Inventory no.: 1410

Colonial Madras Silver Knives & Forks


Set of 12 Fine Silver Cast & Engraved Fruit Knives & Forks, Probably Orr & Sons

Madras, India

circa 1875

length of knife: 21.8cm, length of fork: 18.5cm; average weight of fork: 65g, average weight of knife: 75g

total weight of all 12 knives and forks: 1,693g

Each of these twelve knives and twelve forks is exquisitely cast with handles decorated front and back with village scenes and at the ends with a Hindu god or avatar, each of which is named in a band just below the figure with extremely fine engraved script. Remarkably, no two gods or scenes are repeated on any of the twenty-for utensils.

The blade of each knife is extensively and very finely engraved along its full length with scrolling foliage and fruits such as pomegranates, plums and grapes. The blades are engraved on one side only.

Each of the forks is cast with four tynes, and on the backs of each of the heads of the forks is engraved various fruits and flowers. As with the blades of the knives, no single engraved floral or fruit pattern is repeated on any other fork.

For a dinner party, each knife and fork would have been laid out above the plate, with the fork tynes pointing into the table, so that the engraving on the back is visible to the diner and with the knife pointing n the opposite direction so that the engraved bladed also faced the diner and with the two handles with their village scenes both up the right way with respect to each other and also facing the diner.

Dehejia (2008, p. 108-11) illustrates a full ninety-two piece silver cutlery set, signed by P. Orr & Sons of Madras and attributed to 1875. Dehejia says that a similar set, was presented by the Maharaja of Cochin to His Royal Highness, Edward Albert, Price of Wales.

The Times reported in June 1876, that the set ‘is so elegant in design and finished in workmanship that no inconsistency is seen in the application of Native ornamentation to European forms.’

Each knife and fork is of a good weight and is heavy in the hand. Each is in excellent condition. The pieces are unsigned but undoubtedly are by Orr or a competitor. Dehejia (2008, p. 111) says of the set that she illustrates that, ‘This is an important and undoubtedly expensive commission, executed with great finesse by P. Orr & Sons, and represents an extravagant if startling combination of British form and Indian design.’ The same certainly holds in respect of this set of fruit knives and forks.


Dehejia, V.,

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj, Mapin, 2008.

Inventory no.: 1410