The Crown Jewels and the Anointing Spoon

Q: We found this boxed set of spoons in my aunt's dining room. It doesn't look like they were ever used so I suppose they are souvenirs of something. Can you identify them or explain their strange shape?


A:  Let's talk about Britain's Crown Jewels and the part the "Anointing Spoon" plays.

The Anointing Spoon is part of Britain's Crown Jewels. The term "Crown Jewels" does not refer to the entire wardrobe of gems and jewelry owned by members of the Royal Family. Crown Jewels is a specific collective noun describing the regalia worn by the United Kingdom sovereign at his or her coronation or other state functions of extreme importance.

The regalia include not only the crowns but also the scepters, orbs, rings, swords, vestments and any other miscellany involved in the ceremony.

As part of the coronation ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury pours oil from the Ampulla — a hollow gold eagle shaped vessel with a screw-on head — into the Anointing Spoon. The oil is then applied to the head, breast and palms of the sovereign being crowned.

The actual spoon is silver gilt inlaid with pearls and is said to date from the 12th century. It and the Ampulla were the only parts of the Crown Jewels not destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in the mid-17th century.

The hallmarks on your spoons date them to Birmingham, England, in 1953, and they even include the slightly rare coronation mark.

The set, made by the firm Toye, Kenning & Spencer, was without a doubt produced as a souvenir of Queen Elizabeth II's 1953 coronation.

This particular set appears to be unused and still in its presentation box. I don't find this surprising at all because most royal watchers and collectors since the time of Queen Victoria have preferred to keep their souvenirs as pristine as possible.

As a set of sterling coffee spoons their value is about $30. As a Queen Elizabeth coronation souvenir the set should bring closer to $100.