An egg cruet set is typically a set of two or more egg cups with matching spoons. This set is usually contained within a purpose-made stand.
Although there isn't a distinct history of the egg cruet, it may be pieced together from what we know of the history of the silver cruet, and also the history of the egg cup. So let us begin.
What is a Cruet Set?
A cruet is a small container or indeed a set of containers for oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, or mustard which can be used at meal times.
It has been suggested that one of the first uses of a cruet was ecclesiastical. In fact, there is an example in the bible of a 'cruse of oil' (I Kings 17:16). It would seem that in this case the cruet was a jug that held liquid within it.
History of the Silver Cruet
It was thought that the earliest known cruet set was crafted by Anthony Nelme in 1715 for the Earl of Warwick. Since, it has emerged that there were actually some silver cruets set from around 1707. However it is the Earl's that is the most famous. The cruet set itself consisted of five casters that were mounted on a frame. This set up became so popular that this type of set was termed the 'Warwick Cruet'.
Since the 18th Century to the 20th Century, cruet sets have changed in its use and number of elements. For example the Warwick Cruet had two bottles for oil and vinegar, a caster for mustard and two pierced casters. From the 19th Century, the cruet set was simply made up of pepper, salt, and a pot for mustard.
History of the Egg Cup
One of the first records of an egg cup was found in the 3 AD in the Pompeii ruins. It was discovered in Turkish mosaics found in the city which showed scenes of people dining, many of which were depicted using egg cups.
The egg cup fell into decline and it wasn't until the 1600's Elizabethan England when egg cups would become popular again. It was at this time that the upper class would eat their eggs out of silver egg cups. As is typical, lower classes tried to emulate the styles of the aristocracy, and this included egg cups. So came the egg cups made up of different materials; the first being wooden.
Louis XV, from France, used egg cups regularly. Both him and Louis XVI made decisions quite often during breakfast. It has even been claimed that Louis XV would entertain those at court by beheading his egg in his egg cup.
The egg cup became increasingly popular throughout Europe. It was in the Victorian era that egg cups started to become mass marketed and were regularly part of dinnerware sets. At this time it was common to see egg cups in porcelain, and designed in best selling china patterns. It has been suggested that during the Victorian era, and even in the Georgian period, that it became quite fashionable to sell egg cups in sets with a matching tray and spoon collection. Thus emerges the egg cruet set.