Size of a Teaspoon | Uniformity in Vintage Silver

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Google analytics tells me the most interesting things.  As yesterday was the first of the month, I did my usual  check to see how my stats look (part of the whole chief cook and bottle-washer part of solo business).  Among the metrics that Google kindly provide and I regularly peruse are ‘traffic sources’.  This let’s me know how people find Silver Magpies.  Most often it’s through a  search on Google.  To my astonishment dozens of people found me last month by looking up ‘size of a teaspoon’.  Furthermore Google informs me that the precise phrase ‘size of a teaspoon’ is searched for 1,600 times a month!

As I’ve never written about the actual size of a teaspoon,  it struck me that this was a) worth writing about and b) an interesting topic.  A recent post Silver Knife Handles briefly mentioned that flatware sets as we know them are a recent (i.e. Victorian) development.  In addition to the standardization of patterns across all the various pieces of a set, so to has the standardization of sizes only recently occurred.  In short, the size of a teaspoon has not always been a fixed quantity.

size of a teaspoon - 5 teaspoons

‘Teaspoons’ ranging in date from 1820 to 1932…ranging in size too.

Size of a Teaspoon

The photo to the left shows five teaspoons.  From left to right they are:

  1. Georgian Provincial Teaspoon made by William Rawlings Sobey of Exeter in 1820.
  2. American Coin Silver Teaspoon by Rockwell of NY, c. 1820-1840.
  3. Louis XV by Whiting Mfg. Co, c. very late 1800’s.
  4. Christina by Gorham, c. 1932.
  5. Lady Diana by Towle, also c. 1930s.

As we can see from the photo, the size (i.e length) of this group varies.  FYI to measure a piece of flatware place it on a ruler facedown.

    • Number 1 is 5 1/2 inches long…but the other members of the ‘matching’ set of 6 spoons I have, all done by the same silversmith vary ever so slightly above and below 5 1/2 inches.
    • Number 2 is 5 5/8ths inches long and is also handmade.  The same minute variations in size occur in this set of 10 spoons as with the Exeter ones.
    • Numbers 3,4, and 5 are identical in size, although an optical illusion makes number 3 look shorter.  All measure 5 7/8th inches long and the others members of the set do not vary from that size.

Two factors affect the size of a teaspoon

First, the nature of handmade pieces means that no two are precisely alike.  Each one varies from its siblings in every dimension – length, width and depth.  This is part of the beauty of handmade.  Whereas manufactured pieces are all stamped or cast out of identical molds.  No manufacturing variations are possible between pieces of the same pattern.

Second, by standardizing the size of the bowl and the overall length of the spoon, it must have made producing new patterns more affordable for manufacturers.  The only variable became the pattern on the handle.  Thus the size of a teaspoon is standardized regardless of pattern.

How much does the bowl of a teaspoon hold

size of a teaspoon - measuring

1 teaspoon to measure volume, 4.949 ml to be exact.

The volume of a cooking teaspoon is 4.929 ml.  The handmade Georgian silver teaspoon could not hold anywhere close to that volume of liquid. The Rockwell coin silver spoon could only just hold in the teaspoon of water thanks to surface tension. In contrast the 3 manufactured pieces held it with lots of room to spare.

PS

The moral of this part of the story is don’t use a flatware teaspoon to measure anything that requires precision in your cooking. They are good for stirring not measuring. Using one to measure is a baking disaster just looking for a coastline.

 

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6 thoughts on “Size of a Teaspoon | Uniformity in Vintage Silver

  1. ElizabethNo Gravatar

    It is so interesting to see them lined up that way! My sister has been collecting my great grandmother’s pattern. Her demitasse is much smaller than mine, 4 inches vs 4.25, but it is the size of the bowl that is such a big difference. Strangely, the tablespoons in her pattern are much much larger than mine. I guess, it depends on the pattern and the maker and the style at the time. It looks like with time they get bigger and bigger, but is that really true? You noted that over time in the same pattern the pieces got thinner…

    1. Silver MagpiesNo Gravatar

      Elizaebth, you raise an interesting point about the increasing length x width dimension, but the decreasing depth. The two are not unreconcilable, silver can be pounded into sheets so thin that to get a pile an inch high, it would take 100,000 (no typos) sheets!

      – Nan

  2. QuintessenceNo Gravatar

    I must admit I love spoons – it’s somehow the tabletop equivalent of chairs! And yes, I have noticed the great disparity in sizes but not sure I would have found you via such a search term! But how marvelous so many have!

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