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Children's Mugs

A popular Christening gift, children’s silver mugs have existed for several centuries. Traditionally used for serving hot drinks, silver was the preferred material due to the belief that it improves the taste of beverages. Less affluent families more commonly gave their children pewter mugs, supposedly diminishing the flavour of any beverages consumed using the vessel.

Although mugs have been made in several different sizes, we can be certain that there were mugs made specifically for children. We know this because some schools in the 18th century listed mugs as a requisite item that boys would need to bring to boarding school. Considering that Christening mugs are a well-documented gift, it is safe to assume that a significant proportion of mugs made in this smaller size were intended for children.

Children's Mugs History
Barrel Design

Most early examples of children’s mugs are a plain baluster shape, raised up from a sheet of silver by hammering the metal over a wooden stake. They were likely designed for their sturdiness and practicality over aesthetic attributes. In the 1760s, a barrel-shaped mug design appeared. The barrel shape was commonly enhanced with engraved hoops and staves. This design was popular for a period of time, with some examples in good condition being possible to find today.

By the mid-19th century, mugs became ornate in both form and decoration. Floral and foliate decoration was common in children’s mugs at this time. At the same time, however, Gothic arches also featured, paired with these popular flowery and fruity designs. Ornate Victorian christening mugs like these are very popular collectors’ items today. Many of these examples are decorated with attractive, extensive engraving, whether in the floral, foliate designs, or other designs.

Children’s silver mugs made in the 20th century were mostly imitations and adaptations of popular styles from previous centuries. Some 20th century mugs, however, feature designs contemporary to their time. Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces are hard to find but do exist. Silver children’s mugs made today also commonly replicate popular designs from the past, making the hallmarks featured on silver mugs essential in dating them as items.

Initial hallmarks were haphazardly placed on the base of the mugs, although from the mid-Georgian period onwards they tend to be hallmarked in a neat line just below the rim, usually to the right of the handle.

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