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Tiffany & Co. 1893 Columbian Exposition: "Viking Punch-Bowl," Antique Iron, Silver and Gold, designed by Paulding Farnham, NYC

Boldly mounted with silver and gold appliques, this decarbonized iron punch bowl features Viking decoration. The silver mounts are chased and pierced with Nordic designs, while the iron has been etched with designs "suggested by the shields of Norsemen." (1) Decarbonized iron was a new technology (2) that made working the iron easier. (3)

Underneath, eight large chased and pierced silver bosses are applied around the side of the bowl. Above, the rim is also decorated with eight smaller silver chased and pierced circular bosses. Both sets of bosses are decorated with Norse designs. Around the edge, an applied band of silver is inlaid with gold bands.

Around the flaring rim and into the bowl are decorations etched into the iron of Viking designs. These etched decorations are found on the outside as well. They go from under the rim down into the areas between the silver bosses.

Meant to resemble a Viking shield, this punch bowl was accompanied by another "Viking Punch-Bowl" (4) at the exposition, that one with decoration suggested by the "Norseman's boat." As Viking shields were sometimes displayed on the sides of their boats, these two pieces were meant to complement each other and reinforce their design origins.

In 1893, designer Paulding Farnham said the Viking Punch-Bowls, "were begun some years ago, under the impulse of some old Norwegian books." (5) Also, Farnham would have been familiar with the Nordic Exhibition of 1888. Held in Copenhagen, it was the first pan-Scandinavian fair and an international historical Scandinavian style emerged from the fair. These bowls were one of Tiffany & Co.'s first, and certainly their most important works in this new and exotic style.

Tiffany & Co.'s exhibit at the 1893 Worlds' Fair in Chicago, or Columbian Exposition, was a stunning success. Of their silver display, three pieces received the most attention - "The Magnolia Vase" and the two "Viking Punch-Bowls." One commentator noted: "The great magnolia enameled vase, the American flower set in Souchow chasing, the Viking bowls in etched iron and damascene work, are original and decided advances in the silversmith's art." (6) Both of the other pieces are now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The "Viking Punch-bowls" at the Columbian Expo. ("The Tiffany Exhibit" in The Illustrated American, May 20, 1893, p. 592.) The Punch bowl on the right is now at the Met.
The "Viking Punch-bowls" at the Columbian Expo. ("The Tiffany Exhibit" in The Illustrated American, May 20, 1893, p. 592.) The Punch bowl on the right is now at the Met.

Of the 15 awards Tiffany won for silver at the exposition, the last two read: "...damascening of gold and silver on iron, etchings on decarbonized steel [sic.]." (7) (Steel should be iron.) The judges made two specific awards because they wanted an award for each punch bowl, one with damascening, the other with etching. For more information on Tiffany's exhibit at the fair, please see here.

This is the most important extant piece of American silverwork from the Columbian Exposition still in private hands.

Private Collection

1893 World's Fair, Chicago, "Columbian Exposition."

Jury award for "etching on decarbonized steel" [sic.]

Period publications and reviews.

This amazing piece measures 19.5 inches in diameter and 6.75 inches high. It is engraved underneath on the iron "TIFFANY & CO./ MAKERS" and stamped on one silver boss underneath with "TIFFANY & CO." and a very poorly struck Columbian expo mark. It is in very good antique condition with wear to the original patination. Underneath, it appears to have been partly varnished.


  1. Tiffany & Co., Catalog of Tiffany & Co.'s Exhibit, (New York: Privately Printed, 1893), p. 57.
  2. Annamarie V. Sandecki, "'All the Ages of the World': Inspiration and Innovation from Tiffany & Co. at the World's Fairs" in Inventing the Modern World, (New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2012), p. 152.
  3. John Loring, Magnificent Tiffany Silver, (New York: Abrams, 2001), p. 203.
  4. Tiffany & Co., p. 57.
  5. Sandecki, p. 152.
  6. "A World's Fair Number" by The Cosmopolitan, September 1893, p. 555.
  7. "Official Announcements of Awards for Silverware Exhibits" in The Jeweler's Circular and Horological Review, October 4, 1893, p. 44.