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Beauty, Rarity, History...The M.S. Rau Antiques Blog

Bill Rau

M.S. Rau Antiques

Led by third-generation owner and published fine art expert Bill Rau, M.S. Rau Antiques has grown by leaps and bounds since his grandfather Max Rau opened the doors in 1912 to a then-small antiques store in the heart of New Orleans' historic French Quarter. Bill's extensive knowledge and reputation as a leader places him among the most respected antique experts and gallery owners today.

A New Orleans institution for over 100 years, M.S. Rau Antiques is among the premier antiques galleries in the world. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, our 25,000 square foot gallery overflows with incredible antiques by names including Tiffany & Co., Paul Revere and Fabergé. Our unparalleled selection of important, original paintings and sculpture spans the 16th through the 21st century, created by legendary artists such as Brueghel, Monet and Rockwell, and our diverse selection of exquisite jewels, including rare colored diamonds, Kashmir sapphires and Burma rubies is without equal.

So Many Choices…The Golden Age of Flatware

Fine silver firms, such as Fabergé, created important flatware services of the utmost quality.
Fine silver firms, such as Fabergé, created important flatware services of the utmost quality.
(M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans)
  • Each serving piece had a specific purpose at the well-appointed dining table.  These pieces are from the Chrysanthemum Flatware Service by Tiffany & Co.

    Each serving piece had a specific purpose at the well-appointed dining table. These pieces are from the Chrysanthemum Flatware Service by Tiffany & Co.

    M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans

  • This particular service in its Queen Anne-style chest, belonged to the famed entertainer Liberace

    This particular service in its Queen Anne-style chest, belonged to the famed entertainer Liberace

    M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans

Dining in the Victorian-era was truly an art form. The economic prosperity of the late 19th and early 20th centuries catapulted many into the middle and upper classes, and the desire to display just how wealthy you were was of the utmost importance to maintain, if not raise, your standing in high society. These displays took many forms, but it was the dinner party that proved to be an affair that could make or break a socialite.

Even the extravagance of the utensils you provided for guests was considered proportionate to one's wealth. The affluent demanded dining services that could meet every conceivable want and need-from fish forks and cake knives, to asparagus tongs and tomato servers. Those that were especially prized were implements used specifically for exotic foods, such as chocolate, oysters and ice cream. Before long, there soon became a utensil for every food imaginable.

This regal 306-piece Gorham flatware service in the Henry II pattern provides a complete service for 12 guests. Spoons and servers for chocolate, two different spoons for soup and broth (or bouillon), knifes and forks for fruit, three different picks for olives, nuts and pickles, it's a wonder how a dinner guest could keep it all straight which piece of flatware went with what food. Just in this service alone, your guest would have an astonishing 20 utensils at their place setting alone, not to mention the myriad of specialized servers used to get the food to their plate! 

Important and prestigious jewelry and silver firms such as Tiffany & Co., Fabergé and even Cartier created some of the grandest flatware services imaginable. Some were so beautiful, custom-crafted cases were made to display these most impressive collections on a daily basis. Silver designers poured their heart and soul into creating patterns that have no equal, even today. The brainchild of legendary designer Charles T. Grosjean, Tiffany & Co.'s Chrysanthemum pattern incorporates traditional Baroque elements with a modern, natural motif of the elegant flowers that give the service its name. The sheer depth and detail of the pattern made it the firm's most expensive to produce, and a favorite of Victorian brides and socialites.

So next time you sit with family and friends for a meal, you can rest assured that no matter to what direction the dinner conversation turns, at least you know which fork, knife and spoon to use.

To see M.S. Rau Antiques' collection of fine antique flatware, click here.

 

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