Sterling Silver Julep Cup

The history, examples and forms of the sterling silver julep cup. Links to resources and pictures of sterling silver julep cups and sterling silver.

The Sterling Silver Julep Cup

In the South, there is a time-honored tradition that is best enjoyed under the very wide brim of an elaborately decorated hat: The Kentucky Derby. As you watch the majestic thoroughbreds race round the track, there is no better way to cool yourself off than with a refreshing Mint Julep, better yet served in a sterling silver julep cup. The sweet bite of bourbon mixed with the fresh mint and all served ice cold is the perfect palate quencher to tackle that deep south heat. As the official libation of the Derby, one must familiarize themselves with its sweet southern charms. That being said, the following recipe has been provided. See the full recipe at the bottom of the page.

Early American silver smiths and Kentucky natives, Asa Blanchard and William and Archibald Cooper are responsible for the appearance of the julep cup design we use today. The opulence of a sterling silver julep cup goes beyond the racetrack for southern residents. We raise our cups high in celebration of our roots and traditions. Sterling silver adds that extra extravagance to the experience and is the perfect vessel for a chilled mint julep. Whether you are watching from the benches of Churchill Downs, waving your winning ticket in the air, or sitting in the air conditioned confines of your parlor, make sure you have a Mint Julep waiting. Sit back, relax and take a sip of a little southern heritage.

Above are two basic forms that the sterling silver julep takes, one with a banded border(figure 1) and the other with a beaded boarder (figure 2). Click on either and look at our selection of over 94 sterling silver juleps in 14 different forms.

The Perfect Mint Julep

Yields 1

  • 3 ounces Kentucky bourbon
  • Mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons mint simple syrup, recipe follows

Crush a few mint leaves in the bottom of a sterling silver julep cup. Add 2 tablespoons of syrup and muddle ingredients together to release oils from mint. Then fill the julep with crushed ice. Add bourbon and stir until the julep is frosted. Top with more crushed ice. To serve, garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.

Mint Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch fresh mint sprigs

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Boil for 5 minutes, without stirring.

Pour over a handful of mint and gently crush the mint with a spoon. Refrigerate syrup mixture overnight in a jar with a lid. Remove mint leaves and keep refrigerated. In the refrigerator, the mix will be good for several weeks.

Resource: Jay Dickerson, EQ at The Party Source

A Brief History of Sterling Silver

An article that outlines the use of sterling silver, written by Joseph P. Brady (Beverly Bremer Silver Shop Historian).

A Brief History of Silver

The process of extracting and refining silver dates from the third millennium BC, and the metal was well represented in the wealth of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, classical Greece and ancient Rome. Silver’s unique properties have made it a wonderful medium for the decorative arts, and its intrinsic value as a precious metal has made it the ultimate and everlasting recyclable. As fashion changed over the decades and centuries, silver has been melted and reshaped into new forms, and in times of economic crisis, for individuals and nations, it has been converted into coin. Its reflective qualities have made it an ideal material for the display of power, wealth or reverence, in palaces, cathedrals, temples and the great houses of Asia, Europe and the Americas.

It was during the Renaissance that silver began to become important for display: An impressive show of silver objects was a telling measure of a person’s wealth and social standing. In the English court, New Year’s gifts of silver were customarily exchanged, and silver was of foremost importance for state occasions. At the same time, silver was the preferred material for the wealthiest aristocratic and merchant classes. The social, rather than the economic, aspects of silver were taking shape.

Etruscan spoons dating from 700 BC are not unlike the ones we use today, and knives were always present at the table, but it was in 16th century Italy that forks began to replace fingers for conveying food to the mouth. As the fork’s popularity spread to France, great changes in manners began. Foods that had previously been eaten by dipping fingers or bread into a common bowl came to be eaten with spoons and forks from individual plates, and by the late 1600’s there existed different plates for different foods. Further, individual chairs replaced benches at the table. This revolution, of sorts, greatly affected the silversmiths’ output, and before the close of the 17th century silversmiths found themselves making large matching services for their wealthy patrons. It was the beginning of table silver as we know it today.

In the 18th century silver more and more became the tangible evidence of wealth, and men a women carried their hard-earned and carefully hoarded coins to the silversmith to be made into usable objects. Theses pieces retained their intrinsic value while being used for celebrations, daily routines or mere display. It is from the American colonies that we get the term American Coin Silver. Although this phrase is commonly linked to simple pointed-end, round-end or fiddle-back spoons, early American silversmiths were, like their English and European counterparts, producing church silver, tankards, beakers, tea sets and tea caddies, trays and salvers, porringers, braziers, candlesticks, etc. The word coin as it pertains to these articles of American silver mainly defines the source of the raw material: Until the 19th century, coins provided the silver makers of nearly all countries with raw material when bullion was scarce, but since silver was not mined commercially in the United States until the 1850’s, coins were the American silversmith’s major resource.

At the beginning of the 19th century, silver services were comparatively simple. However, rising middle and merchant classes on both sides of the Atlantic, as well rich industrialists in the United States, created a great demand for silver objects. The urge to display affluence, along with impetus given by exhibitions in 1851 and 1862, led not only to more ornate styles but a wide range of new serving and individual pieces. This Victorian explosion of tableware seems to have begun simply enough, with the fashion for separate fish knives. Followed, of course by the addition of the fish fork. By the 1870’s, dinner consisted of from five to eighteen courses, and, as one etiquette book stated, the guest could expect “a bewildering array of glass goblets, wine and champagne glasses, numerous forks, knives and spoons.”

Silver manufacturers were soon trying to outdo one another, with one American maker offering 20 different types of individual place setting spoons, 12 different forks and ten different knives. In addition to individual dinner forks, medium forks, dessert forks, fish forks, oyster forks, lobster forks, terrapin forks, salad forks, berry forks, pie forks, fruit forks and ice cream forks, there were specialized forks for serving beef, sardines, bread, olives, asparagus, pickles, etc. The list of specialized forks, spoons, flat servers and knives is almost endless, and reflects, in part, the spiritual need of Victorians to demonstrate the superiority of Man over all other creatures.

Nineteenth-century silver manufacturers had placed great emphasis on industrialization and modern manufacturing techniques, but the early years of the 20th century saw a move to widen the gulf between artist and industrialist. The Arts & Crafts Movement, which saw its beginnings in Europe and spread quickly across the Atlantic, put emphasis on the individual craftsman. The movement saw the important role that craft can play in the “humanizing” of society. The workers in this tradition have aspired to lofty goals, taking the silversmith back to role of artisan. The period between the World Wars brought about great stylistic changes, with the introduction of “Modernism”, later termed the “Art Deco” style. As we begin the 21st century, these objects too are finding their place in museums and private collections.

Though we may lament that much old silver has been lost to the whims of fashion or the loss of fortune, we must also remember that the nineteenth century saw a taste for collecting antique silver: Pieces once melted and refashioned began to be collected for their aesthetic appeal. The same period saw a burgeoning spirit of inquiry and research, and as the 19th century gave way to the 20th, scholarly publications and exhibitions brought new information, and exciting pieces of silver, to light. Silver has a past, a present and a future, and, in many ways, it lives in all three.

Joseph P. Brady

Silver Historian, 2007

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Sterling Silver Goblets

A brief history of sterling silver goblet with links to over 50 different styles, pictured with desciptions.

The goblet is a descendant of the Standing Cup, an iconic symbol of royalty and an important piece on banquet tables in the 16th Century. Standing cups were typically 12 to 20 inches tall, and the wine in them was shared among the guests. In contrast, today’s sterling silver goblets range from 6½ to 8 inches in height; Each guest at the table has their own, filled with water. Although the styling and purpose of the goblet has changed since its inception, it remains a focal point on a perfectly set table.

Of bell shaped form and raised foot, goblets are as diverse in design as flatware, in fact some popular flatware patterns have matching goblets.

Examples Include:

  •  Chantilly by Gorham
  • Repousse by Kirk Steiff
  • Francis I by Reed & Barton
  • Rose Point by Wallace
  • Prelude by International

Given as a wedding present or to commemorate an event, a sterling silver goblet is a gift that is beautiful, useful and has with lasting value.

For in-depth instructions on cleaning and caring for goblets, please visit our website in the caring for section of www.beverlybremer.com.

Our current inventory of goblets is available online here.  If you already have some goblets and are looking to add to a set, please look on the bottom of the goblet, under the stem for the maker (it may written out or symbolized) and the style number.  You will need both to match your goblet.  If you are unsure of the maker, please comment here (or email us: sterlingsilver@beverlybremer.com) with a description of the mark!  We would be happy to help you!

History of Reed and Barton

A brief history of the origins of Reed & Barton Manufacturing Co.

 A History of Reed & Barton

Reed & Barton manufacturing company dates back to the founding of a jewelry shop in 1822 in Taunton, Massachusetts by Isaac Babbit. The shop later turned its focus to pewter in 1824, where Babbit worked on innovating his materials and developed Britanna Metal, a combination of tin, antimony and copper, making a material more lustrous and white than pewter. After Babbit gained popularity with his craftsmanship and quality, two designers, Henry Reed and Charles Barton, partnered with the business. The company began to experience hardship and Babbit sold the company and factory in 1834 to Reed & Barton.

Taking their knowledge of crafting and innovation, Reed & Barton produced “in the metal” flatware and holloware, meaning that raw unplated pieces were sold to plating factories. They maintained this practice until the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada in 1859, making silver widely available in raw form in the US.

With their knowledge of creating raw metal goods and recent fame, they soon created and cast the first Reed & Barton sterling pattern, Flora, circa 1890.

Sugar Shell in Flora by Reed & Barton
Sugar Shell in Flora by Reed & Barton

A focus towards more sterling patterns in holloware and flatware such as Francis I led them to great success as an American sterling producer.  For example, among the most popular patterns was a Francis I sterling silver 7-piece tea and coffee service and tray. Maker’s mark of Reed & Barton, Taunton, Massachusets: Comprising a tea kettle, teapot, coffeepot, cream jug, covered sugar bowl, waste bowl and tray; the tea service pieces with baluster form bodies, chased with fruit, blossoms, and foliage, with cornucopiae enclosing a vacant cartouche on either side, the shaped oval tray with bracket handles and conforming decoration.

7 Piece Francis I Tea & Coffee Set by Reed & Barton

In the 1996 Olympics, hosted by Atlanta, Reed & Barton was chosen as the designer and creator of all the medals for the awarded athletes.

Gold Medal Designed for 1996 Altanta Olympics
Gold Medal Designed for 1996 Atlanta Olympics

Currently, Reed & Barton is known as the oldest independently owned American producer of sterling flatware and holloware patterns. They have expanded into other divisions of tableware including stainless steel, crystal, china and even plastic ware; They are also the world’s largest producer of wooden chests. Despite changes in leadership and economy, living by the motto of high quality pieces and excellent customer service, Reed & Barton has been able to thrive for more than 185 years.

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What is the history of the silver butter dish and how is it used?

An brief insight into the development of the sterling silver butter dish, answering the origin of how circular butter dishes came to be.

Butter in America

Cost and perishability combined, gave butter luxury status on the 19th Century table. In rural areas of the United States, women commonly made butter at home for their family’s consumption and for sale to the city’s grocers. This practice continued long after the advent of factory produced butter in the 1860’s.

In Early 20th Century, the standard for farm and factory production of butter was molding into one pound circular cakes, which measured roughly four inches in diameter. Butter dishes were usually designed to conform to the round shape and featured an ice chamber with a pierced liner, which served to keep the butter above melting ice (figure 1).

Butter Dish Liner (figure1)
Butter Dish Liner (figure1)
The use of a specialized butter knife (figure 2) helped to prevent individuals from plunging their own used knives into the main butter source. Shaping butter cylinders into curls, lead to the introduction of the butter pick (figure 3). Butter picks were specially made to retrieve one curl at a time, without breaking or dropping the delicate serving. This practice can still be found on tables in restaurants and homes, bringing a touch of exquisiteness to any meal.
Master Butter Knife (figure 2)
Master Butter Knife (figure 2)

Butter Pick (figure 3)
Butter Pick (figure 3)

Butter has always been apart of the dining experience. Today, using any knife, we use a foil wrapped piece of butter to season our accompanying side dishes. The butter dish is a piece of art that is a marvelous collectors item, guaranteeing hundreds of years of elegant use with a table setting.

Reference:  Joseph P. Brady (Silver Historian)

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A History of the Epergne

There in the center of the dining room table, framed by two Corinthian column candlesticks with leaf-clad bypass branches, was a Georgian epergne.  Its shell feet and foliate scroll legs rose to support a wide open skirt of garland swags.  Eight scrolling arms held, alternately, hanging baskets and circular plates, and a saw-pierced column supported a boat-shaped center basket.  The large center basket and the smaller hanging ones overflowed with beautifully-arranged flowers, while the plates displayed arrangements of small fruits and berries (the tiny toothpicks holding the fruit and berries in place made it quite obvious that they were not intended to be served that evening.)  The epergne provides a great theater for the silversmith’s craft, but were my host and hostess aware of its original use?  Of course they were.  They were both serious collectors of Georgian and Early American silver.

By the eighteenth century entertaining had developed into a grand art, and the English epergne can claim a strong link to seventeenth century France and the great changes in manners which began with the French Court.  This revolution greatly affected the silversmith’s output, and led to many of the articles common to the twenty-first century table.  For example, foods that had previously been eaten from a common bowl with either fingers or bread came to be eaten with spoons and forks from individual plates, and by the late 1600’s there existed different plates for different foods.  Further, individual chairs replaced benches at the table.  Before the close of the century silversmiths found themselves making large matching services for their aristocratic patrons.  A new emphasis on decorating the table led to the development of the centerpiece.

The earliest ancestor of the epergne was the surtout, a center tray holding casters, salts, oil bottles, etc., made in silver, silver-gilt, gilt bronze, ceramic, and combinations thereof.  A closer relative, introduced a bit later but which coexisted with the surtout, was the fruitier, and it usually replaced the surtout toward the end of the meal.  The fruitier was a tiered centerpiece with bowls for sweetmeats, which sometimes held sugar casters.

The word epergne is taken from the French epargne, meaning economy, and originally bore the more anglicized spelling aparn.  The English epergne economizes in two ways.  First, in the saving of precious space:  The prevailing custom of service at the time required that much of the food be put on the table at once.  Guests entering the dining room found the food in place, usually in covered entrée dishes (the dishes sometimes made with a hot water chamber), one or two kinds of fish, and one or two soup tureens.  Further, around 1760 it became fashionable for the host to carve the bird or joint of meat at the table.  The second way in which the epergne economized is that it made for the thrifty use of rare nuts, fruits, condiments, and other luxuries from the tropics or the East.  Guests would serve themselves from the epergne, and delicacies that were not eaten were left on the centerpiece, rather than being wasted when the plates were cleared.

Records show that the epergne first appeared on the English table around the 1720’s, but there are no extant examples from that period.  An inventory of Whitehall, circa 1725, mentions an “aparn containing one table basket and cover, one foote [sic.], four salt boxes, four small salts, four branches, six casters, four sauce boats.”  The earliest epergnes were large and elaborate, with a wide center column, often with heavy cast feet decorated with masks, supporting detachable arms with flat plates, hanging baskets and candle sockets.  Examples in the rococo style were still great in overall size, but light in look, with more pierced decoration.  The last quarter of the eighteenth century saw epergnes in the neoclassical taste, and examples with silver frames and glass bowls appeared around 1770.

There are references to silver epergnes in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Virginia. For example, the inventory of the estate of General Thomas Nelson of Yorktown lists a “Silver Epergne weighing 92:19,” and Richard Corbin of Laneville purchased from the London jeweler and goldsmith Richard Davis “an Elegant Epergne wh Branches and Large Bason [sic.] at Top.  Thomas Jefferson gave a glass epergne to Martha Burke Jones when, in 1809, she married John Wayles Eppes.

Epergne in the rococo taste, sterling silver, Maker’s mark of Emick Romer, London, circa 1763
Epergne in the rococo taste, sterling silver, Maker’s mark of Emick Romer, London, circa 1763

During the Georgian period many foreign artists and silversmiths emigrated to England, and these foreign-born “English” silversmiths left their mark on the history of the epergne.  One such example is Emick Romer, who was born in Halden, Norway.  He was apprenticed in his native country in 1749, and emigrated to London in the 1750’s.  He appears to have entered his first mark in Goldsmiths Hall circa 1758.  

 

Epergne in the neoclassical taste, sterling silver, maker’s mark of Thomas Pitts, London, circa 1789
Epergne in the neoclassical taste, sterling silver, maker’s mark of Thomas Pitts, London, circa 1789

A talented English-born silversmith known for his fine epergnes is Thomas Pitts.  Pitts was apprenticed to Charles Hatfield on December 6, 1737 and turned over to David Willaume II, son of a prominent French immigrant silversmith, in February of 1742.  His freedom is recorded in 1744, although he does not appear to have registered his first mark as an independent worker until 1758. 

 

Epergne, sterling silver and glass, in the neoclassical taste, maker’s mark of Matthew Boulton, Birmingham, circa 1808
Epergne, sterling silver and glass, in the neoclassical taste, maker’s mark of Matthew Boulton, Birmingham, circa 1808

Matthew Boulton’s Birmingham, England, factory, the Soho Works, produced epergnes in both sterling silver and old Sheffield plate.  These pieces usually combine silver or silverplate with glass, and are in the later, more architectural version of the neoclassical style.

 

The Victorian period saw the epergne relieved of its grand position of server.  The “new” style of serving, service a la russe, saw each course brought in separately, leaving more room for the display of flowers.  The late nineteenth and early 20th centuries saw a brief and limited revival of epergnes in the rococo and neoclassical styles, with some very good American examples made by the Gorham Company.  Still, these were intended for use as decorative objects, not for serving. 

Though a lot of epergnes must be viewed today behind the glass of museum showcases, there are, fortunately, many in private hands that are still brought out for special occasions.  I would love to take nutmeg offered by the outstretched arm of an epergne, or be served my dessert from its center basket the way our ancestors might have been, but I’ll settle for enjoying the beauty of the object and the lovely flowers arranged in it.

 

Joseph P. Brady

Silver Historian, 2009

 

References:

 

Bayne-Powell, Rosamond, Housekeeping in the Eighteenth Century, John Murray, London, 1956

 

Blair, Claude, editor, The History of Silver, Macdonald & Co., London & Sydney, 1987

 

Brady, Joseph P., “The Epergne,” Silver Magazine, November/December issue, 1997

 

Davis, John D., English Silver at Williamsburg, the University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1976

 

Flanders, Judith, Inside the Victorian Home, W. W. Norton & Co., New York & London, 2006

 

Grimwade, Arthur G., London Goldsmiths 1697 – 1837, Their marks & Their Lives, third edition, Redwood Press, Ltd., 1990

 

Hughes, Bernard & Therle, Three Centuries of English Domestic Silver, Frederick A. Praeger, New York & Washington,  1952

 

Stein, Susan R., The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, Harry N. Abrams, Publishers, New York, in association with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1993

 

Wyler, Seymour B., The Book of Old Silver, Crown Publishers, New York, 1965