Serving spoon, silver, 1892-1905, made by the J.B. & S.M. Knowles Company, Providence, RI, gift of Judge John Webb Green and Ellen McClung, 1957.3.447.1.
Silver baby spoon were common christening gifts to the wealthy elite in Western society and the source of the idiom of being “born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” However, with the shifting economic forces due to industrialization, silver began to become more readily available to the middle classes. Silver was also an ideal metal for the rising bourgeoisie for many reasons. Many Western nation began to adopt gold standard economies in the beginning of the 19th century. This led to a massive liquidation of past silver currencies and thus a much larger surplus in the market. Recent large findings of silver ore were also found in the Americas and Siberia and helped contribute to its availability. But perhaps most important was its ability as a status symbol. Silverware sets could easily be the most expensive collection in a middle class family’s home. These families were more than willing to pay the price for silver as it drew a connection between them and the upper class. This unfortunately made silverware a common target for thieves.