In a world of highly developed fairytales and action movies, a vivid imagination is not uncommon. With superheroes and heroines travelling to the centre of the earth to save the worthy and desirable victim a story, no matter how predictable, forms itself.
With this in mind, when observing the range of antique and vintage silverware in our tableware collection I often wonder what part they played, and if they were cherished and loved.
To commence, allocating the initial point of interest.
The definition of the word “centrepiece” is rather self explanatory but it is not always just the item in the centre, it can also be used to refer to the most important object amongst a collection.
Before working at AC Silver I perceived a centrepiece could only be used at weddings, illustrated as a large and decorative range of flowers in a multitude of diverse vases or a simple but elegant formation of candles to create subtle lighting. On revision a centrepiece can be used to not only help tie a theme together but also provide further decoration to a celebration, for a large variety of occasions.
A centrepiece can be crafted from many different materials: from silver and glass to flowers and even sweets/candy. As a centrepiece can take the form of a tazza, a large or creatively embellished bowl or even a handcrafted ornament, the formality of an event tends to dictate the materials used.
Within Europe it is not uncommon at formal events to have a centrepiece so large and prodigious that is spans the entire length of the table. For some occasions this would be highly suitable, but within a formal table setting however, a large centrepiece could cause restricted visibility around the table and cause complications for any serving staff.
For that long journey, what better than an impressive vessel to travel in style.
A nef was a popular and extravagant table ornament formed in silver or gold, in the shape of a ship.
This precious vessel was used to hold not only cutlery and napkins, but also spices and salt; which in the Middle Ages were an expensive commodity.
The ornamental ship could be presented on a pillared stand with the addition of wheels enabling the nef to roll to each end of the table, always commencing its voyage in front of the most important person at the table to denote their status.
Now for the rescue, we all need some saving sometimes.
An epergne (from the French word épargne” which translates as “saving”), is not only used for the display of flowers and candles, but also for food; accessible to all guests to save them passing heavy serving dishes.
Taking many forms an epergne has a central bowl which branches out between two and seven times to small suspended baskets. These baskets are traditionally used for sweetmeats, fruit and side dishes.
Happily Ever After
So here ends the story of the ornamental tableware, where silver and other precious materials are used to create something not only with limitless possibilities but beautifully inspiring. I shall ride far into the distance (to look for my silver appreciative Prince Charming) and leave you with these inspiring words from the late 18th century German poet, Novalis:
“Every beloved object is the centre point of a paradise.”
Rachel O'Keefe-Coulson – Multimedia Manager
Rachel O'Keefe is our 'silver lady' spending her days handling silverware and processing these items for the AC Silver website. Amazingly, Rachel’s favourite items of silverware are spoons, for which she has developed a true affinity.