Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Five O'Clock Teaspoon

In 2009, Tiffany & Co. broke the hearts of many a blue box loyalist when it discontinued, seemingly overnight, much of its china and flatware.  Gone were the Audubon china pattern and the best dessert plate ever.

Gone, too, were Tiffany's 1960s-chic Bamboo flatware, its scalloped Wave Edge pattern designed in 1884, and its elaborate Olympian, whose every piece depicted a different scene from Greek mythology.  And with them vanished many of the more obscure pieces, like the five o'clock teaspoon.

So, I was surprised and thrilled (thrilled!) this weekend to see that Tiffany is again offering an "afternoon teaspoon" in several of its remaining silver patterns.  We Americans now get our caffeine fixes in 16, 20, and (shudder) 30-ounce paper buckets cups, but there was a time when we drank from delicate porcelain cups so thin that they were almost translucent.   A regular teaspoon would overpower such a cup, so a slightly smaller spoon was needed.

Generally speaking, a teaspoon is 6 inches long, give or take a quarter of an inch.  A five o'clock teaspoon is typically between 5 1/4 and 5 1/2 inches.  This may not seem like much of a difference until you see the two together.  For illustration, below are three Tiffany spoons: an 6 1/8-inch Olympian teaspoon, a 5 3/8-inch Faneuil five o'clock teaspoon, and a 4-inch Chrysanthemum demitasse spoon.

Here, the Olympian and Faneuil spoons are shown with a Belleek teacup produced between 1891 and 1926.  You can see that the Olympian looks much too big.

Now, if only Tiffany would bring back the berry spoon...


It seems I spoke too soon.  Tiffany has broken my heart once again.  Yesterday, I emailed the good people at the customer service department to find out the exact sizes of the Faneuil spoons listed as "afternoon teaspoon" and "coffee spoon" on their website.  The response was prompt, but disappointing.  Sadly, the afternoon teaspoon is a mere 4 1/2 inches long.  The coffee spoon is a teensy 4 inches.

What this tells me is that Tiffany is passing off an after-dinner coffee spoon as five o'clock teaspoon, and a demitasse spoon as a coffee spoon.  So much for buying shiny new five o'clock teaspoons in happy blue boxes!  Looks like I'll still be trawling eBay.  \sigh


  1. That plate is beautiful, and that is just fascinating about the sizes of teaspoon, I have always thought that my antique hand me downs look tiny, now I know why.

    1. Thanks, Tabitha!

      I keep hoping that Tiffany will bring back that china pattern. Maybe someday...

  2. Dear Merry Wife,

    I enjoyed this post.

    The plate is beautiful - what is the name of the pattern? Is it called Audubon or does it have another name?

    I agree with you and Tabitha: Often any old spoon seems to do when it fact, as Tabitha points out, it makes the china seem tiny.

    I am not sure what a berry spoon is - I looked them up on the Internet but the response was too conflicting.


    1. Hello Kirk!

      Yes, the pattern is Audubon, which is also the name of one of Tiffany's silver patterns (still in production). Most of the pieces were plain in the middle, but some of the accent pieces had that beautiful pagoda. The plates come up from time to time on eBay. You can see most of the pattern here:

      Generally speaking, berry spoons about 9 inches long. They were used to scoop berries out a large serving bowl into individual berry dishes. More often now, people use berry spoons to serve casseroles.

      Here's a clip from George Clooney's movie Intolerable Cruelty with a good shot of the Olympian berry spoons:!quotes/

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  4. This raises the question for me of, what is the intended purpose of the regular size teaspoon, if it is too large in scale for the traditional fine china teacup?


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