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  • Napkin rings first came into use when European nobility set their tables with an elaborate silver vessel, often shaped like a ship, that held the personal table linen, salt, wine, and even poison-testing chemicals of their owners. They were carried with other personal items when wealthy people traveled in the Middle Ages. They shrunk in size and grew in popularity during the Victorian period, when most members of the upper class had their own rings. They no longer held salt or wine but were elaborately embellished with birds, flowers and decorative borders. Some family would use outdated family silver coins to melt down and fashion napkin rings. They came into more widespread use when other, cheaper materials began to be used, including leather, ceramics, wool reinforced with wire and wood.
  • The figural napkin ring is an American specialty in which the simple napkin ring is part of a small figure or sculpture that may take any shape and show any motive. Napkin rings appear as single items with the name or initials of the owner, notably given as christening presents, or pairs often given as gifts at weddings and silver weddings. In the English speaking countries, numbered sets of 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 napkin rings are found. Napkin rings are an invention of the European bourgeoisie, first appearing in France about 1800 and soon spreading to all countries in the western world. Most 19th century napkin rings were made of silver or silver plate, but others were made in bone, wood, pearl embroidery, porcelain, glass, and other materials. In the 20th century bakelite and other new materials were used.

Napkin rings are ideal for collecting: They serve as icebreakers at dinner parties, require almost no space to store, and can be used over and over again without damage.


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Replies to This Discussion


It Garry from Australia I have been collecting napkin rings for sometime now and like you information. Thank you.

I had no knowledge of the history of the napkin rings and only collected them as something I liked.

I will try to up load some of the pictures of my napkin rings when I can.

Thank you again for your very informative information.




Hi there,

First and foremost, may we say what a great little post this is, very informative. Thanks for sharing!

We thought you may enjoy this set of six, sterling silver napkin rings - Antique George V. We would love to hear your thoughts on this set.

Kind regards,

AC Silver.


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