Date Made/Found: 1750-1800
Material and Medium: steel, ivory
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2004.602
This steel carving fork was made around 1750-1800. The haft is made from green stained ivory, which began to be used for hafting cutlery and flatware in England during the 1700s. It became very fashionable by the middle of the century. Towards the end of the 1700s it had declined somewhat in popularity. Frederick Bradbury, who published a comprehensive overview of Old Sheffield Plate manufacture in 1912, states that green ivory hafted cutlery and flatware were often made by the same cutlers who made high status tableware with silver filled handles.
Bradbury offers the suggestions that ivory was stained green to conceal grease marks, or perhaps to replicate the mineral malachite. Tableware has always been influenced by changing tastes, so perhaps it can be suggested that green ivory was simply fashionable for a time.
The earliest carving forks used in England date to the 1600s. This fork has a stepped shank to protect the hands while in use. The two tines are long, parallel and straight rather than curved. It would be used to hold a joint or roast bird securely on a plate while it was carved. Carving forks with long tines were often used in Europe as meat was often carved in the air, with the joint or bird held aloft with the fork and carved from this position. Learning to carve was a crucial social skill for young men within wealthy circles. The importance of carving is evident by a number of etiquette manuals dedicated to the practice from around this time.
Dinner was the main meal of the day in the Georgian period and was a very sociable event, often lasting the entire afternoon and evening. The first course would generally include soups, boiled meats and fish, small roasts and pies, vegetable dishes and sometimes a sweet pudding. The second course would include a main joint as a focal piece, cooked dishes such as fricassees and ragouts, fish, fruit pies and custards.
This object forms part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.Display Location: