It is no secret that I love beautiful serving pieces. I also love beautiful centerpieces. When I find both of those things combined into one, it’s even better. This magical combination comes in the form of the epergne. An epergne is a dining centerpiece that sits on four feet with a large central bowl and four or more smaller bowls at the end of arms that extend from the central bowl. They were traditionally used to serve fruit, pickles, nuts, sweetmeats, or other small food items. Some epergnes have specific holders for candles or flowers.
The earliest record of an epergne was in 1725. Originating in France, the name epergne is derived from the French word épargne, meaning “saving.” Epergnes were first introduced as a way to economize, or make the most of, table space. By suspending the smaller bowls from the larger bowl, the table was less cluttered. Epergnes are traditionally made of silver, but by the end of the 18th century, some epergnes began to have elements of glass.
Over the years, many variations of epergnes came to be, such as ones with tiered bowls or trumpet vases. Epergnes are harder to come by today, but can be purchased at auctions, flea markets, antique shops, or online. There was an especially lovely four-trumpet epergne that was featured in Downton Abbey. I dream of the day when I will get the epergne I have always dreamed of: silver with crystal cups and a central crystal bowl. These gorgeous and economizing centerpieces truly stand the test of time.