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Victorian Silverplate Fish Serving Set

Victorian Silverplate Fish Serving Set

$195.00

Specific cutlery for serving and eating fish evolved in the early 19th century in England. In 1838, a book of etiquette noted that "in first rate society, silver knives are now beginning to be used for fish: a very pleasing, as well as decided step in the progress of refinement." People of means no longer used steel knives and forks, as the steel was said to react with the acids in the fish sauces and taint the flavor of the food. Fish knives and forks were commonly called "Fish Eaters", while the serving implements were aptly called "Fish Servers".

From the silver markets of England, we are thrilled to present this pair of Antique Silverplate Fish Servers produced by the long-shuttered Albert J. Beardshaw & Co silversmiths of Sheffield. In their original presentation box, the serving knife and fork are in the timeless Albany pattern that shares its elegance across the centuries. The gleaming silverplate is lavishly hand-engraved with a lush variety of ferns on the knife blade and a single leafy branch on the fork.  (A beloved aesthetic during the Victorian era, to learn more about "Fern madness", see below!)

Rare and refined, this beautiful serving set will be like jewelry on your table adding rich sparkle and historic elegance.


Strictly one-of-a-kind and subject to prior sale. The servers are both in excellent antique condition. The presentation box is in good condition, but is missing one of its clasps as shown in the alternate images. Box measures 14.5" in length x 5.25". Fish Knife Measures 12.5" in length x 2.25". Fish Serving Fork measures 8.75" in length x 2".

Learn More About Pteridomania

A great Victorian craze, pteridomania (pterido being Latin for ferns) was the huge love affair for ferns and all things fern-like in Britain between 1840s and 1890s. The term ‘pteridomania’ was coined in 1855 by Charles Kingsley, author of ‘The Water Babies’, in his book ‘Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore’.

The Victorian era was the heyday of the amateur naturalist. Pteridomania is generally considered a British eccentricity, but while it lasted, fern madness invaded all aspects of Victorian life. Ferns and fern motifs appeared everywhere; in homes, gardens, art and literature. Their images adorned rugs, tea sets, chamber pots, garden benches – even custard cream biscuits.

Originally marketed in the 1830s as plants that appealed only to intelligent people, ferns soon became a nationwide phenomenon.To collect ferns – the more exotic the better – you needed a fernery. This was often a glasshouse where the ferns could be cultivated and displayed.

If you couldn’t afford a fernery and wanted to collect ferns, then a fern album full of dried specimens was the way to go. Many fashionable homes boasted a Wardian case (a glass case similar to a terrarium) to display a collection of ferns.

A host of books appeared to help identify the most desirable native ferns and fern hunting parties became popular social occasions. The appeal may also have had something to do with the fact that these parties afforded romantic opportunities for young couples to meet in an informal setting!

The craze lasted for some 50 years before waning, when many ferneries were allowed to fall into disuse and disrepair. There appears to be no particular reason for this: it did however coincide with the death of Queen Victoria and the early 1900s, so perhaps ferns simply became unfashionable: "so last century, my dear".

*Fern history courtesy of historic-uk.com.

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