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Table Bell History

Silver table bells were traditionally used to call attention to servers during a formal dinner. In a less formal setting, table bells (otherwise known as dinner bells or desk bells) were used to summon families to the dining room, signifying that dinner was ready.

There are many different styles of desk and table bells, varying from small and neat serving bells to elaborately decorated Victorian silver bells. More rustic variations on the dinner bell can also be found throughout history. For example, the twentieth-century farm (or ‘ranch’) dinner bells that were mounted on posts outside of the kitchen door and rung loudly to send the message that dinner was ready to family members working on the fields.

In more formal situations, table bells were used primarily to summon servants to the dining room to wait on guests. This custom was prominent in America, where members of staff would typically leave the room between serving diners. In the UK, this was not traditionally the case. Instead, in the context of a formal dinner party, servers would typically remain present throughout the meal (normally standing against the walls in between serving). Therefore, table bells were not necessary for traditional English dinners, and if present, their purpose would most likely have been purely ornamental.

Table bell history
sterling silver edwardian table bell
sterling silver table bell vintage

Dinner bells typically take the form of a small silver hand bell, often with detachable handles, bodies, and clappers. While some antique examples are elaborately decorated, other more modern versions are often simpler in design, such as this 1970s sterling silver table bell.

Throughout history, silver table bells have been crafted in many different styles with various designs. In addition to the typical bell shape, novelty antique table bells can be found in many different shapes and sizes. For example, this impressive antique Edwardian table bell has been crafted in the form of a woman carrying a basket in typical Victorian attire. This simpler Arts and Crafts design by Georg Jensen is also typical of its time (and the Arts and Crafts style), with a plain body and a unique handle in the shape of a bird.

In addition to examples crafted entirely in silver, many table bells are also crafted with handles made from different materials such as oak wood or turned wood. For instance, this 1934 sterling silver table bell which has been crafted from sterling silver and wood.

Table bells come in many different shapes and sizes, so it’s easy to find a piece that fits perfectly within your antique silver collection within our range at AC Silver.

Andrew Campbell started trading in antiques during the 1970s. Initially, Andrew lived in the South of England, travelling the country, searching for items of silver to buy. Andrew sold these items at various London markets and antique fairs. Over time, and through selling at a range of venues, Andrew built up a large and diverse customer base from private buyers to national and international trade customers.
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