Types of Spoons
Apostle Spoons: Perhaps the most popular spoons of the Elizabethan period were the ‘Apostle spoons’, with the oldest known being dated at 1493. These spoons were crafted in sets of 12 or 13, with the figure of one of the apostles (along with their emblem) surmounting each one. Many sets were broken up, but those with enough money would choose to own or gift an entire collection. Each of the 12 spoons served to represent one apostle. Sets featuring 13 would include either a ‘Master Spoon’ depicting Jesus Christ or a spoon depicting St. Paul.
It became common custom in Tudor days to gift a set (or a part set) of apostle spoons as a christening present. Sometimes only four pieces of the set would be given, to represent the four evangelists. This custom was established thoroughly within society; it was even referenced in literature of the time, a prime example can be seen in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. The Tudors started the long running tradition to present a christening spoon that many still abide by today. Apostle spoons originated in Europe and many exceptional examples were crafted in Nuremberg, Paris, Milan and Madrid.
The Seal-Top Spoon: Contemporarily to Apostle Spoons we can find the ‘Seal-top Spoon’. This type features a finial in the form of an ornamented seal, with a flat end. They often featured baluster ornament. Despite the supposed usefulness of this spoon type, there is no actual evidence to suggest that their finial was meant to be put to use. There is reason to believe that the seal shape is solely aesthetic.
The Slipped-Stalk Spoon: This type of silver spoon originated during Charles I’s reign. The design initiated a change of bowl shape, from pear like to oval. During the 16th and 17 century, the bowl shape was relatively different from what we would recognise today. The spoons that we use are generally widest near the handle, tapering off into a rounded ‘point’. At this time however, the bowl of a spoon would have been the other way around; the narrowest part of the bowl would have been closest to the handle. The slip-stalk was also much more plain and understated compared to the more ornamented types that had come before. This could perhaps have been down to puritan religious reasons, or was perhaps purely economic.
The Trifid/ Trefid Spoon: The distinguishing feature of the trifid spoon is the split ended finial, which would be split into three parts. They would also often incorporate a bowl with rat tail support. This style was introduced around 1660, and was only a popular style until the early 1700s. As the style didn’t seem to be utilitarian, we can consider this shape as a passing fashion.