During the Victorian era, there was a constant search for new and interesting designs for flatware. The Dutch silver industry based in Gravenhage and Schoonhoven and the German silver industry based in Hanau had a long history of exquisite silver workmanship and an artistic (painting and music) legacy stretching back for centuries.
Several silversmithing firms capitalized on this long history by "re-introducing" spoons which looked like pieces made several hundred years before, but with the typical Victorian approach of incorporating later periods in the design. Since these pieces, on the surface, look like they are very very old, many "silver experts" have stated that these are "phony reproductions" and have dismissed them out-of-hand. This is an unfair characterization of some very fine silver works. Yes, the pieces were made to look old, but most were not exact reproductions of older pieces. If we simply accept them as an attempt to create a salable product which appealed to the sophisticated Victorian, then much unnecessary debate can be eliminated.
However, on some of these pieces the silver marks are "spurious" in that they do not indicate the true origin of the item. This has also made them "unpopular" with "silver experts". Furthermore, this industry has not been well researched. But in the final analysis, the quality of workmanship is often excellent. In addition, very few of the older pieces have survived the wars and economic problems which have plagued Europe, thus for a private collector the only way to obtain examples of this artistry is by acquiring these Victorian pieces, plus the cost of this silver is only a fraction of the cost of "attributable" older pieces.
We do have a problem, however, because a few manufacturers did try to reproduce some old pieces exactly. I have added a new page to discuss these Victorian Reproductions.
The genre of silver shown on this page is clearly Victorian. The bowls were designed with scenes from some of Rembrandt's (and other artists) pictures. They were carefully carved and molded and then the bowls were cast showing some fine designs and finished with excellent silversmithing skills.
Therefore I have included a U.S. Quarter in some of the pictures. You can use this to judge relative size. If the pictured quarter is smaller than a real quarter, then you know that the spoon is larger than pictured. (Simply hold a quarter up to the screen). Since everybody uses a different size monitor to view this site, that is a fair way to do it. In addition I usually show a detail picture of the bowl or finial, because the detail is not visible in the larger picture.
We often find certain themes repeated in different ways on the spoons. We have been taught to associate certain images with the Dutch people, and these spoons capitalized on those images.
Ship finials are very popular, and a woman with pails over her shoulder is a typical image from Central Europe. The rightmost spoon bowl was made from the same mold as the center spoon, but it is of a much later date and the quality of the casting and the after casting workmanship is not the same quality. I have learned several things about silver work from examining these two "identical" spoons. The rightmost spoon has a nice windmill finial.
We "all know" that Holland is famous for their windmills, and these windmills actually turn.
The bowl scene is from a painting. Pastoral scenes of contented farm animals were quite popular.
This scene is from an old painting, we find several variations in spoon bowls.
Fork with a ship finial and in the bowl a woman carrying buckets over her shoulders. Note we have the windmill in the background to identify the country.
Farmer and dog finial, plain bowl
Rembrandt finial with a scene from one of his paintings in the bowl
This wedding cake server is cast and is not the same level of quality as the other pieces shown. The finial, in typical older style paintings, shows a man and woman kissing, while revelers dance.
The flat bowl area shows a minstrel team (the picture is hard to see, but there are two instrument players shown)
This is actually a very nice German 800 silver serving spoon measuring about 8" with a realistic looking antler handle (much nicer than the picture).
The bowl is gold plated as is the lower stem. I am not sure when this
piece was made as I haven't been able to find any other similar items in silver (I have seen recent pewter reproductions). Antlers have been used on flatware and furniture since antiquity. My guess is
that it is from the 1880 to 1900 time period, but I could be wrong. It bears a German moon/crown hallmark and an unidentified mark on the front of the bowl
I am not even sure if I have placed this spoon in the correct exhibit --if you have any thoughts --contact me
Dutch version of 3 Wise Men
medium sized server with a genre picture of a man in a horse drawn cart. The finial is a sailing ship. marked 830 silver
This unusual looking delicate serving piece (6.5" 170mm) features a cast finial and cast bowl of a woman with pails. It is unmarked, but does appear to be silver. The quality of workmanship is not as high as most pieces from this area. Obviously quality in these pieces varies greatly and should have an influence on price.
The style of this spoon is very similar to the previous spoon. The one person sailboat finial is nicely done including some wire wrapping. The marks haven't been traced, but look Dutch provincial.
This is a much larger (8.4"), more detailed and prettier spoon along the same genre. The bowl has a cast picture of contented cows, windmill etc.
A nice crowned sailing ship above a cherub.
This spoon measures about 8.9" and bears Chester, England foreign import marks for 1902
Large 7.4" Cast spoon. The finial is a fisherman carrying a bucket in his left hand and in his right he is non-chalantly carrying a fish. The bowl has two sailboats, a windmill and a swan in the foreground. Has an untraced mark.
For further information on similar silver see the article(s) "The Antique Silver Industry of Hanau- parts 1 and 2", by Dorothea Burstyn in Silver Magazine, September, 1997 and November, 1997.
Some of the Servers which were on this page have been moved to the Bon Bon Exhibit. Click to go to that exhibit.