Relevant categories: Silver Plate
Epergnes first emerged in the early 1700s in Europe. They are table centerpieces mainly made of silver. The earliest style of epergnes featured a large elevated bowl or dominant column in the center. Then there were arms or stylized branched which emerged from the center column and designed to hold smaller bowls or dishes at the ends. At the dinner table, guests would reach out to these dishes for treats or sweets. Alternatively, the dishes held flowers for decorating a sideboard or dinner table. In some cases, the Victorian silver plate epergne held candles in the dishes when need be. Later on, epergnes were largely glass or silver and glass.
What’s The Origin of the Victorian Epergne?
Although the epergne originated in France, it was in Victorian England where they evolved to become the pieces of art so beloved today. The Victorian epergne was created anywhere between 1937 and 1901. At this time, the glassmakers took up the epergne making craft from the silversmiths. Thus you could buy a Victorian silver plate epergne for far less than the preceding silver counterparts. Apart from the wealthy, even the middle class could afford to have an epergne or two in their home.
It was during the Victorian age that the epergne came to be referred to as ‘a housemaid’s nightmare’. That’s due to their delicate nature, which required delicate handling when dusting or moving around the home.
At that time, the Victorian dinner table was an elaborate affair, full of deserts, fine foods, and wines. And so the table had to be set in such a way that the guests were impressed. Thus the hosts would bring out the finest silverware, china, and linen. To set a small table, a Victorian epergne would be placed at its center. For large tables, several epergnes would be placed strategically along the table.
As the Victorian period was coming to an end, epergne manufacturing reached North America, thanks to the Gorham Company. Its Victorian silver plate epergne were elaborate affairs made purely of silver.
How to Find a Good Antique Victorian Epergne
In most cases, glass epergnes were made with a raised central column or flute which is then surrounded by other shorter flutes. The fancier varieties have glass stems for holding smaller baskets. The sweetmeats, bonbons, and flowers went into these small bowls. Later on, the Victorian epergne was made with class columns with a characteristic lily shape. Of course, Art Nouveau decorators favored the lily shape over anything else.
So How Do You Tell A Genuine Antique Victorian Epergne?
The Victorian-style epergnes extended their influence way after the end of the period after which they are named. From 1905, the Fenton Art Glass Company of Ohio began using iridescent glass to make epergnes. Earlier epergnes have the glass infused with uranium and other additives to create what was called the Vaseline look. It is possible to tell if you have a genuine Victorian epergne simply by shining light on the glass. If it becomes fluorescent, then you will know that you are dealing with a priceless piece of art.
Many of these Victorian silver plate epergnes are on display in the Canonbury Antiques Hertfordshire showroom so please get in touch if you'd like to view them. We are conveniently located in the Herts countryside just 20 minutes north of London and can ship to anywhere in the world.
Please enjoy some videos of our range of silver plate centrepieces from the Canonbury Antiques YouTube channel:
Pair Silver Plate Centrepiece ...
Silver Plate Centerpiece Displ...
Silver Plate Epergne Centerpie...
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