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Silver Plate Epergne Centrepiece - A Guide

Victorian silver plate centrepiece with gilt swans
(Above - these look great with the intricate gilded swans)

At Canonbury Antiques we carry a range of silver plate epergnes or centerpieces. These ornate and florid works of art are designed to go in the centre of a dining table as part of the dining arrangement and to serve condiments, sauces, exotic nuts, small food items or perhaps in a purely decorative function to showcase a floral arrangement. They will certainly add a certain oomph to any dinner party - and also look great at other times just as decorative pieces.

Matthew Boulton silver plate epergne

(Above - elaborate central column with different sized cut glass crystal bowls and dishes)

The word epergne is French in origin and means economy as these are great space saving devices when used as part of a dinner service. They can be traced back to the 1700s and the evolution of dining culture in both England and on the continent, particularly France. 

 

Many of these epergnes are very elaborate with a  mixture of cut glass dishes and bowls resting on the silver-plate arms and branches. Frequently there is a central bowl that might be used for water, at other times the centerpiece maybe an Corinthian column style candelabra.  In the 1700s as English silver smith's really started to master their art, the epergne could turn out to be a showcase for their skill and ability. Elegant rococo flourishes to the intricate branches, replete with foliate decoration and shell motifs, all the work of highly skilled artisans. You really come to admire the time and work that have gone into these. The epergnes are quite easy to dismantle as each branch will be numbered so it can slot into the corresponding numbered hole on the centerpiece. An extra nice touch are the mirrored trays that these will come on - so you can admire them from every angle in the reflection in the glass. 

Sheffield silver plate epergne
(Above - note the mirrored tray so you can enjoy views of this epergne from all angles)

Working out of Sheffield - a city in the North of England - famous for steel on an industrial level and silver plate on a smaller scale, is where many of the silver plate techniques were first developed and mastered. The Elkington technique of electroplating surfaces also developed in England, specifically out of Birmingham in the Midlands.  George Richards Elkington worked in the science of electrometallurgy and took out various patents of his system of finishing objects in silver plate. Of course with aristocratic patrons this soon took off resulting in the plethora of designs and styles made.

Epergne with Elkington silver plate

(Above - chips and salsa night suddenly got more upmarket)

Famous silver smiths working out of England in the 1800s include Matthew Boulton (working in a largely neoclassical style) and Thomas Pitt who was based in London. We have a range of silver plate epergnes so hopefully you can find one to suit your needs and tastes. Nothing beats a serving lovely sauces from these works of art during a high end dinner party and they really add some style to the occasion. 

Please check out our video below showing how these look in their element - on a large walnut Victorian dining table all we need are some guests and fine wine:

JUL
02
2015
 
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