A Victorian Silver 'Shell' Sifter Spoon.

By Cathy Chivers

Charles Boyton & Sons, Birmingham 1900, 14cm.

Charles Boyton 1809-1894; Charles Boyton & Sons, 1894-1919; Charles Boyton Ltd 1919-1933. These were the dates of the Boyton Company over a period of 130 years.
.and Sons worked at Nos. 19/20/21/22 Upper Charles Street, Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, 1849-1904 and were listed as silver spoon, presentational plate and wholesale manufacturing silversmiths (1895). Originally the company were makers of spoons, forks, eventually manufacturing a lavish range of items, and producing a catalogue. By the 1930's they had premises at 98 Wigmore Street, WI probably aimling to emulate Omar Ramsden. (The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, 1838~1914, J. Culme) Returning to the internet I found the site for the Royal Ontario Museum which has a small collection of modern pieces by Charles Boyton c.1946-49, along with designs.

Sifter Spoons are described in the 'Illustrated Dictionary of Tableware Silver' by Newson as a "type of spoon of medium size having the bowl pierced with small holes usually in a pattern for sprinkling sugar".

A further description I found was "like a pierced sauce ladle usually geometric from c.I700". In Collecting for Tomorrow by Belden & Snodin they refer to Sugar Sifters, as "originated in about 1750 and although they were at first small in England (about 5") by 1800 they had become the size of sauce ladles. They were also given round flat-bottomed bowls. From the 1840's Sugar Sifters and dessert ladles were frequently treated as Fancy Spoons and made in a wide variety of shapes, many of them being naturalistic, the spoon stem being formed as a plant stem and the bowl a flower or leaf" The shell form which echoes the constructed by nature shape, is a highly decorative symbol. The shell also being the forerunner of the spoon.

The intricate piercing of the spoon often meant that the hallmark was obliterated making some pieces difficult to identify. Pierced and crested shell back bowls were a popular feature. The feel of this spoon is well balanced and would sift to separate courser portions from finer ones. Queen Victoria's Lady in Waiting, Anna Duchess of Bedford 1783-1857 "invented" afternoon tea, with her desire to have refreshment late in the day. Tea services were developed and adapted to this need, Mrs Beeton says "Dine we must and we may as well dine elegantly as well as wholesomely".

A quote by Henry James "There are few hours in life more agreeable, than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea". The Tudors had a lot to answer for when they brought sugar into the country and our lives.


The Finial, October/November 2003

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