For years, godparents and other relatives have given silver spoons as christening presents, hence the phrase “born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth”, suggesting a child will never be without money.
This tradition has its roots in an even older custom. Made in London from the mid-15th to mid-17th century, spoons cast with one of the 12 apostles were often given as christening presents. These apostle figures were identifiable by the symbolic object they carried – St. Peter held a fish or a key, St. Andrew carried a cross and St. John had a Chalice. The typically faceted handles and fig-shaped bowls were generally made from one piece of silver. The figure was attached to the Finial with a ‘V’ joint by London makers, while a lap joint was used in other regions.
Spoons are an extremely popular collecting area in general, partially because a comparatively large number of old examples have survived. Of all antique spoons, apostle spoons are particularly desirable, having attracted the interest of collectors since the 18th century. They have remained popular and thus valuable. An example made in 1615 by John Saunders of London could be worth around £5,000-6,000 ($8,000-10,000) while a slightly later spoon by John Pomroye of Exeter, dating from the 1660s, might cost £1,000-2,000 ($1,500-3,000).
Many apostle spoons sell for around £1,000-1,500 ($,1500-2,500). Early examples are rare and there are only two complete sets featuring the 12 apostles and Jesus known to exist today. The relatively high value has lead to a number of fakes appearing on the market – usually made up from an antique spoon and a reproduction figure.
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'Apostle Spoons: Their Evolution from earlier types and the emblems used by the silversmiths for the Apostles.', by Charles G. Rupert, Oxford University Press, 1929. Out of print, limited copies available via www.abebooks.com
Images courtesy of Woolley & Wallis.