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Pickle fork

  • Place of origin:

    Sheffield (made)

  • Date:

    1897-1898 (hallmarked)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, with mother-of-pearl handle

  • Museum number:

    M.24-2000

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 2

Object Type
The pickle fork was a mid-Victorian invention. Specialised dining utensils became essential at this time since touching food was now frowned upon except in a few instances, such as eating bread rolls, cheese and some fresh fruit. The Habits of Good Society, published in about 1859, recommended, 'Never touch anything edible with your fingers.'

Design & Designing
Pickle forks, initially designed for use with shallow pickle trays, did not develop a long handle until about 1860, when the trays were replaced by large cut-glass pickle jars in metal frames. Typically the outer prongs (or tines) of this new server are barbed to grasp the pickle more firmly. Pickle forks could be designed to match the standard popular cutlery patterns and bought as part of a dinner service. More individual designs with ivory or mother-of-pearl handles were available in silver and electroplate, and boxed sets containing two silver pickle forks formed suitable wedding gifts. A silver pickle fork could cost nearly twice as much as one in electroplate.

Physical description

Silver fork with 3 tines, the outer two are barbed. Mother-of-pearl handle. Long stem with twisted decoration.

Place of Origin

Sheffield (made)

Date

1897-1898 (hallmarked)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver, with mother-of-pearl handle

Marks and inscriptions

Perhaps marked C& Co

Dimensions

Length: 17.5 cm, Width: 1.5 cm

Object history note

Pickle spoons and forks were first introduced in the mid 19th century and were initially produced in the more common flatware patterns. They closely resembled contemporary sugar spoons in size, and the bowls are cut into 3 or 4 broad tines. Although useful for serving pickles from shallow dishes, they were too short to reach into the large cut-glass pickle jars popular from about 1860, and a new, much longer and narrower, form of server evolved. Most had ivory or mother-of-pearl handles but all-silver examples are not uncommon. By the late 1800s, forks with the outer tines shaped into tiny barbs had largely replaced spoons, although in the early 1900s some spoons had a central hole to allow liquid to drain away.

Marked 'C & Co.' for an unidentified maker in Sheffield

Historical significance: Similar types of pickle forks were produced by Mappin Brothers and are shown in their 1897 catalogue. In silver with a mother-of-pearl handle, they sold for 7s 6d; in plate, for 4s.

Electroplated nickel silver pickle forks featured in the J. Dixon & Sons catalogue of 1892. An example with a mother-of-pearl handle sold for 4s. In the William Hutton & Sons catalogue of about 1880, electroplated pickle forks on nickel silver sold for 8s 4d. Both these companies offered forks in silver, prices on application.

Descriptive line

Silver pickle fork with mother of pearl handle.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Longer-handled pickle forks were developed to enable diners to reach the pickles in the large cut glass pickle jars that were popular from about 1860. Most had ivory or mother-of-pearl handles but examples entirely in silver were not uncommon. Similar forks offered in the Mappin Brothers catalogue of 1897 cost 7s 6d (37.5p). [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Hallmarked for C & Co.

Reason For Production: Retail

Materials

Silver; Mother of pearl

Categories

Tableware & cutlery; Eating; British Galleries; Metalwork

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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