Merry Gourmet Miniatures ©  1988 -  2022.                                              Designed By Bluechip Computer Support


It was never solely a rich man's pleasure, but as an enduring symbol of wealth and prestige its purity has always been strictly controlled and rigorously defended for over seven centuries; the English hall-marking system has a continuous history since 1300.

As well as decorative and religious use and display, while not fully understood it was appreciated by apothecaries, surgeons and others tending the sick since the Middle Ages.

In their grand hospital in Valetta, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem equipped each bed with a silver bowl, cup and spoon.  Wealthy families provided silver bottles, spoons, beakers and teething rings for their nurseries in fact, this could be the likely origin of the custom of

giving silver utensils for a baby's christening gift.

Silver was used as a status symbol, people owned it proudly and displayed it ostentatiously whenever possible,  from the highest in the land to all but the very poorest; they might only have one small ‘salt' or a spoon or two, but still it was enjoyed as a personal treasure.

For those who owned it in any quantity it was prominently displayed at any significant family or ceremonial occasion when guests or strangers were likely to be present to be suitably impressed.  A cup board (literally a board for cups) or buffet was the usual item for displaying any family or guild treasures.

Whether built in or removable, they were stepped shelves the number of which denoted the rank of the host.  The Tudor  yeoman farmer might only have the top shelf of his cup board,  while Henry V111 having a vast collection of silver, and as a monarch or prince was judged by the magnificence of his ‘plate', needed several buffets each of seven stages.  (See our article on The Food at the Court of Henry VIII.)

Dressed with gold, silver and silver-gilt these were left in ‘situ' at Greenwich for 3 or 4 days after he entertained the French ambassadors in May 1527 "so that all honest persons might see".

Silver has a universal appeal, lustrous, gleaming, durable, pure without taint, anti-bacterial, capable of being fashioned into exquisite pieces for use or show, it conveyed the wealth and prestige of the owner while still being instantly convertible to coin if necessary for the vale was in the metal rather than the workmanship.  Silver was the principal basis for all European coinage throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.

Charles the 1st needing money in 1664 at the battle of Newark used his dinner plates and dishes, they were melted down, cut up into crude shillings and used to pay his troops.  For the prosperous merchant and wealthy aristocrat it was bullion, money in the ‘bank' (house) they were not sentimental about it, when needed, as with Charles, it was so used, when prosperity returned new pieces were commissioned in the latest fashion.