Whether your soupspoons have been handed down through the generations or you enjoy spending weekends in antiques stores finding just the right treasure for your table, collecting interesting flatware is both fun and rewarding. An afternoon tea presents a wonderful opportunity to use your collection. Miniature spoons, such as salt or demitasse spoons, and soupspoons, from cream to bouillon, are practical in their uses and beautiful in their shapes, making them ideal for teatime.
Jan Couch, silver coordinator at Replacements, Ltd., in Greensboro, North Carolina, has worked in the company’s silver department for a large part of her 26-year tenure. She focuses on working with the product behind the scenes in research and pattern identification. Jan freely shares the knowledge she has garnered about some key pieces of silverware.
Master and Individual Salt Spoons
According to Jan, a master salt spoon, which measures approximately 3 inches, is made for use with the master saltcellar that in Victorian times was normally placed in the center of the table. Its purpose was to fill the individual saltcellar. The individual salt spoon, which is only 2 to 2½ inches, then conveyed salt from the individual saltcellar to the dish. Jan explains that salt was a product for the elite, and in Victorian times, it was not very accessible. At the table, the open container of salt was placed next to the most important guest as a matter of honor. Because salt is more readily available at the contemporary table and usually is stored in a shaker, these spoons are not often used as originally intended. Instead, they may be utilized to dip hot pepper sauces or soy sauces.
Infant, Baby, and Youth Spoons
There are three different types of children’s spoons. First is the infant spoon, at 4½ to 5 inches, which has a long slender handle with a teardrop-shaped bowl made to fit a baby-food jar. Jan points out that these came into vogue in American culture in the 1940s when commercial baby food became popular. If sentimental, the family may pass these spoons down from generation to generation, or if not, the flatware can be used for olives or relishes.
Next for a child is the baby spoon. It is very short, normally 2½ to 3 inches, and can be made with either a straight or a curved handle. Nowadays, Jan points out, these are considered keepsake items and are often monogrammed with the child’s name or initials or the family’s last name.
After the baby spoon, the child learns to use the youth spoon, usually at around 3 or 4 years of age, says Jan. It is the most important because a child begins to learn table manners and etiquette at about this time. The youth spoon usually measures 5 to 5½ inches, and often, manufacturers made it interchangeable with other spoons similar in size, such as the small teaspoon or five o’clock spoon.
These unique spoons, according to Jan, were created to go with the demitasse cup and saucer set, which originated when the price of tea escalated during the Victorian era. A smaller cup and saucer were needed to serve a smaller portion of tea. The spoon is petite at 3½ to 4 inches long and has a slender handle and a teardrop-shaped bowl, making it ideal for adding sugar to tea or coffee or for stirring. Currently, these can also be used as a dessertspoon.
Round Bowl Soupspoons
The term round bowl soupspoon is generic for all soupspoons, says Jan. The cream, gumbo, and bouillon soupspoons all fall into this category. She notes that the round bowl place-setting spoons are American invented. Although soup has been around for ages, at the end of the 1800s, factories in America introduced the round bowl spoon. It was considered impolite to slurp soup, and at that time, only the teaspoon or other oval or teardrop-shaped spoons were available. Round bowl spoons were made to sip soup politely from the side of the spoon. They also had a curved handle so that they did not disappear into the soup bowl.
The gumbo spoon is the largest of these spoons at 7 to 7½ inches. It was designed for soups that include chewable contents, whether bread, vegetables, or meat. These can also be used as smaller serving spoons.
The cream soupspoon is a little shorter at 6 to 6½ inches long. Jan says it was very well received as it was shaped to fit the curve of the mouth and not as cumbersome as the gumbo spoon. It was also made to accompany the china cream soup bowl and saucer. The cream soupspoon was used for soups with a thick broth, such as cream of potato. Nowadays, it can be a multipurpose soupspoon.
The smallest of the round bowl spoons are the bouillon spoons, typically measuring 5 to 5½ inches. They were well accepted by the ladies of the late 1800s because of their petite size, says Jan. Bouillon spoons were designed for thin soups or broths and also had complementary china.
Lost and Found Treasures
Established in 1981, Replacements, Ltd., in Greensboro, North Carolina, specializes in finding and replacing cherished pieces of china, silver, crystal, and collectible patterns. The company houses an inventory of 13.3 million pieces in more than 340,000 patterns. It has a 12,000-square-foot showroom for visitors to enjoy. Silver expert Jan Couch is just one of many employees who enjoy helping customers locate hard-to-find patterns.
“I find it fascinating,” says Jan. “Identification is really important with silver…[Replacements has] a well-established library of all the most popular flatware patterns. [But] we really never abandon the client. If we don’t know the pattern name [at first], over time we will.”
Replacements offers a free identification service in which its team will identify, at no charge, a pattern of china, silverware, or crystal. Find out more about this company, or learn more about antique and vintage spoons at replacements.com. To contact Replacements, call 1-800-737-5223, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.