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"Spoon"( A Brief History)

Updated on October 3, 2015

Silver Spoons

A silver spoon is a utensil consisting of a small, shallow bowl at the end of a handle, used primarily for serving and eating liquid or semi-liquid foods, and solid foods such as rice and cereal which cannot easily be lifted with a fork. Spoons are also used in cooking to measure and mix ingredients.

Spoons have been used by many cultures since the dawn of time. Achaemenid Persian spoon at right illustrates. From the derivation of the word the earliest northern European spoon would seem to have been a chip or splinter of wood; Greek references point to the early and natural use of shells, such as those that are still used by primitive peoples. Preserved examples of various forms of spoons used by the ancient Egyptians include those composed of ivory, flint, slate and wood; many of them carved with religious symbols. The spoons of the Greeks and Romans were chiefly made of bronze and silver and the handle usually takes the form of a spike or pointed stem. There are many examples in the British Museum from which the forms of the various types can be ascertained, the chief points of difference being found in the junction of the bowl with the handle.

Medieval spoons for domestic use were commonly made of horn or wood, but brass, pewter, and latten (copper alloy) spoons appear to have been common in about the 15th century. The full descriptions and entries relating to silver spoons in the inventories of the royal and other households point to their special value and rarity. The earliest English reference appears to be in a will of 1259. In the wardrobe accounts of Edward I for the year 1300 some gold and silver spoons marked with the fleur-de-lis, the Paris mark, are mentioned. One of the most interesting medieval spoons is the coronation spoon used in the anointing of the English sovereign.

The sets of Apostle Spoons, popular as christening presents in Tudor times, the handles of which terminate in heads or busts of the apostles, are a special form to which antiquarian interest attaches. The earlier English spoon-handles terminate in an acorn, plain knob or a diamond; at the end of the 16th century, the baluster and seal ending becomes common, the bowl being fig-shaped. During The Restoration, the handle becomes broad and flat, the bowl is broad and oval and the termination is cut into the shape known as the pied de biche, or hind's foot.

In the first quarter of the 18th century, the bowl becomes narrow and elliptical, with a tongue or rat's tail down the back, and the handle is turned up at the end. The modern form, with the tip of the bowl narrower than the base and the rounded end of the handle turned down, came into use about 1760.

Spoons are used primarily for eating liquid or semi-liquid foods, such as soup, stew, or ice cream, and very small or powdery solid items which cannot be easily lifted with a fork, such as rice, sugar, cereals and green peas. Spoons are also widely used in cooking and serving. The teaspoon and tablespoon are used as standard units of measure for volume in cooking. The teaspoon is often used in a similar way to describe the dosage for over the counter medicines.

To make a spoon the traditional by way of hand forging, a bar of silver is marked up to the correct proportions for the bowl and handle. It is then heated until red hot and held in tongs and using the hammer and anvil, beaten into shape. The tip of the bar is pointed to form the tip of the bowl, and then hammered to form the bowl. If a heel is to be added, a section down the centre is left thicker. The edges of the bowl and the tip of the spoon are left thicker as this is where most of the thickness is needed. The handle is then started and hammered out to length going from thick at the neck and gradually tapering down in thickness giving a balanced feel. During this process the piece becomes very hard and has to be annealed several times, and then worked again until the final shape is achieved.

There is one problem in art silverwork spoon making that has a distinctive charm of its own. Every worker in metal sooner or later wants to make a spoon. Handmade spoons are invariably of sterling silver, while there is no reason why aluminum should not be used in some cases. Copper is usually used for the large nut spoons and silver for all other kinds. There are five different methods of making spoons, the method varying according to the material used and the use for which the spoon is designed.

A design is first drawn on paper. Both sides should be made exactly alike by folding a piece of paper down the center and drawing one-half of the spoon on one side of the center line. Fold the paper and rub the design on the back with some hard object, and the drawing will be transferred to the other side of the center line. Transfer the design on to a piece of 18-gage copper, and cut to the line with the shears, or saw it out with the jeweler's saw. Then place the spoon bowl over the hollow in the block of hard wood that was used in making bowls, and with the ballpein hammer beat the spoon bowl into the hollow as smoothly as possible.

After the spoon is beaten into shape on the wood, it is carefully planished, polished, colored, and waxed. One method of spoon-making is used largely in the making of silver teaspoons, and is especially convenient when making spoons with large bowls, similar to the silver soup spoons. In this method the spoons are sawn out of a fiat piece of 15-gage silver. The spoon is not sawn out full size, but shorter in length, narrower in the bowl, and thicker in the shank. The spoons may be polished by hand or on a lathe; in either case, remember the "fire scale," a description of which has been given before. The best course to pursue with silver spoons is as follows: polish all the scratches and file marks out with emery cloth, if the spoon is to be hand polished, or on the felt or leather wheel, with powdered pumice stone, or coarse "tripoli," or oil and emery, if the polishing is done on the lathe. Then anneal the spoon thoroly to bring the fire scale on to the spots where it has been filed or polished off. Next planish the spoon on smooth tools with smooth bright hammers, and polish lightly with a piece of cotton flannel with a little red rouge for the final finish.


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    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      Nice history of the spoon- great compilation of spoon related facts- as an ,uncommon history of common things ' fan, I loved it! Voted up.

    • profile image

      Phillip "Photo's" Pennings 

      8 years ago

      ........I just got a spoon boner..I cannot wait to tell people this!!

    • Umair S Khan profile image

      Umair S Khan 

      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Never thought of so many things while eating with it....

      Really personable attempt..........

    • Haris Amin profile image

      Haris Amin 

      9 years ago from Mars

      Like the ancient spoon pictures ... Nice hub


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