Gorham Partial Gilt Sterling Silver Narragansett
Pattern Serving Spoon
The handle realistically cast with shells, fish, crab and seaweed, with an oyster shell-form bowl. Length 9 1/2 inches, approximately 4 ounces.
A similar serving spoon is illustrated The Magazine Antiques, Masterpieces of Naturalism: Gorham's Narragansett Flatware, September 2002.
The late 19th century saw the creation of some of the most inspired and collectible American silver ever produced. The great silversmithing firms like Tiffany & Co., Gorham and Whiting hired the most creative craftsmen of the day and competed to bring the most novel and exciting silver creations to their clients' tables.
In 1884 Gorham set a high bar with the introduction of Narragansett - perhaps their most stunning silver flatware pattern. Named after the bay in Gorham's home state of Rhode Island, Narragansett pattern flatware looks as if it has just been dragged from the nets of local fishermen. The pattern is a riot of shells, barnacles, seaweed, starfish and all types of sea creatures. I dare say American dinner tables had ever seen anything quite like it. It would have completely astonished guests who were much more used to traditional silver patterns.
The flatware is decorated in the round so that the back is as visually stunning as the front. The bowls of spoons take on the completely naturalistic forms of actual seashells, a departure from the stylized sea shell forms so typical of historical silver. It was Gorham's talented designers who recreated the humble clam and oyster shell in sterling silver and made it fashionable for the dining tables of American society.
The Gorham price book of the period lists Narragansett pattern flatware at a premium of up to 100% of other more common flatware. Because of the great expense incurred in producing the pattern, few pieces appear to be have been designed and made. The company records list just thirteen pieces as officially part of the Narragansett pattern line of flatware, while the cocktail forks and olive fork offered here are likely to have been designed and made under the same direction. Pieces of Narragansett pattern that remain show subtle variations in decoration even among the same form which shows Gorham gave wide creative license to their craftsmen when making these pieces.
Today Narragansett pattern flatware would look at home on dining tables from Palm Beach and Jekyll Island to the Hamptons and Nantucket. It is so fresh and modern that it is hard to believe it is well over one hundred years since these incredible pieces of art first made their appearance on the tables of the most intrepid hostesses.
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