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Museum Feature

Museum Feature – Olympian Fish Fork by Tiffany & Co.

This month from our museum we’re featuring an exquisite sterling silver fish fork in the Olympian pattern by Tiffany & Co. Olympian debuted in 1878, and was produced until 1955. According to Tiffany & Co. literature, “The Olympian pattern... is the most elaborate and complex of all Tiffany flatware designs. Each piece of Olympian is designed to illustrate a well-known story of Classical mythology. The subjects vary with the size of the handles on the different pieces.”

The last quarter of the nineteenth century is commonly regarded as America’s “Gilded Age,” a term coined by American writers Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. This economic boom following the Civil War saw the creation of the modern industrial economy, and with it, an increased income for many in America. This new class of wealthy Americans wanted to display their prosperity in the most conspicuous manner possible, and manufacturers of luxury goods were more than happy to meet the increased demand for high-end items, including tea services, art, jewelry, and tableware. Among the many ways to showcase affluence during the Gilded Age was with an opulent array of tableware comprising hundreds of flatware and serving pieces. Specialized flatware pieces produced during this time include cracker spoons, toast serving forks, aspic servers, and many others, like the Olympian fish fork featured here.

There are seventeen different classical motifs featured on Olympian pieces, which vary by the size and type of handle for each piece (for example, this hollow-handle fish fork showcases a “Bacchus and Bacchante” design, while the flat-handle fish fork in the pattern features an “Orpheus” motif). The patent for Olympian attributes its design to Edward C. Moore, who served as head designer at Tiffany from 1868 until his death in 1891, but it is believed that Antoine Heller also contributed to the design (after leaving Tiffany, Heller would go on to produce popular patterns for Gorham Silver, including Medici, Old Masters, Versailles, and perhaps his most famous, Mythologique).

For more than 150 years, Tiffany & Co. has represented the pinnacle of American affluence, artistry, and luxury. In 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany and John B. Young began selling luxury goods in their New York City emporium. As New York grew into a large metropolis, the demand for Tiffany’s opulent merchandise began to increase. In 1848, Tiffany began producing sterling flatware patterns, and their 925/1000 sterling purity standard eventually became the U.S. sterling silver standard. During the economic boom that followed the Civil War, Tiffany & Co. met the increased demand for high-end items, including tea services, art, and jewelry. Tiffany’s sterling patterns like Audubon, English King, Shell and Thread, and Faneuil are regarded as some of the finest in the world. Today, Tiffany & Co. remains a leading maker of jewelry, china, crystal, silver, and glassware.

While the Tiffany & Co. Olympian fish fork in our museum is not for sale, we do have a variety of Olympian and other Tiffany & Co. pieces available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 400,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!

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