They have been used for holding dining implements such as cutlery, napkins and spices. However, for dinner parties or special occasions, the hull could hold wine and special condiments. Mostly, nefs had legs or pedestals, which proved particularly useful at dinner parties, especially ones with wheels (pictured right), as they can be wheeled around the table to serve the guests.
Through time the functional nef lost favour, becoming a more substantial and imposing centrepiece than a part of the dining experience.
Nefs and Wealth
Not everyone had a nef, due to this they were often used as a mark of status at a dinner party with the nef being placed in front of the most important person at the table. They were exclusively used during elaborate meals such as banquets for Kings, Queens, Emperors and Dukes and the nef would be presented ceremoniously to the king to distinguish him from the other guests.