Caddy spoons

Sterling silver caddy spoon

Solid silver caddy spoon with typical wide, round bowl and short handle. Elaborate decoration is not unusual. Made by Birmingham silversmith in reign of George IV, c1829. Photo by Clark Mills

If you have a nice tea caddy, you may also want a caddy spoon. In the early years of tea drinking in Europe and America, either the lid of the caddy was used for measuring out tea leaves, or a long-handled strainer spoon, but in the 1760s people started to use special silver spoons instead, with short handles so they would fit easily inside the caddy, on top of the tea leaves.

Silversmiths created a wide variety of spoons, and yet certain shapes were particularly popular: shells, especially, and a variety of leaf shapes. Shell-shaped spoons may have echoed the shells packed in tea consignments for merchants to sample the leaves. Fluted shells were a good way of strengthening thin silver spoon bowls along the lines of the fluting. Shovels and ladles are styles of spoon that may sound purely functional, but they too can be very decorative, with handles made of ivoory or mother-of-pearl, and highly collectible.

Spoons from the Georgian era, made by 1830, are very desirable now. A good silver spoon may well fetch several hundred dollars at auction, and a four figure price is not impossible. Silversmiths in Birmingham, England produced a high proportion of these early caddy spoons.

If you come across a pierced caddy spoon, it was probably intended to serve as a “mote spoon”. It could help pick out any mote or stray tea-leaf floating in the tea-cup, as well as being used in the ordinary way for measuring tea into the pot.

Caddy spoon in brass

Caddy spoon in brass with Lincoln Imp handle - a design associated with Lincoln Cathedral. Photo by Terry Whalebone

Once tea was no longer a luxury, tea-drinking became widespread, more affordable caddies appeared, and caddy spoons became available cheaper versions. By the early 20th century, die-stamped alloy caddy spoons were a popular souvenir gift for people with modest incomes, and were on sale in every seaside town in Britain. They could be decorated with local motifs or scenes, enamelled crests, embossed placenames etc.

At the other end of the scale, one of the most valuable caddy spoons sold at auction in the last few years was designed by the 20th century craftsman Omar Ramsden. His 1931 art nouveau silver caddy spoon with semi-precious stones in a knotwork handle fetched over £2000.

Photos

Photographers credited in captions. Links to originals here:
silver caddy spoon, imp caddy spoon. More picture info here


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lynn January 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

What is the exact volume of a caddy spoon? grasms?

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