Research and registration marks: Jan Schipper
Silver photography: Hoge Noorden-Jaap Schaaf

Gold and silver have been inherited in a lot of families, especially earizers (metal headpieces) and birth spoons. Mindlessly wrapped in cloths in the dark caverns of a cupboard, kept safe from bad weather. Or cherished, and pontifically displayed with pride in the glass case, to enjoy every day. However, this rural heritage has barely been described systematically. Such contrasts with ecclesiastical silver and to ‘upper-class’ silver: belonging to the nobility and the patricians.

Heritage Foundation puts gold and silver material in the spotlight such as the land delivers. And that is quite something. It’s about different objects: The Gospel generously covered with third carat gold, to a neat psalm booklet with a very slender lock, though made from first grade noble metal. Birth spoons abundantly decorated with a lot of beaten silver, to those modest with barely any finery, just an inscription. Long story short, nice material from agricultural nobility with – according to the Law of Malthus – two children, and over two hundred pûnsmiet (which roughly equals 73 hectares or 180 acres), and a hunger for expansion. Up to and including material from the small arable farmer’s widow, with ten children and barely two moargen (which roughly equals 1,8 hectares or 4,5 acres) and yet her bible silver in her hand on the border of Hungerland. Signs of contrasting social circumstances. Mirrors of the wealthy prosperity and affixed the pure poverty.

Heritage Foundation fetches the materials from the closet and makes it something to be seen: this gold and silver is being traced and competently documented. To capture it for posterity. It can be a sole metal headpiece, but also bigger collections of birth spoons, tobacco boxes, brandy bowls, snuffboxes, watches, etc., etc.
Such a costly historical inheritance often gets scattered to who knows where, when someone passes away. This way it at least doesn’t get lost, and it’s also a joy to others.

Heritage Foundation indicates the inheritors, the gold and silver smiths and makes the connections, makes the historical persons and environments stand out. To make the meaning of it clear and to revive this object: suddenly it’s more than an expensive piece of silver from an unknown distant relative, all over the place. It becomes precious in a whole other way.
Do you also want to have your gold and silver be registered and described? That’s possible at cost. Contact us:
e-mail: or 058-212 00 35 or fill in this form.

In the late seventeenth and in the eighteenth century, such spoons increasingly become memorial gifts. The most so-called memento spoons became widely known in the nineteenth century, writes prof. dr. Johan R. ter Molen in his three-part work Fries goud en zilver (Part 1, page 31; Ottema-Kingma Stichting, Bornmeer, De Gordyk 2014).
According to silver specialist Jan Schipper, it amounts to a total of thousands here in the nineteenth century. And especially with cattle farmers, less so with arable farmers. One could say those living on clay grounds usually had more money to spend. A spoon cost about five to six guilders at that time, a weekly salary of an average worker. Reusing them happened – because of that? People who could afford it, bought them in weight. In the 18th and 19th century, 1 kilo fine silver cost almost f 100,00. (1 gram of fine silver f 0,9; the material of the spoon f 4,50; the work salary f 1,00).
A birth spoon surely is typically Frisian – even now a days: in multiple families it’s still very much custom. In those circles, all grandchildren are entrusted with a birth spoon, new or inherited. This old and living custom to this day not being recorded in the Frisian canon is, over all, peculiar. (In Groningen, giving a birth spoon wasn’t custom, in North-Holland barely, and in Amsterdam amongst a few families, possibly those moved to Amsterdam and influenced by Frisian silver smiths over there.)

Regarding the symbolism of the imagery: the image’s possible (or assumed) meaning or denotation wasn’t always known to the person for whom the spoon was meant at the time, nor relevant. People often bought an already existing spoon, to be purchased accordingly to what they had. The choice of imagery depends on what the silver smith had available. The interpretation of the figurines and such are – later on – often also romanticised.
Below – to enjoy – some descriptions regarding the Collection Boelstra-Boelstra, but beware: they are popularly known to mostly be from the cold clay grounds!
Spoon 1:
-Madonna with child: purity
-putto, i.e. a chubby child figurine (a cherub, but without wings): here innocence or virtue, possibly
-sphinx: watchman of the sun.
Spoon 2:
-well: biblical, as source for live water (John 4: 1-42): germanic, as portal to the underworld, falling in it means access to subconscious areas
-open rose: earthly and spiritual love; also, secrecy, being silent (sub rosa)
-tree: life force
-sown land with three layers: new life, while three can symbolise the fullness, sign of the divine, the totality.