“But can’t we choose what silver to put on our table?” Lady Mary asks Barrow the head butler when faced with the Crawley’s vast array of silverware at ahead of the royal visit in the film of Downton Abbey. Not to give too much away, Barrow suggests that the King and Queen’s staff will make the decision and only then will the pieces be given a “final polish”.
For those who haven’t inherited the family silver and are not faced with the dazzling choice of the Lord Grantham’s collection, most start off with a canteen of cutlery made up of forks, knives and spoons for six to eight people. Whether you choose silver plate (a silver coating on metal) or the more costly sterling silver (at least 92.5 per cent silver) once invested you – or your staff – will need to take care of it.
Lady Carnarvon the current chatelaine of Highclere Castle where Downton is filmed says it takes over an hour for three people to set the table for 14 guests – and of course silverware must be washed by hand, never put in the dishwasher, and then polished. Here’s our pick of the best silver brands.
This English brand has been making silver plate cutlery and tableware for over 100 years. Founder Arthur Price designed the cutlery for Titanic’s first class dining room. Consequently the company was approached to remake the collection for the blockbuster James Cameron film. The range, spanning tea spoons to a 124 piece canteen, is now available to buy. Arthur Price cutlery is currently used by both Queen Elizabeth 2nd and Prince Charles’ households. The brand’s extensive tableware includes place mats, grape scissors, condiment sets and candleholders. And collaborations with designers Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Sophie Conran offer a more contemporary take on flatware.
All Carrs Silver products are made in Sheffield, the British city renowned for cutlery making. In fact Clare Smyth, the chef who catered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding reception, commissioned Carrs to create the flatware for her London restaurant. The brand’s most popular cutlery collections are Coburg a richly decorated style and the plainer more contemporary Old English. Cutlery can be personalised with crests, monograms and gold embellishment.
Their sterling silver decanters and wine bottle coasters are also hugely popular. Carrs will launch three new flatware styles at their Harrods concession this summer.
Parisian silversmith Christofle was founded in 1830 and by 1851 had created a table centrepiece for Napolean 3rd. The house has a large selection of cutlery patterns as well as table accessories such as caviar sets, salt and pepper shakers and gravy boats. Christofle uses traditional French silver craftsmanship in surprisingly contemporary and innovative designs. For example, Mood is a strikingly modern take on the traditional canteen of cutlery comprising a silver plated set of flatware housed in an egg shaped silver container. Karl Lagerfeld’s limited edition version of Mood is an Art Deco inspired black “egg” decorated with a graphic design and stamped with Lagerfeld’s silhouette. Only 1,500 have been created.
The late Danish designer Georg Jensen is seen as one of the world’s greatest silversmiths, inspiring subsequent generations of artisans. Founded in 1904, his eponymous company holds a Danish royal warrant. The designer’s most popular tableware piece is the Grape Bowl costing between £4,000 and £15,000 depending on size. This iconic item was designed by Georg Jensen himself and made his name as a silversmith. Art Nouveau, inspired by the curved lines of nature, was a major influence for Jensen. As such the brand’s best selling flatware is the Art Nouveau style Blossom. The sterling silver range spans salt spoons to soup serving ladles. Each year the brand re-introduces a piece from the archives. This year they’ve launched the Tureen 270 which was originally created as a one off 100 years ago.
Tiffany & Co
Tiffany & Co set new standards for silver craftsmanship in the US. In the 1860s Tiffany introduced an “American style” that was more simple than the ornate Victorian designs popular in Europe at the time. Today the brand boasts an extensive selection of sterling silver tableware and flatware. Five piece cutlery sets are available in a vast array of styles. Individual cutlery pieces and corresponding utensils including cheese knives, cake slicers and serving utensils can also be purchased to top up your collection. In addition there’s the Elsa Peretti designed Padova, a modernist collection of flatware.