of someone else who used it well and then passed it on for others to enjoy. Everytime I get it out, I think of the mysterious “R” family who might be glad to know that we are cherishing a set they spent the time and money to select and monogram. (They must have been Southern; who else would need individual long-handled iced tea spoons!)

Old ad for silverware with Betty Crocker coupons
(My Enchantment set is second from the left)

The last silver pattern is more modern but has a great story. It was given to us by Jeff’s mom Fay. Her mother had bought the set through Betty Crocker after saving up coupon points, a very popular incentive program of the day. Jeff’s Grandma Talbert saved the set for Fay’s wedding trousseau, who then passed it down to us one Thanksgiving a few years ago. (I found this great article on NPR about the Betty Crocker program and how it was such a part of people’s lives). I was so excited to find the pattern name, Enchantment (aka Gentle Rose), which is from the 1960’s. It suits our retro 70’s house so well, I’ve been using it a lot lately for less formal company dinners. We have little that is inherited or passed down from family, so this set is unique and very much cherished because of the personal and broader historical significance.

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