Sugar tongs

ARTIST / MAKER: William Cripps (maker)
DATE: ca.1750 (made)
PLACE: England (made)

As tea and coffee were considered unpalatably bitter by some, sugar and milk became suitable additions in Western Europe from the late 17th century onwards. Much like tea, refined white sugar was a luxury commodity which became increasingly available through West Indies cane plantations, and its consumption equally indicated wealth. Until the early 19th century, sugar was usually sold as sugarloaves, large white cones which had to be snipped into smaller lumps. Large lumps of sugar were broken off the loaf and placed in a sugar bowl before being served to the tea table. Small silver sugar ‘nips’ or tongs allowed guests to cut the lumps into yet smaller pieces and transfer these to their cups, using the sharp edges of the spoon bowls. The scissor mechanism of this example was used by silversmiths up until the 1770s, until a U-shape form was increasingly produced.