Beautiful Vintage Cutlery from Bygone Eras
From a delicate strawberry fork to vintage ice cream slicer, silverware used to be far more intricate than today's simple settings.
If you've ever looked through your grandmother or great-grandmother's collection of cutlery and tableware, you may have come across a piece of antique silverware that you can't quite figure out the use for. In the late 1800s, there was a tool for anything and everything on the dinner table. While an oyster fork or an escargot fork may seem fancy or outdated now, they once were used regularly at the dinner table and signified one's social class and refinement. Here, we take a look back at some of the most beautiful pieces.
Several of these vintage pieces of cutlery are made for dessert time. For those who typically end their meal with a bowl of fresh berries dipped in sugar or whipped cream, a strawberry fork is worth the investment. The delicate, two- or three-pronged form is designed for gently picking up large berries and rolling them in sugar or whipped cream. And what goes better with berries and cream than a slice of angel food cake? This chiffon-like dessert made with a dozen egg whites is one of the most fragile desserts to slice, so of course you need a specific slicer. That's where a cake breaker comes in. Although it looks like a hair comb, the thin prongs help to slice the cake without crushing it.
There are also a few sterling silver tools here designed for serving vegetables—asparagus tongs, a tomato server, and even a food pusher can help transfer delicate produce from a serving platter to a fork or plate. The tomato server is slotted, so it drains away excess juice and the asparagus tongs prevent the spears from breaking.
Take a trip to an earlier century as you peek at these vintage pieces of cutlery. Then head to a local antique or thrift store and try to find some of these treasures yourself.
Do you love a simple bowl of berries with whipped cream for dessert? Then you need a strawberry fork, a lean, three-pronged utensil usually made of sterling silver that dates back to the 19th century. It was designed for picking up berries and dipping them in sugar or cream.
Ice Cream Slicer
While most people own an ice cream scoop, few own an ice cream slicer for an ice cream cake, semifreddo, or other frozen treats. The ice cream slicer was invented at the same time as silver became a luxury commodity among middle-class families in the mid-1850s.
Can you pass the butter please? Instead of using a clunky butter knife to pick up a pat of butter for your bread, try this dainty, delicate tool.
Scoop a fresh batch of jam onto toast using this old-fashioned spoon. In the 1890s, it was the proper way to serve jelly, as well as gelatinous molded recipes.
Designed for cutting grape stalks, these specialty stainless steel or silver scissors were typically used to cut the fruit off the grape stalks in the late 19th century. While it was acceptable to pick a smaller portion of grapes off the stems with your hands, these shears help to make a big bunch more manageable.
Iced Tea Spoon
After you've added a splash of milk and sprinkle of sugar to your glass of iced tea, stir it all together using an antique iced tea spoon that can easily reach the bottom of a pitcher or highball glass. It's one of just a few pieces of antiquated cutlery that are still regularly in use today.
This vintage spoon is so much more elegant than a fine-mesh sieve, but the purpose is the same—to lightly dust powdered sugar over berries, pound cake, and pastries.
Instead of stabbing at asparagus with a fork, these sterling silver tongs are designed to gather a few spears at a time. Our favorite versions feature handcrafted asparagus tips at the end of the tongs.
Delicate, juicy tomatoes should be treated with care. Use this flat, slotted server for transferring tomato slices from a platter or your plate or onto a sandwich.
A food pusher is a unique tool that was originally invented in the Victorian era when it was less acceptable to touch food with your bare hand. Today, a food pusher can be used by a loved one has trouble collecting food with a fork or spoon.
Here's a piece of vintage cutlery that you'll often find in households today: sugar tongs. These petite tongs are used for picking up individual sugar cubes for a cup of coffee or tea.