Collecting Pickle Forks

Pickle forks were first introduced in the late 18th century and by the mid 19th century they had become very popular. I don’t know who first came up with the idea of the barbs on the two or three tines or prongs, but they are very handy for getting pickled onions out of a jar.

The two-pronged forks are referred to as ‘Puritan’ and nobody seems to quite know why.  Forks arrived relatively late at the English table and our ancestors would have used the blade of a knife for eating well into the 17th century.

Pickle forks made their appearance once sets of silver cutlery became popular and there were some fine Georgian solid silver examples of the pickle fork.  Later ones were made from Sheffield Plate or electro-plated nickel silver (EPNS) in Victorian times.  Pickle forks became widely available and it is the variety of design in the handles that makes them so collectable today.  Handles would be produced in ivory, bone, agate or mother-of-pearl and could be plain, twisted or carved.  Often a pickle fork would be part of a set that would also include a butter knife and a jam spoon.  Look out for solid silver handles with hall mark and maker’s mark.  The length of the handle was increased during the Victorian era, as they introduced larger pickle jars.

Some of the solid silver pickle forks have lovely designs, such as flowers, ribbons, bows or lover’s knots.  If you are lucky you may come across a pickle fork with an Art Nouveau handle.

American collectors are very keen on pickle forks and if you want to know more about American pickle forks you should check out Richard Osterberg and Betty Smith’s Silver Flatware Directory which will tell you more about the difference of English and American pickle forks.  American pickle forks seem to only have silver handles.

Pickle forks are the ideal collectable for a beginner and silver plated forks with bone or mother-of-pearl handles can be had for between £5 and £10.  Even a solid silver pickle fork would cost you no more than £20 or £30.  There is also a good choice of EPNS forks in very attractive designs and you could put together an interesting collecting in next to no time and at a reasonable price.

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