Monday, March 4, 2013
A Spoonful of Memories
QUESTION: I was recently going through a box of junk that belonged to my grandfather and in it I discovered a silver spoon with the name Rolex on the handle. It had the Rolex crown at the top with the word Rolex under it. On the back it said Bucherer Switzerland. It this any affiliation with the watch company? What can you tell me about this spoon?
ANSWER: You found a Rolex souvenir spoon, given to the purchaser of a Rolex watch from Bucherer Jewelers in Lucerne, Switzerland. Customers only received one of these spoons after they bought a Rolex. Bucherer never sold the spoons separately.
Besides its main store in Lucerne, Buckerer has outlets in major luxury hotels in other cities. These hotels often gave their guests silverplated Rolex spoons as a welcome gift, hoping that they would purchase a Rolex to take home. Though Rolex Geneva wholly endorses the marketing effort by Bucherer, the company doesn’t make the spoons.
The spoons feature the names of eight different cities—Lucerne, Lugano, Basel, Zurich, Interlaken, Geneva, and others—where Bucherer has a store. The Lucerne spoon is the most common. The one marked "New York" and with a Statue of Liberty motif is the hardest to find because Bucherer no longer has a New York City store. The jewelry company has been handing out the Rolex spoons since the 1950s.
Because there are thousands of these silver-plated spoons available, they usually sell for under $15, with the older, rarer examples selling for $25-35.
Sterling silver and silver-plated souvenir spoons have been around since the late 16th century in Europe. The first ones served as religious souvenirs. Made of either silver or gold and often encrusted with jewels, they also served as a form of currency.
The first souvenir spoons in the United States acted as first gifts to babies by their sponsors at christenings. The idea was that a child no sooner learned to feed himself, using his own spoon, than he began to acquire knowledge.
In 1887, as souvenir spoons became the fad in European cities, Daniel Low, of Salem, Mass., made a trip to Europe where he purchased spoons from skilled craftsmen. From these, he conceived the idea of a spoon showing the traditions and legends of Salem. His son, Seth F. Low, designed the first "witch" spoon. Its handle carries the figure of a witch, the word "Salem," and three witch pins similar to those
preserved in the courthouse at Salem.
Low’s witch spoon launched the souvenir spoon craze of the late 19th-century in this country. It was the first to be made in this country from a special die, of a design suggestive of some particular place.
Victorian women loved serving tea and used souvenir spoons whenever they had guests. The spoons also served as conversation pieces with after-dinner coffee and other beverages. They also became badges of travel as Victorians began to travel and attend world expositions.
The Rolex spoons, however, fall into the advertising category. Displaying such a spoon indicates that the owner or someone in the home had purchased a Rolex watch, which for some is a status symbol in itself.