The other week while doing a bit of vintage silver entertaining with my friend Jackie, we got talking about one of the spoons we were using (translation I gabbled silver speak at her for a long time). During this disquisition, the subject of Georgian silver patterns came up. It took a moment, but here is the best way I can come up with to explain it.
Georgian silver patterns are like cornbread recipes
🙂 Really! Stop shaking your head and wondering whether to call for professional assistance. Think about it this way.
There are myriad variations on recipes for cornbread. Sugar or not? Light or dense? Bacon grease, butter or shortening? Cast iron skillet or baking pan? The list of variable goes on.
But they are all cornbread recipes, no matter how grudgingly you agree.
Important background information
- The term Georgian Silver does not indicate a particular style, instead it refers to a time period from 1714-1811 (or 1820 or 1837) when the Georges I-IV and possibly William IV were on the throne. If you need an English history refresher – take a look at this article on the Georgian Era. George III had a particularly long reign (1760-1820) and is known for being the Mad King and on the throne at the time of the American Revolution. But I digress.
- The concept of pattern as a strictly defined and legally copyrighted idea is a modern one. The same goes for standardization of sizes of pieces, but that’s another topic!
Let’s continue the analogy…
Think of Georgian silver patterns in the same way. For example, take the iconic fiddle pattern.
1. It has lots of variations, but they are all still recognizably fiddle.
2. Every silversmith knew how to “do” fiddle. But it was not “done” to a rigid set of specifications. Things were handmade and pieces were given their own variation. Of the pieces that have passed (and occasionally stayed) in my hands, I notice some smiths consistently made the terminal end wider than others. Some have a consistent bull-nose-like edge to the handle, others have a more diagonal slant. All different, all fiddle.
Interestingly, virtually every silver company out there has a copyrighted, patented version of fiddle. Talk about what’s old is new again!
Here is one of my personal favorite modern interpretations of fiddle.
Do you have a favorite variation on the theme of fiddle?