ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Protecting the Table and Tablecloth with Flatware Rests, Coasters, and Placemats -A Historical Account

Updated on September 9, 2016

Flatware (knife, fork, and spoon) rests, coasters, and placemats were made for a similar purpose: to protect the table and tablecloth from food stains, spills, heat, other damages, and contaminants. Flatware rests are not seen as much today, but coasters and placemats are still fashionable.

Knife rest (or fork rest)
Knife rest (or fork rest) | Source
Multiple spoon rest
Multiple spoon rest | Source

Flatware Rests

Though it could have started out as a simple piece of wood used by 16th century aristocracy and their minions, historians believe that today’s knife rest was developed in the late 17th century or early 18th century. It was created in pairs or sets of even numbers perhaps, to accommodate other flatware on the dining table. By the time the extravagant Victorians came along in the 19th century, knife rests were being made from a host of different materials: silver, gold, crystal, ivory, glass, ceramics, stainless steel, pewter, and brass. They were also crafted in various sizes: large, small, long, or short. The ends were sculpted as people, animals, architecture, and other designs.

The French, Russians, and Germans joined the English in producing knife rests. The French called their version “porte couteaux” and the company Lalique was top of the line. Those made by the English company Wedgwood were also sort after. The knife rests craze continued through the mid-20th century before fizzling.

When forks became a flatware item, knife rests were no longer used exclusively for knives. History determined that forks were used as dining instruments by the Byzantine people in the 11th century, but the Greeks were the first to make them. Today fork/ knife rests are mainly collectible items with prices ranging from $9.00 to $2,000.00 plus.

Spoons were invented in “Old Stone Age” or Paleolithic times, some two million years ago. Spoon rests came much later to protect stove tops and countertops as well as tables and tablecloths from soilure and contaminants (in the case of stove tops and countertops especially). Today they are made from gold, silver, glass, metals, ceramics, or plastics, and come in all shapes, designs, and colors. But their appearance differs from knife/ fork rests. They are round, square, fruits, vegetables, leaves, or painted with art deco. There are individual spoon rests and multiple spoon rests, modern and antique. Modern spoon rests are usually microwaveable-safe and dishwasher-safe. Prices are $15.00 and higher.



Coasters, also known as beermats, were created to capture the condensed liquids dripping from beverage holders – glasses, bottles, etc. They were developed in the 1880’s by the German printing company Friedrich Horn. They made them from disposable cardboard, and imprinted them with phrases, ads for alcohol, and other designs. In the 1890’s, beermats made from wood were introduced by another company. In the 1920’s, the Watney Brewery of the United Kingdom began using them to advertise their ale, according to the article “Beverage coaster” from The same article states that the now defunct German company Katz Group produced 75% of the world’s five billion plus coasters, 97% of which was for the United States market. It should be noted that two of their factories were located in the United States.

By mid-20th century, coasters for both home and restaurants were being made from various materials with different designs, shapes, and colors: cork, glass, metal, plastic, suede, leather, square, round, with/ without rims, art deco, photos -especially for weddings and other special occasions. Besides alcohol, those created for restaurants were imprinted with ads for sports teams, businesses, and even political content. Earlier-made coasters are now collectible items. Today’s prices range from 0.08 cents to over $200.00.

Table setting with placemat
Table setting with placemat


Placemats are basically pads created to protect the table or tablecloth from food and beverage stains, spills, heat, etc. They are made from cloths (lace, knits, linen, silk), bamboo, paper, beads, plastic, vinyl, and other materials. They come in an assortment of shapes and designs, and are sized to accommodate multiple table settings. Restaurant placemats are often designed with menus, ads for businesses and events, and as doodling sheets for children. Some placemats contain extra padding for heat absorption and like coasters, some are disposable. The article “Placemats” from, recommends that we use placemats on a table set for no more than ten people. Any more than that creates a lack of uniformity, according to the article’s author. Placemat prices range from $1.00 to over $1,000.00.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)