Fortunate Babies

A Silver Cup

This little silver mug, with its matching porringer bowl, might have been presented to the parents of a fortunate baby in the early 1900s. Baby-sized sets of silver tableware have been popular christening gifts since they were first introduced in Stuart England. Given by godparents, they were a kind of good-luck charm, invoking prosperity and the promise of future wealth.

We owe the expression ‘to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth’ to this tradition of giving silverware to babies, which might be a spoon and fork, or a mug, bowl, napkin ring or hair brush. When Dame Nellie Melba’s grandchild was christened in 1918 she received all of these from her numerous godparents and doting aunts, which the newspaper took pains to note.

Silver mugs were also ‘awarded’ to the first babies born in newly opened maternity hospitals in the early 1900s. Hardy Brothers, who retailed this mug around that time, was established as a jewellery firm in Hunter St Sydney in 1858 and is still in existence today. The tradition of giving silverware for christenings, first communions and first birthdays was undiminished throughout the twentieth century, spurred on by reports of Royal babies and their presents.

Princess Elizabeth, now the late Queen Elizabeth II, received a silver porringer when she was a baby in 1927. Twenty-one years later, when she had her own baby, the press reported on the gifts given, and the original silver porringer was mentioned again as being among the Queen’s personal treasures.