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Uniquely Curious Serving Pieces


While combing through vintage offerings of antique shops, it’s not uncommon to come across silver pieces that are unique. It may be easy to guess the use of some of these pieces, but the purpose for others is something of a puzzle. A little investigative work will solve the mystery.


The lemon fork has three or, less commonly, two splayed tines and is about the same size as a salad fork. It is used to serve lemon slices but also for serving sliced fruit, melon balls, and butter pats. Piercing the slice of lemon releases the juices of the fruit into the cup of tea.


A bonbon server is usually between 8 and 9 inches long and, as the name implies, is used to serve bonbons or other small candies. It has a broad bowl and a short handle, often with very ornate and intricate scenes. Some bonbon servers are designed specifically for special occasions, such as weddings or funerals.


Developed for serving both fresh and clotted cream, the cream ladle is a small serving utensil, usually just under 6 inches in length. It has a helmet-shaped bowl with a single pouring lip.


Often crafted in the shape of the object that lends its name to the piece, a sugar shell is used for the serving of granulated sugar. It is commonly the same size as a teaspoon but has a deeper bowl. Some examples from the 1865–1880 period feature twisted handles in addition to the scalloped or shell-shaped bowl.


For those delicious, bite-size tea cakes, there is the petit four server. Its flat, broad, and often slotted scoop is just perfect for serving elaborately decorated squares of frosted sponge or pound cake.


These beautifully crafted silver serving pieces certainly have a utilitarian purpose, but perhaps even more importantly, each is an aesthetic addition to an elegantly set tea table.


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