You might be surprised to know that one of our most collectable pieces of silverware is neither jewellery, objet d’art or cutlery, but an item that sits somewhere in-between all three. Strange as that might sound, our Caddy Spoons are remarkable things, commissioned by leading silver jewellery, objet d’art and antique dealer, Styles Silver of Hungerford.
George Styles, proprietor and Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, explains the caddy spoon phenomenon…
“Caddy spoons have always been a traditional collector’s market, being small cabinet pieces. Until recently most collectors preferred antique examples, but now some like to buy modern design ones. We have commissioned many over the last 10 years to encourage people to have examples by either leading makers or up and coming youngsters. It is a relatively inexpensive item and some buyers, having been introduced to a maker like Grant Macdonald, then go on to buy or commission a larger piece by them.”
Travel back in time and tea was an expensive luxury commodity. The sought after leaves were kept in containers called caddies, usually highly decorative – and lockable – miniature chests. They had to be kept lockable because tea was extremely expensive, and considered too much of a temptation for light-fingered household staff, to be left unsecured. Naturally, something so expensive it has to be kept under lock and key warrants special treatment, and so the highly decorative caddy spoon was born. No ordinary spoon would do.
The caddy spoon was arguably the grandfather of the modern teaspoon, dessert spoon and tablespoon. It set a template for modern spoons, being a roughly regular size and designed for a specific task. Before the caddy spoon, spoons came in all shapes and sizes (and remember, before tea, we had no teaspoons). Caddy spoons tend to be around the same volume as a dessert spoon, designed for measuring loose leaf tea into a teapot. Each spoonful equates to roughly a teabag, meaning one for each person and one for the pot, as they used to say.
Ironically, as tea drinking became increasingly popular, both the caddy and the spoon that came with it, were increasingly doomed. By the late 1800s, tea was commonplace and cheap. Shipped in huge volumes from all over the British Empire, sold in packets, or by the ounce in grocers all over the country, the caddy became unnecessary (nobody locked up tea anymore) and with it, the caddy spoon. The teaspoon was now commonplace, and probably better suited to spooning tea out of small jars, and into smaller teapots too.
The caddy spoon, like caddies, remains a prized item today. Highly collectable as an antique, or as a modern collectable. Of course, they are not used like other cutlery items, but kept on display like objet d’art and admired for their ornate decoration, almost like jewellery. That’s why our caddy spoons represent the very finest craftsmanship you will find on any precious metal objects, with complex open-worked handles, a mixture of highly polished sterling silver and gilt, hand chased surfacing and flawless finishing. They are hand made by master craftsmen in our workshops, using the same skills that the great caddy spoon makers of yesteryear would have used, when tea was as valuable as gold… but harder to get your hands on.
Our craftsmen know a thing or two about tea too.