During the 1870 to 1890 time period, radical changes were occurring in the way people traveled, communicated and understood the way that the world worked.
The opening of trade to Japan and the increase in trade with other Oriental countries created a different perspective. Furthermore, the rapid discovery of ancient cities and artifacts in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Iran and other countries with an ancient culture further made Victorians question their concepts of the Universe, the world, and their own lives.
Wealthy Americans, led by innovative designers, adopted a new approach to art. Aesthetics became a demand for an artistic approach in every day life. Every object which was used, should have an aesthetic affect on the user as well as serving a practical function. Many of the objects (particularly silver) were purchased to satisfy more than a need for use, but became essential as an expression of class. Purchases of these high end products were making a blatant attempt to create a new identity through the items which were purchased.
The increase in manufacturing productivity and the increase in the silver electroplating technology meant that merely middle class consumers could now buy objects which were nearly identical to the silver which had been the perogative and symbol of the upper class.
The wealthy class consequently demanded new types of silver flatware that required the application of large amounts of skilled human intervention. During the 1870-1880's the machinery available to the large silver producers could not reproduce these unusual types of silver. Eventually the machinery developed to the point where the most intricate types of silver flatware could be produced by machine with a minimum amount of human effort to further customize it.
This pair of tiny hand made salt spoons are quite remarkable. The applied sea creatures (starfish, eel, fish, squid) are very similar to a series of Tiffany spoons from the 1880's. However, these spoons also have stones (top is coral and bottom is amethyst). They are marked as being 835 silver (European standard) and they have a very strange design (see below) on the back (note the Tiffany spoons also had a similar strange design on them. I suspect that someone had the Tiffany spoons and wanted salt spoons to match. The use of gemstones was later in spoon chronology.
This is one of the more unusual spoons which I have seen.
This unmarked spoon is all hand made and extensively chased. The top is a bird (see picture below) with very detailed chased plumage. The detail is rather amazing. The bowl is a leaf design and very heavily worked. Because it is a bird image with this very unusual shaped bowl, I suspect that it belongs in this category. The extensive work reminds me of other Victorian pieces that I have seen and it also shows elements of the new Art Nuevo style. Any other opinions would be welcome.
Hand made and hand chased spoon with an aesthetic style bowl--made in USA ca. early 1880's
Nice oriental spoon with a wavy branch on a bamboo style handle. The very deep gold washed bowl has a magnificent engraving of a dragon (sorry too much reflection for the scanner). oriental marks
This unusual spoon with the bowl engraved from Kobe (Japan) features flowers and a pagoda which are made of different metals which have been pounded into the silver. In the 1880's, the Gorham Co. (and Tiffany) created a few pieces in the "Cairo Pattern". Silver gilt, copper, gold and other metals were pounded into the silver. I am unsure of the dating on this spoon, but it is a clear imitation of this rare style. The only marking is "sterling".
an interesting spoon with a handle shaped like a tree branch. The marks indicate that it was made in Birmingham, England in 1891 by JMB
According to Kaye S. of Australia, this spoon is a representation of mistletoe.
Wikipedia says "In cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence (and thus romance, fertility and vitality), possibly due to a resemblance between the berries and semen"
Thus this spoon was a 'coded' reference to romantic interest
A nice nutmeg spoon by Wallace Silversmiths. I am still trying to acquire the Shiebler nutmeg spoon. If you have one at a reasonable price--contact me.