A Christening Gift, a Silver Spoon, and a Charmed Life

Everyone knows someone that has been “born with a silver spoon in his mouth. ” That person who was a benefactor or who’s wealth, health and happiness were a result of no effort from their side. It’s true, we’re just a tiny little bit jealous.

How did the wealth of families and luck become connected with a kitchen utensil that is commonly used?

Spoons have been used for hundreds of years. The first spoons were usually wooden spatulas, or even seashells that were re-worked. They Greeks and Romans made a few spoons made of silver, gold and bronze, however the most popular materials, in the late Medieval period were pewter, wood and bone.

It is likely that it was in the 16th or 15th centuries when the relationship between spoons and fortune became established. In Tudor the time it was not unusual to see godparents of wealthy families to gift their godchildren the gift of Christening silver Apostle Spoons. Twelve spoons each of which had an image of an apostle on the handle, was an elegant Christening present. A different option was the group of four spoons resembling the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Silver spoons are used for Christening gifts and baptismal presents in the present, however Apostle Spoons are rarer and harder to find.

In the 16th century, the silver spoon was quite scarce, which means that the child who would receive an Christening present would need to have a wealth background. In addition, if recent research on medicine is accurate the spoons were also fortunate to have a little luck. Silver teethers and spoons are popular for centuries, however it’s only within the last couple of years when the anti-bacterial qualities of silver have been recognized. In a nutshell it is the rich Little Lord Fauntleroy who was teething on the sterling silver Christening spoon was given a higher likelihood of doing well than someone taking a bite of pewter. I was a bit skeptical of the magical properties of silver until I remembered my grandma dropping a silver throughpenny bit inside the milk-churn in order to “stop it turning. ”

Like many of our modern traditions and customs in as with many of our traditions and customs, Victorians are believed to have played a significant effect upon Christening gifts. In the late nineteenth century, in the mid nineteenth century, the Christening offering of a teaspoon was a common thing in the middle and upper classes. They were often paired with rattles and teethers and, as a result the godchild of a wealthy family was seen wearing the silver Christening spoon placed within his mouth.

We aren’t sure of the etymological relationship with Christening gifts and the expression “to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” however there’s a certain way back in our brains that connects spoons to success or lack of it.

For instance, “The Wooden Spoon” is an emblem of failure. Teams that finish last in a competition or league receive “The Wooden Spoon,” the tradition has been in existence for several centuries. There’s also evidence of it from the times in Cambridge University where the “Junior Optimes” – those who graduated in lowest in the ladder to meritoriousness – were given the wooden spoon. What was the prize that the most accomplished honours recipients get? You’ve probably guessed … the silver or gold TinySpoon.

In the same way, there used to be a phrase from the Royal Navy describing a young officer who was given special treatment and promoted faster in the form of “born with the silver spoon.”

The jury is still deciding on the source of the phrase however, I for one is inclined to imagine it has its roots in the silver Christening presents.

The next time you refer to someone as “born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” you’re able to do it with a hint of jealousy, a little of the little green-eyed beast, but with a touch of self-confidence … in the end, at the very least you’ll know where the phrase came from.