Past and present: history of the fork + collecting & care

di amy azzarito

juliarothmanfork
illustration of various forks types by Julia Rothman
For my second, past and present column, I thought we would take a look at the fork. I’ve included a few tips on simple collecting and care of silver as well as a little “fork etiquette section” (and there’s even a little bonus section at the very bottom!) In addition, I’ve pulled out a few “facts to know” that will give you something to talk about the next time you’re stuck for conversation at a dinner party!

It might surprise you to know that the tool you use to eat with every day was once considered immoral, unhygienic and reminiscent of the devil! Before the introduction of the fork, most people preferred to eat with their hands. There would be a ewer and basin at the table for cleaning hands, and the table napkins and tablecloths were frequently changed during the course of the meal. If an utensil was necessary, a spoon was used and the nobility might eat their meal using two knives, one in each hand.

vandafork32
from the V&A museum. from top: ivory handle with silver piqué work and red and green painted enamel, 1698; handle of horn and mother-of-pearl with engraved brass, 1600-1700; handle of ivory and piqué work, 1682.

One thought on “Past and present: history of the fork + collecting & care

  1. I have this fork with the Medici emblem on it, I believe it is brass. My grandfather found it buried in the sand on Padre Island, Texas, USA, in 1950. I am trying to find if it is valuable, historically or monetarily. Thank you for any help you can give me. Andrea

    I cant get the picture to load here, could you email me where I can sent the pictures in an email. Thanks

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