Here at AC Silver are pleased to be able to offer our customers a fine range of antique sterling silver porringers.
Antique silver porringers make fantastic gifts, and are now traditionally given as christening presents. Porringers are usually small, shallow bowls with one or two short handles on either side.
All of our antique silver porringers have been kept in presentation condition, and are the finest of their type which we have discovered.
Our selection of porringer bowls features antique silverware from the Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian eras.
A porringer is a low bowl or dish featuring two handles which extend horizontally from the lip of the item. Traditionally European porringers featured two handles, whereas their colonial counterparts were crafted with just one. They have a similar form to the traditional Scottish vessel known as the 'Quaich', which was used for drinking wine and spirits but generally holds a much smaller quantity of liquid than a porringer does. Porringers were known in America as 'caudle cups'.
The original form of porringer can be traced back to the 1600’s, where they were crafted without any intent for a cover or lid. This indicates that they were primarily intended for fairly solid food, which would have been less vital to keep warm (than soup or stew for example).
The porringer first evolved from its predecessor: the posset cup. Stylistically, these two items were very similar, the main difference being that porringers don’t tend to have covers. The posset cup was used for holding ‘posset’ which was a late-night beverage made from curdled milk with wine or ales.
The small size of silver porringers and the easy-to-use handles are well suited to feeding a child. Consequently, these silver bowls became popular christening gifts. This could also explain the origin of the name, as children would have sometimes been fed a porridge like substance. In addition, porringers were frequently gifted to newlyweds. The two handles were symbolic of sharing, and the bowl seen as a ‘charm’ for the couple’s future in having children together. As a porringer was crafted to feed one person, it was common practice that a piece would be embellished with a personalised engraving; subsequently, it would be passed down through the family generations.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, porringers of all sizes were used within homes throughout England and Europe. They were used as an all-purpose bowl for an individual family member. For those families who could not afford silver porringers other materials were used. Pewter, wood and ceramic versions all served as cheaper alternatives to silver. Their handles would have been crafted in either a ‘C’ or ‘S’ form, with many opposing scroll (opposing ‘C’) shaped handles for more ornate pieces. Examples of these forms can be found from the 17th century.
During the Stuart period porringers became to be made with rich ornamentation. It is likely that silversmiths took great influence from glass blowers at this time. Glass blowing in Murano (an island near Venice, Italy) was highly eminent during this period. This resulted in porringers with bead like ornamentation.
The porringer eventually started to be obscured by other silver items when the Queen Anne style was dominant (1702-1714). The tureen, the punch bowl, and tea related items came into their prime at this point.
Today, antique silver porringers can be used in various ways. Whether they are cherished as ornamental pieces, utilised and filled with food as they were originally intended or gifted as a christening / wedding present, they still retain their place within any collection of silver hollowware.