Silver Is Serving—Again! Why This Nostalgic Tabletop Trend Will Never Tarnish

Last spring, I sat at a long dining table on the sidewalk outside of artist Laila Gohar’s studio in Chinatown, New York, feasting on suckling pig and Canetta, a buzzy new brand of canned wine. What I really remember was not the food or, I confess, the wine, but the ice bucket—an Art Nouveau Christofle vasque decorated with blooming anemone. That was the moment I began to notice: serving up food and drinks on hefty silver no longer felt passé. In fact, the timeworn pieces lent a dash of gravitas to an otherwise casual sidewalk gathering.

An Art Nouveau Christofle vasque decorated with blooming anemone and filled with cans of Canetta wine

Huy Luong

Silver—a material whose antibacterial properties lend it to culinary use—has been a tabletop status symbol since ancient times. Through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as silversmithing entered its heyday across Europe, elaborate table services were an indication of social standing and wealth—after all, the material corresponded directly to currency in many nations. (That said, some of history’s most captivating examples were melted down by their owners due to changing styles or, more commonly, to refill depleted state treasuries.) Even in the 20th century, silver still dazzled on the tables of those who could afford it, and a woman might inherit her mother or grandmother’s service and then pass it on to her own daughter in due time. But in recent decades, a younger generation has been ditching the heavy metal table wares, gravitating towards a more casual, contemporary aesthetic. But hold on to that silver, people, the pendulum is mid-swing back in its direction.

Image may contain Indoors Kitchen Architecture Building Dining Room Dining Table Furniture Room and Table

A silver pitcher and candlesticks in Adam Lippes’ Berkshires kitchen

Art: Patrick Demarchelier/Trunk Archive. Robert Wilson/RW Work Ltd.

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