Apostle spoons have always been an interesting collecting pursuit for many silver fans, but they are not on the radar of the general public. Outlander Season 2 may have changed that for some, when in Episode 5 Jamie Fraser presents his wife, Claire, a full set of twelve, one of which, the spoon of St. Andrew, goes on to have further significance in the plot of the series.
Apostle spoons have significance in British and European cultural history. Prior to the Reformation, and before tables were set with a proper place setting, one would carry his own spoon, a cherished personal utensil, which alluded to social status. The knop, or the end, of the spoon had shape to prevent the spoon from falling into the bowl. Belief in the services of the patron saints was strong and by the 16th Century, Apostle spoons became popular as christening gifts from the god parents giving a full set or choosing an appropriate Apostle for the child’s birth date, name, god father’s name, or the families favored Saint. Shakespeare references them in Henry VIII, when he says to the Archbishop in speaking of the baptism of Elisabeth, “Come, come, my lord, you’d spare your spoons.”
Each Apostle finial on the spoons is identifiable by the attribute for that Saint: Peter, a sword or key; Andrew, a cross; James, a pilgrim’s staff; John, a chalice; Philip, a staff; Bartholomew, a knife; Thomas, a spar; Matthew, an axe; James the less, a bat; Jude, a square; Simon, a long saw; Judas, a bag of money. The 13th spoon or master spoon is Jesus Christ with symbols of a cross and orb. To find complete sets by one maker is very rare. The maker’s marks appear in the bowl and the owner’s marks are often pricked on the back of the bowl. Spoons with identifiable makers are most sought after.