Chargers, dishes, plates and saucers
Chargers, dishes, plates and saucers were collectively known by pewterers as ‘sadware’.
The boundaries between the four categories were not clearly defined. Indeed, although ‘charger’ is a very old word, pewterers rarely used it, describing all large sadware as ‘dishes’.
Nowadays we tend to say:
- saucer anything under 7″ (17.7 cm) in diameter
- plate 7″ to 11″ (17.7 to 27.8 cm)
- dish 11″ to 18″ (27.9 to 45.6 cm)
- charger anything larger.
In Britain , huge quantities of sadware were made in the period 1650 to 1780 as households right across the social spectrum replaced their wooden trenchers with modern pewter. Sadly only a tiny fraction survives. Styles remained fairly static up to about 1640. New styles then came and went in rapid succession for the next 90 years before once again a stable style emerged which continued until the use of pewter for sadware died out in the 19 th century.
The picture shows the most important sadware styles and their main periods of use. Early British sadware is usually characterised by a plain rim, a gently-rounded ‘bouge’ (the bit that joins the rim to the well) and, often, a raised centre to the well. From c1640 there was a vogue for sadware with a steeper bouge and broad rim.
Then from c1660 came a fashion for rims with multiple-reeded edges. Rim widths steadily shrank back to where they had been, though some very narrow rims were produced. Around 1700, the single reeded rim emerged and the plain rim also re-appeared, though without the gentler bouge of the earlier version.
The single reed continued throughout the 18 th century on sadware intended for export to America , but for the domestic market it fell out of favour by c1730 and the plain rim then reigned more or less supreme until production of pewter sadware ceased altogether. However, style had one final fling later in the 18 th century when there was a fashion for non-circular plates with wavy or polygonal edges amongst the wealthy.
This brief survey covers the main styles of sadware but is not exhaustive. You may come across other types of rim, plates and basins with a deep well, oval plates and dishes, meat dishes and warming plates with a cavity to hold hot water.
If you look on the back of the bouge you will normally see rows of small hammer marks. This hammering was done to strengthen the metal here. If there are no hammer marks, there is a higher probability that the piece is not British or is a 20 th century reproduction. Most British sadware is undecorated, but engraved owners’ crests are not uncommon and at the beginning of the 18 th century wrigglework decoration had a brief spell of popularity.