Saturday, January 22, 2011

Silver Belles, Silver Patterns and Heavens Above!

A few years back, I received this email from my über-smart, older brother. He is the family "go-to" guy when it comes to space, the planets and the stars. He and I also share the same sense of humor, so I found this pretty funny, if not mildly disturbing.
Actual transcript of cell phone conversation with Mom last night:
"Oh, hello. It's your mother. Where are you? It sounds loud there."
I'm at Lucille's in Lake Forest having dinner with Dino for his birthday.
"When did Gena get into town?"
I don't know. Is Gena in town?
"You just said you were having dinner with her."
No. I'm having dinner with DINO.
"Oh. Well tell Dino happy birthday. Listen, a friend of mine said you can see Mars in the evening and I looked and can't find it and I was wondering what you think."
Well, right now Mars isn't very bright. Jupiter is though.
"No, Maura didn't tell me that. It was a friend of mine." What? What does Maura have to do with it?... What are we talking about?
"Didn't you just say 'Maura's not very bright'?"
No. MARS isn't very bright. Jupiter is.
So when I recently I saw all sorts of stories in the news about the Zodiac's 13th sign, “Ophiuchus” I remembered not just that illuminating email, but my conversation with my brother several years ago about astrology and the signs of the Zodiac.

The 13th Sign- Since ancient times, Ophiuchus has been better known as Serpentarius or “the Serpent Holder”
According to Mr. Smarty Pants, (not his actual name) as the alignment of the planets and stars have all changed in the centuries since astrology was thought up, many people have actually been born under different signs than noted in books. “I have always thought of astrology the same way I think of ouija boards, magic 8 balls and such. Cute, but if you really believe it, then you are stuck in the wrong century.”

The whole conversation had only come up, as I was telling him about my daughter's uncanny knack of guessing the astrological signs of people. All people... Including those she had never even met, but whom I had merely described to her. “Heavens above!” exclaimed one shocked woman who's sign my daughter had just pulled out of thin air correctly. “That makes no sense! How did you know?”

It makes no sense to me either, as like my brother, the whole astrology thing seems a bit far-fetched to me, though it is harmless fun to sometimes “read” what my day or month may be like. As an etiquette rule, I stay away from the subject of astrology when it comes to my business and also my professional life. I advise people who hire me, to leave the subject of astrology out of their business conversations, off of their websites, etc... too.

There are those who are put off by talk of astrology, as their religious beliefs find astrology offensive, etc... Like politics, people can lose potential clients over mere talk of subjects like astrological beliefs. That said, I am making an exception in this case due to the following. My second thought when I heard there was a 13th sign in the zodiac; The Southern Silver Zodiac.

The Southern Silver Zodiac is from a book I actually have gotten 2 copies of since it came out in the early 1990's (yes, it is that funny!) and tonight I just bought a third copy, the updated reprint of it on Ebay. The book is titled "A Southern Belle Primer: Or Why Paris Hilton Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma."

A Southern Belle Primer, Or why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma by Maryln Schwartz

A highlight of the book is the zodiac and its 12 silver patterns most popular with Southern Belles. (I wonder will a 13th pattern be added now? Hmmm)

The following is a sampling of the patterns and the type of Belles who choose them;

1. Francis I Reed and Barton The Belle who chooses Francis I is a girl who wants it all. There are twenty-eight pieces of fruit just on the knife handle. It’s showy and opulent and so is she. A Francis I girl is likely to want a husband, children, a place on the board of the Junior League, and a full-time career. There is no end to what she can buy in the Francis I pattern. It comes with pickle forks, tomato forks, shrimp forks, lobster forks, grapefruit spoons, dessert spoons, ice cream spoons, even half olive spoons. Francis I girls are always compatible with mothers-in-law who have Grand Baroque or Burgundy. Their styles are similar.

2. Grand Baroque Wallace International This is Francis I with roses instead of fruit. Grand Baroque girls also have a sense of the dramatic. But they often also have a literary bent. That’s why you can buy a sterling silver bookmark in the Grand Baroque pattern. Grand Baroque girls often date boys whose families have the Acorn pattern. But they don’t marry them. It’s just a youthful rebellion.

3. Burgundy Reed and Barton This is Francis I without the fruit. Burgundy girls tend to be somewhat shy. They have dreams of being splashy, but they just can’t let go. Louisiana girls love Burgundy. It shows up on a lot of tables during Mardi Gras. They do well with friends who have Buttercup. They are not made to feel too competitive.

4. Rose Point Wallace International Old-fashioned girls pick this pattern. It’s very popular with girls named Rose. Sentimental mothers who have chosen patterns like Old Master and Eloquence sometimes name their daughters Rose just so they can have a legacy all their own.

5. Buttercup Gorham Belles who choose Buttercup are always cheerful. They even choose the pattern because it’s so uplifting. Buttercup girls have friends with every kind of pattern. They are usually followers rather than leaders, but they are just so upbeat it really doesn’t matter.

6. Chantilly Gorham Belles with Chantilly tend to be a bit prissy. They do best with men whose mothers also have Chantilly. Never put a Chantilly girl with a man whose mother has Francis I or Grand Baroque. They will always be upstaged. Don’t let all that sweetness fool you. Chantilly girls were often fast in high school.

7. Strasbourg Gorham Strasbourg girls are traditionalists and just a bit formal. As good Southern girls, they are entranced with anything that’s festive and use their good silver almost all the time. Southern men love girls who pick Strasbourg because when Strasbourg girls bring out the good silver, they also bring out the good food. They don’t mix well with boys whose mothers have Buttercup. They will both always fight for control.

8. Acorn Georg Jensen Beware of the Acorn girl. This pattern is lovely but foreign (it comes from Denmark). Girls who pick Acorn are rebellious. They march in parades and sometimes have been known to go to colleges in the East and drink beer straight from the can.

9. Old Master Towle Old Master girls have spirit but don’t drift too far from tradition. Because of this they are fiercely attached to their family heirlooms. One Texas Belle got thirty place settings of her groom’s grandmother’s Old Master as a wedding gift. When she got a divorce, she took her husband to court over the Old Master and let him keep the Cadillac without a whimper.

10. Eloquence Lunt Eloquence girls like nice things. They expect their husbands to provide. They are extremely loyal whether it’s a boyfriend, a best friend, or a pet. Because of this they get along well with more flighty girls who have Francis I or Grand Baroque.

11. Chrysanthemum Tiffany These girls have been known to turn up their noses at Francis I girls. They are just as flamboyant and just as demanding. They also usually have a lot more money to spend. Their husbands have to be good providers because they also insist on Tiffany crystal and Tiffany china. This is a relatively new pattern compared to some of the others. Girls with Chrysanthemum sometimes go really wild and live in avant-garde homes. But don’t worry, they still cut the crusts off their tea sandwiches and their daughters always get good recommendations to Kappa, Theta and Pi Phi.

12. Repousse Kirk Repousse is one of the oldest silver patterns. These girls often have mothers and grandmothers who also have this pattern. One Charleston woman explains every woman in her family for three generations chose this pattern. Then her son married a woman who didn’t even have a silver pattern. (uh oh) The mother-in-law insisted she pick something out and had relatives fill in the place settings. When the new bride completely bypassed Repousse by calling it “too fussy”, the mother-in-law knew the marriage wouldn’t last. And it didn’t.

Francis I

I caught my daughter perusing the book the other day while she was eating lunch. I keep a copy in the dining room on a side table. Since she was little, she inevitably focuses on that one section of the book whenever she picks it up. Maybe it is her age now (early 20s), or her odd 'gift' with regard to pegging people's astrological signs, but she has looked at the book a lot lately. Either way, she will tell me her current favorite of the 12 patterns and why she likes it. Her favorite at the moment is Francis I. She is a Vegan, so maybe the fruit holds some appeal to her. Her pronouncements of her current favorites always lead to discussions about silver patterns in general.

Neither one of us cares for my mother's silver pattern; "Damask Rose". Too plain we feel, and an odd choice for someone as artistic as my mother. Maybe it was popular in the early 1950s when she chose it? It stumps us both.

Damask Rose-My Mother's Pattern

I have the stainless reproduction, early 1920's pattern "Hotel Flatware" that I use daily. I like the variety of designs (7 in total) on the handles, and they seem to go with anything and everything. I do not own a whole set of real silver flatware anymore. It was a pain to keep clean and I really didn't like the pattern. I can't even recall the pattern name, I only bought it as I got it for a good price.

Hotel Flatware

Me, above, answering questions after a talk on silver.

I do have a huge collection of odd pieces of silver that I show and discuss at speaking engagements and use with my etiquette class students, but I rarely use any of it to eat with or to set the table.

Versailles Fork

Love Disarmed

When pressed by my daughter for a "dream pattern" of silver for fine dining, it would have to be a pattern like Reed and Barton's "Love Disarmed." Not the newer made pieces, but the old, original pieces. So that pattern, or possibly Gorham's "Versailles", and even the old Frank Smith silver pattern "Lion" would be ornate patterns I would jump at, if I had an opportunity to buy an old set that was in very good condition. The price would also have to be right. Maybe I'll win the lottery. One can dream...

Frank Smith's Lion Pattern

I decided to ask around to find out why some friends had chosen the silver they have. The following are their responses-
Regarding a friend's set of the very simple "Fiddle Pattern"... "These were my mother's, my grandmother's. I always loved them. They have clean, classic lines and go formal or informal!"

Another friend regarding her set of "Kings" in silver plate... "We didn't have much money and neither did our friends or family, so this looked fancy and it was affordable. I grew to enjoy it."

As for my email friend who collects those beautiful pickle sets and buckwheat cake lifters, she got her start really collecting silver in a similar way to mine, in an antiques shop. Says my friend... "I was listening to a conversation at the silver counter between a customer and the saleslady about a particular piece. The conversation sounded interesting, so I wandered over to see what they were talking about. It was a lovely plated sugar shell in a water lily pattern. I knew nothing about silver (except that I had wanted flatware instead of other wedding gifts), but as the customer decided against spending the $22 for the spoon, I reached over her shoulder, grabbed it out of her hand and said, "I'll take it!" I've never looked back!
I later learned the pattern name "Nenuphar", introduced by American Silver Co., ca 1905, and I rapidly started collecting it and grape patterns, switching at some point from plated to sterling patterns, medallions, and finally to unusual coin silver & early sterling. To me, it was all about handle patterns, and I was as happy with a teaspoon as with the fanciest server. This has changed. Having found most of the interesting full-line patterns from 1844-1870 both die-struck and engraved, except for the really rare and pricey ones, I'm now concentrating on unusual servers, such as cheese knives (with teeth!), fresh cream buckets, buckwheat cake lifters, cakesaws, and cased sets."

Her $22.00 antique shop find and the start of her incredible collection

I guess it doesn't matter much that none of us chose the patterns in the Southern Silver Zodiac, as none of us could ever be mistaken for "Belles" ("These patterns are a bit pedestrian, except for Francis I and maybe Grande Baroque" said one friend dryly.) But if it is any consolation, I do love visiting and traveling through the South. And I happen to own 3 deviled egg plates! According to the Southern Belle Primer, deviled egg plates are big in the South, so there may just be a bit of a Southern Belle in me after all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

1800s Pickles, Etiquette & My Search for Ursula Edson

   If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, did Peter also politely polish off the pickled peppers with a pickle knife & fork? He did if he was living in the mid 1800s.

Was this Ursula Edson's Pickle Fork?


    A few weeks back, I received this new fork that I had won on Ebay.  It is about 150 years old, but new to my collection.  I got to work quickly, trying to find out what food it had been designed for eating. I had bid on it and the listing said it was a "serving fork", but it was under 6" in length so I had my doubts that it was a serving piece. I then hit the books.

    Richard Osterberg has several in his book Yesterday's Silver for Today's Table, listed as "pickle forks", but at the time this fork was made, most pickle forks came in sets with pickle knives, or were very long "castor" forks that came with pickle castors.  

    Pickle castors were elegant serving pieces for everything imaginable that one would serve pickled.  And in the mid-1800s, just about every food was pickled as it was the way most foods were preserved at the time.  Refrigeration was difficult without electricity, and "tinned" or canned foods were still very expensive at the time.  Only the very wealthy could afford them.
Elaborate pickle castors w/fork
Discovering, or uncovering, what a utensil was made for is not as simple as looking for one person's identification of it, though Osterberg is an expert.  I remain merely an enthusiast when it comes to silver pieces. I needed more back up.

Pickle fork & knife sets from a generous friend who wishes to remain anonymous

    It is not always an easy trick to find experts who agree on everything when it comes to silver, seeing as so many pieces were given new names and uses, as popular foods became easier to get in the Victorian Era.  Food fads waned due to geographical reasons too. Some foods caught on in parts of the country, while those same foods never held much interest in other regional areas.  Still, knowing "the correct fork to use" was one way of setting yourself apart from others. 
    By the mid 1800s, silver flatware had become weapons of mass seduction and class separation. Think for a moment about Leonard DiCaprio's 'Jack' in the movie "Titanic".  He sat at a table littered with more than one person who had class and arrogance confused.  Yet as he didn't know what all of his utensils were for, among other things, he was looked down upon. 
L to R-Two melon forks, a presumed pickle fork, a youth fork, a pie fork, an individual cheese fork and a fork for someone left-handed.
    I wanted to know not just about the fork, but about Ursula Edson and who she was too; Where she lived, When she lived, What became of her, Etc...  Her name is monogrammed onto the handle of the fork, so it had to be hers.   Now that I own it, is there any connection between us?  I think not, but am still curious about her.
More of my friend's pickle sets~circa 1840-1860

   I have found online two Ursula Edsons who possibly once owned my new fork.  One was born in South Carolina in 1855.  The other was born in 1834 in New York.  As the maker of the coin silver fork, J. Hollister, made silver pieces during this era in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, my guess is that she was the Ursula Edson from New York.  More as I find out about her at a later date.  For now... More museum quality pickle sets!

What fabulous works of art to eat one's pickles.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dutch Company Keune Haircosmetics announces has added respected hair colorist Dennis Gebhart to its International Artisan team!

Acclaimed Hair Colorist Joins Keune
By Contributor | Dec 13, 2010
Dennis Gebhart copy 200x300 Acclaimed Hair Colorist Joins Keune
Dennis L. Gebhart
"Keune Haircosmetics has announced the addition of Dennis L. Gebhart to its International Artisan team. A respected hair colorist in the industry and co-owner of Gebhart International Color Salon & Day Spa in Southern California, Gebhart brings in over 30 years of experience working in the field and will represent Keune at trade shows and distributor events in North America in 2011 as a member of the team. Gebhart, who is also a hair color educator, believes his everyday hands-on experiences keep him in tune with the wants and needs of fellow stylists.
—Ivy Tan"
Sylvia Gebhart in their new salon with Keune products


           I am passing the good news along...  
Sylvia Gebhart already used Keune color on my hair for the first time last month.  It got rave reviews during the holidays! I now have something else that is Dutch to love, other than my Keeshond, Dutch silver & mango forks!