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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125b

Grape Scissors

1880-1900 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Grape scissors were used during the dessert course of a dinner. After the grapes had been correctly cut, it was permissible for the diner to use his or her fingers.

Dining Etiquette
The dining etiquette of the period encouraged the development of specific utensils for eating and serving particular foods such as grapes. Dining etiquette was an important part of the Victorian code of polite society. The Manners and Tone of Good Society, first published in 1879, outlined the correct conduct of the dinner party but focused on the complicated and changing use of cutlery. With a few exceptions (such as for eating bread and some fruit), touching food with the fingers was frowned upon, and diners were presented with an alarming and growing range of specialist utensils for eating particular foods. It was important to be able to recognise items such as nut picks, sardine tongs and grape scissors, and to know how to use them correctly. The Manners and Tone of Good Society advised: 'When eating grapes, the half closed hand should be placed to the lips and the stones and skins adroitly allowed to fall into the fingers and quickly placed on the side of the plate, the back of the hand concealing the manoeuvre from view.'

Design & Designing
Grape scissors can be very ornate in design, and sometimes have cast vine and grape motifs which make the implements awkward to use. These grape scissors are quite plain and made in durable electroplated nickel silver, and are therefore relatively robust.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Electroplated nickel silver
Brief Description
Electroplated grape scissors made by William Hutton and Sons, Sheffield, late nineteenth century.
Physical Description
Electroplated grape scissors from a boxed set
Dimensions
  • Length: 18.5cm
  • Width: 6.0cm
  • Depth: 2.5cm
Production typeMass produced
Marks and Inscriptions
Mark of William Hutton and Sons (Crafts mark (Hallmark))
Gallery Label
British Galleries: In the William Hutton & Sons catalogue of about 1880 grape scissors cost 10s (50p) for a very plain type to 19s (95p) for a pierced and engraved example.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Made in England



Historical significance: Grape Scissors - electroplated, late 19th century

- dining implement used to cut the stems of a bunch of grapes; although made in the general form of a pair of scissors, it has - instead of 2 cutting blades - 2 wide flat-faced blades, only one of which has a cutting edge. The handles are quite often very ornate and decorated with vine foliage.

- this example is quite plain : plated examples are illustrated in the William Hutton & Sons catalogue of about 1880. These are priced at 10s for a very plain example to 19s for a pierced and engraved example.

- Mappin Brothers electroplated silver grape scissors are priced at 8s in their catalogue of 1897. A solid silver pair of grape scissors, presented in a case, are priced at £3 7s 6d.



William Hutton & Sons - this large well-known firm of manufacturing silversmiths and platers was established by William Hutton in Birmingham in 1780, transferring to Sheffield in 1832. The business continued under his son William Carr Hutton, who entered the firm's first mark in London, where the business had premises in Holborn. He was joined by his eldest son, Herbert Hutton, in 1864 and the firm became 'William Hutton & Son'. In 1869 they advertised as 'The Sheffield Fork & Spoon Manufactory...Platers and Gilders by Magnetic Electricity, Dessert Knives, Fish Carvers, Nutcrackers & Every Article for the Table'. Shortly afterwards, with the addition of sons Robert Hutton and James Edward Hutton to the business, the firm became known as 'William Hutton & Sons'. The firm acquired the business and plant of Robert Farell & Co, manufacturing silversmiths of London in 1893, and was soon after converted to a limited liability company under the name of 'William Hutton & Sons Ltd.' In 1902, they acquired the Sheffield firm of manufacturing silversmiths, Creswick & Co. They transferred to James Dixon & Sons Ltd. in 1930.
Production
Reason For Production: Retail
Summary
Object Type
Grape scissors were used during the dessert course of a dinner. After the grapes had been correctly cut, it was permissible for the diner to use his or her fingers.

Dining Etiquette
The dining etiquette of the period encouraged the development of specific utensils for eating and serving particular foods such as grapes. Dining etiquette was an important part of the Victorian code of polite society. The Manners and Tone of Good Society, first published in 1879, outlined the correct conduct of the dinner party but focused on the complicated and changing use of cutlery. With a few exceptions (such as for eating bread and some fruit), touching food with the fingers was frowned upon, and diners were presented with an alarming and growing range of specialist utensils for eating particular foods. It was important to be able to recognise items such as nut picks, sardine tongs and grape scissors, and to know how to use them correctly. The Manners and Tone of Good Society advised: 'When eating grapes, the half closed hand should be placed to the lips and the stones and skins adroitly allowed to fall into the fingers and quickly placed on the side of the plate, the back of the hand concealing the manoeuvre from view.'

Design & Designing
Grape scissors can be very ornate in design, and sometimes have cast vine and grape motifs which make the implements awkward to use. These grape scissors are quite plain and made in durable electroplated nickel silver, and are therefore relatively robust.
Associated Objects
Collection
Accession Number
M.41-2000

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record createdMay 30, 2001
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