February 26, 2021 | Galerie Atena
The placement of cutlery on the table, around each plate, became widespread from the 17th century, and especially in the 18th century. The sumptuous royal, princely and seigniorial flatware services then appeared, as well as other popular services, which entered into collections. Crafted of gold, silver or brass, the cutlery was very finely chiseled, decorated with fantastic animals, religious representations, naturalistic motifs and even poems, in the German space.
The term "flatware service" dates from 1945-1950. It refers to a set of cutlery gathered in a box with a compartmentalized interior. It was first stamped in the 18th century when manufacturers developed a process to create forks and spoons of silver leaf. Individual table knives, often with mother-of-pearl or ivory handles, were then absent from flatware services. They only became part of these sets in the 19th century when, together with the fork and spoon, they formed "le couvert".
Since the mid-19th century, sterling silver flatware services were offered as wedding gifts, and allowed wealthy people to travel with their silverware. Important statement about personal wealth and status, these silver services often bore the monogram of their owner, such as our Art Nouveau cutlery, whose handles are marked "WA", or the Gorini Frères flatware service, whose cutlery features the monogram "NT".
In these grand flatware services, the place pieces, or utensils placed at each setting, could include a dessert service along with a various types of knives, forks and spoons. Furthermore, a wide range of specialized pieces, such as fish servers, asparagus tongs, jelly knives, sardine forks and potato chip servers came into being during this time. One could also count escargot tongs, scrapers and butterers, paté spreaders, squab holders, corn holders, lobster crackers and nut picks to the large list of new tools.
Generally designed for 12 guests, the most sumptuous services could go up to 60 or even 120 couverts. Our complete 108, 122 and 164 pieces silver flatware services comprise a full array of place and serving pieces including forks and spoons for dessert, fruit knives, teaspoons, stewing and mustard spoons. These entire services are housed in their elegant, custom-crafted chests.
Most of the antique silver flatware services on the market are crafted of sterling silver. But it’s well worth determining if the silverware is composed of real sterling silver and not merely silver-plated.
What is commonly called "real" sterling, it's not purely so. Indeed, unadulterated sterling-silver is too soft to eat with, and wouldn't stand up well to frequent use. Thus, "genuine" sterling-silver flatware is usually an alloy, most often a mixture of 92.5% sterling and copper, which is a more durable metal.
Silver-plated metal refers to a metal object (usually copper and bronze) covered with a very thin layer of silver through the technique of electroplating. Electroplating is a process invented in the 19th century by the Englishmen George and Henry Elkington, which allows to apply (plate) a layer of silver over an ordinary metal. It gives the impression of genuine sterling silver, but has higher resistance to corrosion, rust, and tarnish. This process was used in France by Charles Christofle, from 1844.
It is important to know how to differentiate silver from silver-plated flatware, which has a lower value than genuine sterling silverware cutlery.
There are several elements to consider when evaluating silver flatware: weight, quality, silversmith, design and style. But the most trustworthy element is the mark, which gives precise indications on the purity of the silver, the date of manufacture, the origin and the manufacturer of piece.
In the nineteenth century, French silver must bear the guarantee mark, and it is also punched with the mark of the maker:
Sterling silver has a specific oxidation, it blackens after several months of exposure to light and air, but a good cleaning is usually enough to give it back its original shine! Although tedious, the cleaning of silverware is very efficient, and many professional or home-made techniques exist to remove tarnish from silver items.
Our sterling silver flatware sets are in overall very good condition, with minimal oxidation spots. For routine care, a light cleaning with water and alcohol is a sufficient way to keep silver shiny. Mix in a container 50% alcohol and 50% mineral water. Soak a cloth and gently rub until the black spots disappear. Finally, rinse with water and wipe with a soft cloth.
Once your silverware cleaned, you can store it in a closed place (in its original box for example), limiting as much as possible the exposure to air in order to avoid oxidation.
Les ménagères anciennes, complètes et restaurées sont à ce jour très prisées. Elles sont disponibles à la vente dans des brocantes, sur des markerplaces spécialisées, ou dans des galeries d’antiquités comme la nôtre. Sur notre boutique en ligne vous pouvez trouver des ménagères en argent massif d’une très grande qualité. Elles comportent un grand nombre de pièces individuelles et de service, et sont réalisées par des orfèvres renommés tels que Henri Soufflot, Edmond Jamet et Gorini Frères. Complètes et en excellent état d’origine, nos ménagères se remarquent par une décoration exquise, de style Louis XV, néoclassique ou Art nouveau. Les couverts en argent sont conservés dans leurs coffrets d’origine en bois, monorammés et marqués par l’orfèvre joaillier.
Antique silver flatware services are true treasures. They are available for sale on specialized markerplaces or antique galleries like ours. In our online store you can find high quality sterling silver flatware sets. They comprise a large number of service pieces, and are made by famous silversmiths such as Henri Soufflot, Edmond Jamet and Gorini Frères. Complete and in excellent condition, our flatware services have an exquisite decoration in Louis XV, Neoclassical or Art Nouveau style. The silver cutlery is housed in its original custom-crafted chest crafted of wood and highlighted with monoram and silversmith's mark.