A dainty, antique sterling strawberry fork, with the letter “B” monogram.
Many antique utensils have been monogrammed. The monograms were put on the flatware not just as decoration, but also as a way of identifying the flatware’s owner and to stop pilferage by unscrupulous guests. Throughout the 18th century, silver eating utensils and serving pieces were popular in Europe and America for only those who could afford them. Silverware was identified with women of the moneyed classes.
At that time, women could not legally own land or other property, so their lives were limited to, and revolved around, the home and family. For this reason, silverware was significant as a woman's contribution to the financial part of a marriage, and it was often purchased for her one piece at a time and kept in what was called a "hope chest," along with other household goods such as linens and quilts.
Because silver flatware was bought with a woman's taste in mind, until the latter part of the 19th century, most patterns were designed for women. The silver flatware, along with other household goods, was traditionally monogrammed with the bride's initials, by the mid-20th century. Often times, one will see utensils with monograms on the back. The flatware is turned upside-down at place settings. This is considered a “French fashion,” however, it was seen by the 17th and 18th centuries on many fine British tables, as well.
And other monograms?
Traditionally, monogramming is done in the following manners:
- Nicknames are rarely used in monogramming personal items, unless they are done for a child’s “thank you” note cards or personal items.
- For items belonging to the unmarried woman, a monogram using all three names is done in this order – First, last, middle initials, with the center initial larger than the two flanking initials.
- For items belonging to the married woman, a monogram using all three names is done in the same order – First, last name, middle initials, with the center initial larger than the two flanking initials.
- Traditionally, an engaged couple doesn’t use the same last name before their wedding ceremony. Instead, they may wish to use a duo-gram, which incorporates the couple’s first-name initials. Once they are married, they may use their full combined initials.
- If you do want to use a duo-gram, the old custom is followed with “ladies first,” by monogramming the wife’s first initial, the couple’s married last name in the center, and the husband’s first initial last.
- For items belonging to the single or married man, a monogram using all three names is done in this order – First, middle, last name initial, with all of the initials being the same size.
- Monograms for those unmarried, are most times the single first-name initial. This allows for the addition of a surname’s initial at a later date.
- It is incorrect to have one’s monogram engraved on the envelope of social stationery. The monogram should appear only on the note paper.