Silver and Stones: New Use for Heirloom Silver

In the process of moving and de-accessioning a lot of my china, glass and silver heirlooms (Dec-accessioning sounds so much better than “getting rid of”), I rediscovered one of my favorite silver pieces. It will stay in my new home, because I found a new/double life for it.

Some Silver Heirlooms Are Not Favorites

I am amused at the way that Victorians had a piece of china, crystal and silver for every purpose you could think of. There was the dessert fork, the pickle fork, the olive fork, the fish fork. And besides the dinner plate, salad plate and dessert plate, there was a bone dish to delicately dispose of the bones from your chicken or fish. When it came to service pieces, you could get a glass and silver plate pickle castor, complete with tongs to grab a pickle. Note that the end of the tong is a little hand.  I don’t know whether this is clever or creepy.

Pickle Caster

Pickle caster–Hattie Stout. Late 19th century.

This pickle caster belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout. She gave it to Jenny McDowell King who gave it to her daughter Alice King who gave it to Vera Stout Anderson who gave it to my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser. (Alice King was a cousin of Vera Anderson’s husband Guy–not a blood relative of Hattie Stout, but apparently close to the family.)

Some Silver Heirlooms Become Favorites

But I digress.  The piece I want to show you today is a spoon holder.  And since it is too small, at 7 1/2″ at the very tip of the longest point, to comfortably hold regular teaspoons, I have to assume that it held demitasse or coffee spoons for fancy tea parties.  This silver dish belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout, passed down to my grandmother and then my mother. Unlike the pickle caster above, I have kept this one polished.

Hattie Stout’s silver spoon holder.

In the next photo, the maker’s mark shows lightly.  Even with a magnifying glass, I had trouble seeing the entire name of the maker, but could make out Van B—- Silver Plate Co., Quadruple Plate, Rochester New York, 350.

Silver Spoon Holder Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark on bottom of spoon holder

Dectective Work on the Silver Heirloom

A little internet detective work quickly revealed that the company name is Van Bergh Silver Plate Co.  They apparently used quadruple plate on many of their creations–making them more lasting than those with only one coat of silver plate.  The “350” is the catalog number for this particular design.  I could not find any matching pieces on line.

A site that helps people find missing pieces of silver or china is particularly helpful in getting information on companies–particularly those that have gone out of business or sold to another company.  Checking Replacements Ltd,, I quickly found the Van Bergh company and saw many of their beautiful creations.  From various other sources, I learned that Van Bergh Silverplate  Company of Rochester, NY was founded by brothers Frederick W. and Maurice H. Van Bergh in 1892. They incorporated as Van Bergh Silver Plate Company Inc. in 1925, and merged with Oneida Community Ltd. in 1926.

That means Great-Grandma’s silver piece was made some time during a 34-year period.  Since the number of the pattern is small (I saw numbers in the 8000 range), I assume that this was an earlier piece, which makes sense in that she was married in 1872, and her husband died in 1910.  Their greatest period of acquisition would have been between 1880 and 1900, when Doc” Stout had a successful medical practice. So I think a good guess is that this piece was manufactured in the 1890s.

From Ohio to the Tasmanian Sea

I have repurposed the spoon holder. (My guests would probably look at me strangely if I presented spoons for coffee in a fancy dish like this.)

The picture below shows Great-Grandmother’s spoon holder with rocks collected on the shore of the Tasmanian sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. So it becomes a reminder of my family past and my travels.  This little silver dish has come a long way in time and holds a collection that came a long way in distance.


Hattie Stout Silver Spoon Holder with stones from Tasmanian Sea

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell,  started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join her in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who also blog about heirlooms.

Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself  
Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog

Are you a blogger who writes about heirlooms (even once in a while)?  Let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your blog to this list.

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8 thoughts on “Silver and Stones: New Use for Heirloom Silver

  1. Bro

    Yes, that beautiful silver spoon holder seems the perfect place to keep stolen goods. It has been estimated that at the present rate of tourists’ pilfering, New Zealand will have no rocks left by 2022. Sad. Perhaps you should repatriate a few? Just sayin’.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I was forced to “approve” the above comment so that it would show up, which does not indicate that I actually “approve” the sentiment. That’s my brother, and he’s just grouchy because he doesn’t have the silver spoon holder. 🙂

  2. Julie wade

    Hello Vera,

    Thank you for this post! So informative.

    I was researching this exact piece I inherited from my mother. She passed away April 25th, 2023 at 94 1/2 years old. She was born in Iowa, but married and moved to San Diego, Ca in 1950. She loved antiques – dishes, silverplate, dressers, etc. and her house was filled with them, many of which she brought to California from her family farm in Iowa. She used this piece as a pen and pencil holder. It sat on a small antique desk in the kitchen since I can remember. She lived in her house for 63 years – we moved in when I was 7.

    While clearing out the house this past month I picked this piece up and brought it home not knowing its exact history or what it really was. I had no idea it was a Victorian spoon holder. I was very excited to see the exact picture in your blog. I knew it was an old item, but had no idea it was from the 1890s. I cherish it because my mother used it every day. Although I am not certain which relative first owned it, most likely it was her grandmother Dorenkamp’s, so my great grandmother.

    I hope this blog is still active and you receive this reply as I wanted to thank you for writing up your research and sharing it. Thank you!


    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      How great that uou have this beautiful piece!
      yes, although I have not put up new entries for a long time, I am still.answering the mail.and following up on research ckues that come my way. Thanks for inquiring! ((Perhaps I should put up a short post explaining.)

      1. Julie

        Hello Vera,

        Sorry I never acknowledged your response. I am glad you got my post as I did really enjoy reading and learning about the spoon holder.



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