A basket is typically a piece which has a vertical handle, looping from one side of a dish or bowl to the other. Baskets became popular in the Georgian period, and continued to flourish during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
The reason for this is threefold; firstly, silver baskets are decorative pieces which make excellent centrepieces. During the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras the wealthy and middle classes became enamoured with dinner parties. Displaying silver tableware, services and centrepieces was a means of displaying their wealth and taste.
Secondly, during these dinner parties, the handles of baskets ensured food could be passed around the table by guests rather than being served by staff; especially sharing food- such as bread, fruit, cakes and sweet treats.
Lastly, the more unusual and varied types of dining and serving pieces included on the dinner table, the more cultured and knowledgeable you were perceived to be. Specific items such as grape shears, asparagus tongs, claret jugs, novelty mustard pots and shakers, to name but a few, were created and used during this period; the understanding of such complex etiquette around the dinner table was seen as the height of sophistication.
History of Baskets
When silver baskets first appeared around the 17th century they resembled the original, practical and rudimental woven straw or wooden baskets used in agriculture.
By the late 18th century, under the influence of neo-classical design, baskets were replaced by lighter more delicate forms which were die-stamped and fly-pierced or made from silver wire.
With changing menus and eating habits, not only were silver baskets used to hold bread, but more ornamented baskets, often with swing handles were used from the 19th century to serve cakes, sweetmeats and bon bons.
During the Victorian era in the mid 1800’s, small baskets were used with centrepieces and epergnes to compliment and further ornament designs.
Victorian baskets were usually decorated extravagantly with applied and engraved decoration, focus was on floral, shell and foliate designs. The majority of Victorian silverware was decorated in this manner. Masks, such as maiden’s, lion or ram’s heads were incorporated in handle designs.
During this era baskets also became increasingly popular wedding gifts. We now refer to these particular silver baskets as ‘bride’s baskets’ which came into prominence during the 1880s. Crafted in sterling or coin silver, bride’s baskets became an instrumental part of the wedding ceremony; flower girls would carry these baskets down the aisle from which to scatter flower petals. The basket would then be transported to take pride of place during the reception and showcasing the bridal bouquet. Bride’s baskets would often feature a colourful glass insert, often bespoke hand painted for the betrothed couple. Alternatively, baskets would be decorated with whimsical engravings of fruit, flowers, birds and cherubs- signifying a new beginning for the bride and groom. Bride’s baskets have since become popular collectors’ items and are now utilised as centrepieces, either exclusively as ornamental, or to contain flowers, fruits, cakes or sweats.
Edwardian baskets were typical of the Art Nouveau style which permeated this era, they were finer and more delicate than Victorian baskets, often utilising wirework and more subtle design details.
Motifs featured on Edwardian baskets were usually exotic and naturalistic, including designs such as flowers and scroll work. Repousse was also a common feature in silver baskets from this era.
Types of Baskets
There are many variations and types of antique silver baskets, essentially these differences are distinguished by which item the basket was designed to contain and transport to the dining table. At AC Silver, we are able to offer customers an array of baskets, ranging from flower, sugar, bon bon, cake and fruit.
What is a bread basket?
Bread baskets tend to be a larger type of basket and are often around the same size as flower baskets. When searching for bread baskets, it is important to remember the contemporary term for a bread basket- dish or bowl which holds bread- is not strictly the same definition for an antique bread basket. Usually, a basket will feature a handle, whereas a bread dish will simply have a raised lip, typically surrounding an oval or circular flat plate form.
During the 18th century there was a trend towards pierced bread and cake baskets. This was due to an increase in the amount of pierced sheet silver available at the time. Handles began to be incorporated into the bread basket during the reign of George II, as did feet. Examples from this time were also often decorated with a pattern of wheat ears: our strongest indication of what the baskets were intended for. As the century progressed, bread baskets began to be crafted without feet and in a style which mimicked a wicker basket.
What is a cake basket?
Cake baskets often had a rolled-back rim so both the guests and hosts can see the sweet cakes readily from the table. Decoration of the earliest examples included fruits, foliage, scrolls and eagles. During the 1790s two handled cake baskets became popular.
What is a fruit basket?
Cake baskets and fruit baskets are mostly interchangeable, they are generally the same size and shape. However, if the basket is ornamented with fruiting decoration, it is likely the basket was intended for this purpose. Fruit baskets are often deeper than cake, ensuring piled fruit does not spill onto the table.
What is a sugar basket?
Sugar baskets are the smallest of antique basket tableware, they were used to hold sugar for tea or sweetening foods. More of a decorative and novelty item, the popularity of these pieces was due to the demand for obscure items of silver tableware.
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.