Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at the history of salvers and checks out their prices today...
So, are you glued to Bake Off? It remains incredibly popular: 8.6 million viewers watched last year’s final, and it has been credited with a resurgence in popularity of a quintessential British staple: the cake stand.
The forerunners of the cake stand were ‘salvers’, developed in the 1600s, and used to serve everything from food to beer. With the Victorian fashion for afternoon tea, increasingly elaborate cakes became the centrepiece of the meal, and needed to be raised to command more admiration.
Initially made from ceramics, then gradually glass and metal (silver, aluminium or steel), early table top cake stands have one platter on top of a stem, to display just one large cake. Originally rounded, in the 1930s, art deco influences inspired square, hexagonal and octagonal shapes, all very popular with collectors.
Multi-tiered cake stands designed to show off a selection of smaller treats take up space to store, so when they fell out of favour after the fifties, many were simply thrown out. Now restored to popularity, vintage examples in the centre get don’t last long, especially as they also make attractive display stands for jewellery, ornaments or crafts.
Prices start around £30 for vintage ceramic designs, rising for cut glass and lead crystal, and highest for those made from or with decorative silver edging. Attractive rarer materials are milk glass, cranberry glass, jadeite and even wood. To restore to their best and bring out the grain, wipe wooden stands with olive oil every so often.
These ceramic tiered cake stands are decorated attractively with flowers, and unless Prue Leith has stopped by to snap them up, are in the centre at between £7 and £12.
Check for chips where glass and ceramics have been handled carelessly. A thinner, plastic or ‘bendy’ central stem is often a clue to a reproduction cake stand, be aware of any being passed off as antiques.
On the other hand, delightful ‘upcycled’ creations are being newly made from vintage crockery, with teacups incorporated as well as plates, and some are even being made from iconic records.
So there really is a cake stand for everyone. Which only leaves us one decision: what flavour of cake to put on it? Crumbs!