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Dessert knife

Dessert knife

  • Place of origin:

    London

  • Date:

    1854-1866 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    A. B. Savory and Sons (maker)
    A. B. Savory and Sons (retailer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Close-plated blade and tines with mother-of-pearl handles

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Miss D. B. Simpson

  • Museum number:

    M.207:2-1977

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 2

Object Type
Smaller knives evolved in the early 18th century as cutlery became specialised. A desire to eat more elegantly prompted the need for table equipment that could be used only at particular times in the meal or with certain foods. The fruit or dessert knife was designed for use with the last course or dessert, which might consist of fresh or candied fruit. A Victorian etiquette book of 1880 advised, 'In eating pears or apples, they would be peeled and cut into halves and quarters with a fruit knife and fork.' These knives could also be used to cut cheese or cake.

Design & Designing
Dessert cutlery had always been more highly decorated than that for the earlier courses, to reflect the status and expense of the dessert. Handles, in particular, were often more ornate. This knife has a handle made of mother-of-pearl (the most expensive material used for such purposes), which adds to the effect of luxury. In the Victorian period fruit knives were commonly sold with fruit forks in boxed sets of a dozen. The manufacturer Elkington & Co. could charge up to œ22 a set in 1885 for richly engraved blades with carved handles and accompanying matching forks.

Manufacturer
A.B. Savory was largely a retailing business, selling the usual stock of silver and electroplated tableware and cutlery, clocks, watches and jewellery.

Place of Origin

London

Date

1854-1866 (made)

Artist/maker

A. B. Savory and Sons (maker)
A. B. Savory and Sons (retailer)

Materials and Techniques

Close-plated blade and tines with mother-of-pearl handles

Marks and inscriptions

Marked on the blade G, SAV above ORY, a symbol of a downpointing triangle with a cross above, LON above DON and PS all in individual shaped lozanges.
On the mother-of-pearl handle a crest of a fist holding a sheaf of papers?; Marks on the blade of the knife.; Punching

Dimensions

Height: 20.5 cm, Width: 1.8 cm

Object history note

Sold through A. B. Savory and Sons, London

"Bequest of Miss D.B. Simpson
From a set of 6. Cutlery for dessert was sold as a separate service. It was often more decorative, costly and of a different pattern to the cutlery of the earlier courses. The principal table service might be in silver but the dessert cutlery was mostly gilt. This differentiation began in the eighteenth century and continued through until the early twentieth century. Elkington and Co sold dessert cutlery in pairs per dozen for up to £20 with pearl handles and engraved blades."

Historical context note

Object Type

Smaller forks evolved in the early 18th century as cutlery became specialised. A desire to eat more elegantly prompted the need for table equipment that could be used only at particular times in the meal or with certain foods. The fruit or dessert fork was designed for use with the last course or dessert, which might consist of fresh or candied fruit. A Victorian etiquette book of 1880 advised, 'In eating pears or apples, they would be peeled and cut into halves and quarters with a fruit knife and fork.'

Design & Designing

Dessert cutlery had always been more highly decorated than that for the earlier courses, to reflect the status and expense of the dessert. Handles, in particular, were often more ornate. This fork has a handle made of mother-of-pearl (the most expensive material used for such purposes), which adds to the effect of luxury. In the Victorian period fruit forks were commonly sold with fruit knives in boxed sets of a dozen. The manufacturer Elkington & Co. could charge up to £22 a set in 1885 for richly engraved blades with carved handles and accompanying matching knives.

Manufacturer

A.B. Savory was largely a retailing business, selling the usual stock of silver and electroplated tableware and cutlery, clocks, watches and jewellery.

Descriptive line

Dessert Knife, one of a boxed set of twelve knives and forks, by A.B.Savory and Sons, London, 1854-66

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Culme, The Directory of Gold and Silversmiths, Jewellers and Allied Traders 1838-1914, Vol. 1, Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 1987, pp. 405-6

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Cutlery for dessert was sold separately from the main set of cutlery. It was often more decorative, costly and of a different pattern. All sorts of cheaper versions were produced but for the grandest tables, the principal table service might be in silver and the dessert cutlery was often gilt. This differentiation began in the 18th century and continued until the early 20th century.

Miss D.B. Simpson Bequest [27/03/2003]

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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