Antique silver flatware has a rich and fascinating history. Dessert spoons and forks have been a part of this since the mid-17th century, when they were made alongside larger pieces of cutlery. However, individual dessert sets did not come into use until the 1700s.
These sets were unique, as they were unlike much of the plainer flatware that was used for the earlier parts of each meal. Instead they were often more ornate, featuring engraved fruit and flowers and elaborate gilding.
Pieces in dessert sets are smaller than normal table cutlery. This is because they were created for the purpose of being used during delicate courses, particularly the dainty, intricate confections that were fashionable during the Victorian era.
Initially, most sets contained only knives and forks for eating fruit and cheese. By the 19th century, however, dessert sets had become increasingly ostentatious.
At this time, it was fashionable to clear the dining table after the main courses of each meal. Servants would remove all of the used cutlery and replace it with a fresh set.
The introduction of this custom led to the development of new styles and designs of cutlery. The wealthy used this trend as an excuse to display their riches in the form of increasingly ornate dessert silver.