The term silver holloware is used to define all items that are made by creating a hollow form; hollow vessels, such as bowls and teapots. It is a broad and general classification of silver, encompassing items made for tableware, and personal care. Silver is one of the most favoured of all precious metals. It is actually lighter than gold, which makes it more suitable for making silver holloware.
The craft of silversmithing goes back to ancient history but the true art began in England as far back as 1300 B.C. Silversmithing became an art and craft in England where customs, regulations and laws were introduced for the use of silver. The English influenced all other silver producers throughout the world.
The true beginnings of silver for the use of holloware began when King John asked a band of German immigrants to refine silver for coinage purpose. This group called themselves the Easterlings, based on their home location. In 1343 the "Ea" was dropped and the application of the word "sterling" was used for silver. The content of the silver alloy in sterling silver was 92.5 and still is today.
First Silver Holloware
The first silver holloware was made for the Church of England. The wealthy Abbeys could afford the cost of the precious metal. Only the most skilled craftsmen were hired to make the magnificent chalices.
By 1423, Henry VI fixed the price of silver to a definite valuation. This set forth the necessity to stamp silver items with a mark. The commerce with foreign countries brought more raw silver into England. Monarchs wanted to flaunt their power and wealth so they hired craftsmen of the religious fraternities to make holloware pieces for their table.
13th and 14th Centuries
Silver holloware had become general uses items in the home of royalty. There were no restrictions placed on how many items of silver holloware were made for the table. The most popular silver holloware at this time were basins, ewers, ceremonial salts, chargers and drinking cups. Drinking cups were made in all varieties because each man had his own personal cup.
Foreign influence brought silversmiths from Italy, France and Germany to become fully accepted in the craft. All the silver holloware made to this point had been made from silver coins. To prevent a scarcity of coins, the Act of 1696 fixed the standard of all silver holloware to be above that of silver coins. This increased the silver alloy content to 95.8. This new silver was called Britannia. But in 1719 the old standard of 92.5 was revived. Holloware at 95.8 was less sturdy and less durable. The higher standard did not accomplish its purpose.
The Boom of Silver Holloware
The Victorian Era brought with it a fully supplied table setting of silver holloware. Condiment sets, mustard pots, casters, muffineers, cruet sets, epergnes, soup tureens, chargers and sauce boats all graced a table with splendour.
Common to a Victorian home bathroom were silver boxes, perfume flasks, hand mirror with brush and other toilet accessories. Silver holloware could be found in nearly every room of a wealthy Victorian home.