The History of the Caddy Spoon
Tea was introduced to Britain in the early Restoration period. It was shipped in wooden containers, packed around a variety of porcelain vessels. It wasn’t long before silversmiths imitated this shape in their crafting of tea caddies.
Around the 1760s, fashion trends caused tea caddies to change, rather than imitating the containers tea was shipped in, they became box-shaped, with flat or slightly domed lids. The newer versions also sometimes had vase-shaped vessels with a detachable cover that was too large for measuring tea. This necessitated the need for a separate spoon form measuring out the tea.
Early caddy spoons generally had shell-shaped bowls. It is widely believed that this stems from tea merchants using sea shells to allow customers to sample the tea by smell and taste before making a purchase. They were even called ‘Caddy Shells’ until the 1840s. A lot of these spoons had deeply-curved terminals so that the spoon could be hooked over the rim or handle of the tea caddy itself while not in use. Typically, they also had deeply-moulded bowls in order to measure a decent amount of tea.
Examples from before the mid-19th century were generally made of thin sheet silver, and these examples are not typically in good condition today, as they have a tendency to crack due to their somewhat rudimentary materials. The higher quality caddy spoons were cast in silver first and then hand-chased, giving them a more significant weight. Some examples of these silver spoons were made from one piece of silver, eliminating potential weaknesses from the bowl being soldered to the handle. Silver was the preferred material when it came to caddy spoons, as tea was a luxury, and using silver utensils would enhance the taste and flavours, where other materials may be detrimental to the experience.
Caddy Spoons Today
It is assumed that thousands of caddy spoons were made at the height of their popularity, as there as still numerable examples of items in relatively good condition. Naturally, this had led to them becoming a highly collectable item; they are small, relatively inexpensive, and can come in a wide range of designs. To date, shells are still the most common motif, although some take on more novelty shapes such as hands. Although caddy spoons were used right up until the mid-20th century, finding examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau items proves challenging, as they are very rare.
The need for caddy spoons met its demise with the advent of teabags. Although some people still buy loose leaf tea, most opt for the convenience of bagged tea. Caddy spoons are now mostly relegated to the status of a collectable, although some people do ensure they continue the centuries-old practise of making and drinking loose leaf tea.
Jodie Smith – Copywriter
Jodie joined AC Silver in 2016 as a copywriter after completing a degree in English Literature, possessing a passion for jewellery and unusual antiquities combined with an interest in blogging.