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History of the Vase

history of vases

The word vase is derived from the Latin word ‘vase’ meaning vessel. The history and origins of silver in the manufacture of vases is unclear, however the earliest anecdotal association is that ambassadors from Crete were believed to have brought gifts of silver vases to the pharaohs of Egypt in 3100 BC.


Around 500 BC, Greek potters from Athens created first black-figure style, followed by red-figure technique of decorative pottery. Their vessels were essentially practical objects with standard shaped for specific purposes e.g. as a container for water (a hydria), wine (an amphora) or oil (a lekthus).


Glazed pottery, common in both China and imperial Rome in the 1st century BC was a significant development in eliminating the porous nature of earthenware. The discovery of glassblowing in the same era made glass vases accessible to much of the known world. The most famous extant is the Portland Vase made in Rome around 5-25 AD. (This vase is now housed in the British Museum).


Porcelain was developed by the T’ang potters of China in the 7th-9th century BC providing the world with fine, translucent, pottery.


Majolica, faience and delftware were all types of tin-glazed earthenware produced in Italy, France and the Netherlands in the 14th- 17th centuries. Pieces produced, such as large blue and white vases often reflected the Chinese influence and it was during the late 1500’s that the early term used by the English, ‘China-ware’, became abbreviated into the generic word ‘china’ when referring to porcelain.


Silver and silverware was produced throughout Europe in the 1700’s, but examples of silver vases presently exist from the 1800’s when decorative pieces became popular in Victorian times. This coincides with the fashionable Victorian pursuit of interior decoration and displaying wealth and status through ornamental objects.


Vases continue to be considered an ornamental object I their own right, and their popularity in household décor has not waned, with more abstract shapes and styles becoming contemporarily prevalent. In spite of this, the demand for antique and vintage silver vases remains strong. Pieces with particularly strong provenance which depict specific historically significant moments are- as with all antique and vintage silverware- of particular interest to buyers and collectors alike. At AC Silver we have a vast range of vases, demonstrating huge variances in style, and fashion through the ages and across the world.


What is a Vase?


Vases are traditionally in non-rusting materials such as silver, ceramics or glass. These mediums are not only practical for the purposes of holding and displaying flowers, but also are resilient to the inevitable wear and tear that water, flora and fauna can impart. They are predominantly used to hold cut flowers, but can also be used ornamentally to stand alone as objects of art.


Silver vases are often used as ornaments in themselves, the large, often cylindrical surface offers the perfect opportunity for craftsman to decorate the silver with fine, delicate chased embellishment such as floral and natural motifs. Silver vases have proved to be classic and timeless pieces, which continue to be popular in spite of varying trends and interior fashions.


Vases vary widely in shape and design, however many antique and vintage vases follow the more traditional and practical form of a large, wide or bulbous base, which leads to a large body – which practically is useful for storing more water – and then is followed by an incrementally thinner shoulder, usually the thinnest pint of the vase being the neck, and finally, the lip of the vase usually protrudes outwards so as to allow the flowers inside to splay into a pleasing formation, rather than all be uniformly facing the same direction.


Giving Flowers


The practice of flower giving is both ancient and intrinsic to human society. As a physical display of affection – the significance is understood from an early age, as soon as children can walk- they pick flowers as gifts to demonstrate love.


During the Victorian era, the public became aware of the concept of certain flowers having symbolic meanings, wherein flower giving and displaying flowers in the home became much more popular within the more privileged households. This coincided with the rise in the importance of home and interior decoration in the middle class, and resulted in flower giving becoming a much more widespread practice.


The first "Flower Dictionary" was written by Mme. Charlotte de la Tour in 1818. It was titled Le Language des Fleurs. Following this book, a Victorian Englishwoman named Miss Carruthers was inspired to write another book on the subject in 1879 entitled Flower Lore- this book was incredibly well received and has set the accepted standard in the western world for modern interpretations of flower symbolism.


Often, the rise in the practice of flower giving during the Victorian era is attributed to the reticence of the age; with many claiming that through the giving of flowers and the interpretation of the meanings that the flowers had, emotions and intentions could be communicated in a much more decent way than in any open display of affection.


Since the beginning of the twentieth century flower giving has become a traditional and routine occurrence, and is positively expected on recognised occasions, especially those which have typically feminine associations- such as Mother’s Day and St. Valentine's Day.


When the bouquets themselves have become expected and ordinary, a spectacular silver vase to display them in is the obvious way to elevate flower giving back to being an extraordinary experience!


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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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