10 Bizarre Types of Antique Flatware You Never Knew Existed

Antique Flatware
Photo: Getty Images/Can Cicek

When it comes to hosting, you could say Southerners are well seasoned. We can set a table, prep a menu, and fold a napkin just as well as anyone. But even with all the stops we pull out, we'd still be outdone by the well-to-do hosts of the 19th century. Suppertime during the Victorian era—which one might call the heyday of formal dining—was a full-on production, with more courses and more tabletop accoutrement than you might expect at a royal feast. Excess? Perhaps. Or, by serving up place settings with spoons, knives, and forks for every ingredient under the sun, did the Victorians have it right? We dug up some of the more obscure pieces of flatware and cutlery commonly used at old-school dinner tables so you can decide for yourself.

01 of 10

Grape Shears

Antique Flatware Grape Shears
Courtesy of Etsy

We all most likely keep a pair of multipurpose scissors in the kitchen, but keeping a designated pair on hand for—of all things—grapes? At upper-class 19th century dining tables, that was exactly the case. At the time, a bowl of grapes was a common shareable dish, but to pull the fruit directly from the stem with your hands was considered unmannerly. Thus, ornate silver shears worthy of displaying at formal affairs were invented specifically as a means of cutting the fruit directly from the stem. While the practice continued into the early 20th century, today, grape scissors are merely collectibles, retailing anywhere from $30 to several hundred dollars.

02 of 10

Saratoga Chips Server

Antique Flatware Saratoga Chips Server
Courtesy of Etsy

While they might be a no-frills staple at every backyard barbecue and tailgate party today, potato chips were a new and exciting invention in the 19th century. According to one legend, the salty, deep-fried crisps were invented at a restaurant frequented by well-to-dos in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the 1850s. Soon, diners started dishing them up at their own tables accompanied by fancy silver servers manufactured by the likes of Tiffany & Co. Today, these rare pieces can retail for several thousand dollars.

03 of 10

Cake Breaker

Antique Flatware Cake Breaker
Courtesy of Etsy

Why buy something to do the job a simple knife can do? According to inventor C.J. Schneider, who patented the food breaker in the 1930s, his tined cutter results in more even, crumb-free portions, particularly with cloud-like confections such as angel food cake. (Now this is something we can get behind.) The breaker caught on through the midcentury, and was even sold by major brands like Hostess.

04 of 10

Asparagus Tongs

Antique Flatware Asparagus Tongs
Courtesy of Etsy

While tongs for serving asparagus isn't such an outlandish idea, keeping tongs specifically for serving asparagus is classic Victorian. While not all asparagus servers came in tong-form, they were a popular option, with some made slimmer and more delicate for cradling a single stalk and others more robust for grabbing a bundle.

05 of 10

Bread Fork

Antique Flatware Bread Fork
Courtesy of Etsy

There's no better solution for keeping soiled hands out of the bread basket than offering a utensil as mesmerizing as this. These over-the-top three-pronged bread servers, often adorned with ornate decoration and resembling a trident, were used for piercing slices to transport from basket (or fine serving dish) to plate. As you'd expect, the more show-stopping the design, the higher the price tag.

06 of 10

Bon Bon Scoop

Antique Flatware Bon Bon Scoop
Courtesy of Etsy

While being able to sit on the couch scarfing peanut butter cups is a privilege we may take for granted today, in the 1800s, the chocolate industry was still in its infancy. In the latter part of the century, "bon bons," as the French called the delectable truffles, were commonly given as gifts or served at formal dinners. Naturally, chocolates had their own distinct set of silvers, including special serving baskets and spoons to keep the melty goodness from dirtying one's fingers.

07 of 10

Mustard Ladle

Antique Flatware Mustard Ladle
Courtesy of Etsy

It was in the 1860s when a duo from Dijon, France, by the names of Grey and Poupon first whipped up their recipe for an elevated version of mustard. Suddenly, the centuries-old condiment churned out from its namesake seed was an accompaniment worthy of dishing out in style. Around the same time, mustard ladles started popping up on Victorian tables and, despite their moniker, they were often used for serving other fine condiments as well.

08 of 10

Lemon Fork

Antique Flatware Lemon Fork
Courtesy of Etsy

At the Victorian table, you can expect a special serving utensil for every dish—and that includes the lemon slices that accompany teatime. These miniature forks had a distinctive design, with the outer tines splayed out in a curve. We couldn't tell you why, but it sure makes for an interesting tabletop accessory.

09 of 10

Ice Cream Slicer

Antique Flatware Ice Cream Slicer
Courtesy of Etsy

Before the scoop became the preferred server of choice for creamy frozen desserts, the slicer reigned supreme. In the mid-19th century, advances in technology suddenly made ice cream a luxury available to the masses, and the silver industry quickly responded. At the time, the slicer was especially poised to cater to the era's popular ice cream-based desserts, such as Neapolitan and Baked Alaska.

10 of 10

Folding Fruit Knife

Antique Flatware Fruit Knife
Courtesy of Etsy

If you're an outdoorsman or an angler, pocket knives might be useful to have on hand for a myriad of reasons. If you're a high-society gentleman of the Victorian era, a pocket knife is a necessity for no other purpose than skewering the occasional wild apple. During this time, folding fruit knives were a sort of fashion accessory, with shiny silver blades and intricately decorated handles commonly crafted of Mother of Pearl. Because of their ornate appearance, the tiny knives were often given as gifts.

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