When I got married my wonderful Mother-in-law (and I do mean that, I am very lucky to have such an amazing MIL) used an epergne (click here for the pronunciation of this crazy word!) for the centerpiece at a bride's luncheon. It was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen. My wedding was in May, and the epergne was covered in fresh garden flowers and sweet treats.
Since then, I have seen them in high end antique stores and been very curious about their origin. So, here's the scoop.
According to the Silver Vault of Charleston, the epergne arrived in England in the first quarter of the 18th century. The word, "epergne", stemmed from the French "epaigner," meaning thrifty. The use of these large objects in the center of the table avoided waste. Each guest helped him or herself from the main bowl, thus eliminating the disposal of expensive delicacies left on an individual's plate. The saucers or baskets could be adapted to individual use. The earlier, baroque form tended to be complex, incorporating dining accessories like caster, cruets, salts and sauce boats and graced the table throughout dinner. Some examples served as a dressing for the dessert course, showcasing condiments, fruits, nuts and other luxuries. Economic feasibility drove silversmiths to replace the expensive silver saucers with less expensive, crystal dishes. This same reason also resulted in many more examples being produced in Old Sheffield Plate, rather than sterling.
I think they are gorgeous and would be amazing in any dining room. The price for the real deal is comparable to a luxury car, but I was able to find one affordable option (yes, only one).
Here are some of my favorites.
This little beauty at 24" tall will set you back $79,000.00
(and some change for shipping of course).
Another "cha ching" from Christies will run you around $75,000.00. It has the addition of candlesticks which is nice.
This one is a called a flower epergne, which technically is not a true epergne since it does not hold candies or nuts, but it's really elegant. I love the art deco feel of it.
As mentioned above, this is a crystal and silver plated version which does cut down greatly on the cost.
I found this romantic blown glass version on a wonderful Canadian blog called Windlost. She did a great compilation of epergnes in this post a few years ago. So, if you want to see more, click over and check it out .
OK, and now for the only affordable version I was able to find. I do think it must be a very small scale piece, but it is really pretty and at $49.00 very affordable.
That's your history/antique lesson for the day! Now go out and
make your self look like a total antique geek impress your friends with your epergne knowledge! M.
PS: I am being featured by Laura over at Bright, Bold and Beautiful today on segment she is doing on "Where We Blog." If you have a minute, click over. Her blog is beautiful! http://brightboldbeautiful.blogspot.com/2011/02/where-we-blog-home-office-favorite-cozy_11.html