Historic mazers and love spoons featured in new Uniquely Scottish exhibition

04 August 2023
Quaich, silver, by Matthew Colquhoun, Ayr, c1685
Uniquely Scottish Silver, on display at National Museum of Scotland, showcases a range of objects highlighting Scottish designs and provides an insight into how people of the past used them.

The display brings together five distinctively Scottish designs: mazers, quaichs, thistle cups, ovoid urns and heart brooches. While some of these objects survive in plentiful numbers, others are amongst the earliest and rarest survivals within the Scottish silver smiths’ craft. 


Highlights include thistle cups which were a relatively short-lived phenomenon from the 1680s to 1720s, but a distinctively Scottish one, with their inverted bell-shape and prominent lobes to the bottom half of the cup giving the impression of a thistle head.


These designs reveal that Scottish silversmiths were innovative in their work and that they added their own twist to create a remarkable Scottish form of silverware. 

Silver quaich, probably by Matthew Colquhoun, Ayr, c. 1685

The display also includes pieces from the 16th to the early 20th centuries, some of which are instantly recognizable as Scottish including quaichs and heart brooches, as well as rarer items such as thistle cups and mazers – only nine Scottish mazers are known to survive. 

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Galloway mazer

 Lyndsay McGill, Curator of Renaissance and Early Modern Scottish History said:  “During the Renaissance and Early Modern period (about 1450-1750) Scottish craftsmen designed and produced a wealth of silver artefacts. While most designs were influenced by contemporary British and European fashions, the country’s silversmiths also created a number of forms unique to Scotland, and that’s what the display is about. These items were owned and used by people from many walks of life. Some objects were sentimental and held meaning, while others signified the latest styles.” 

Display details

Uniquely Scottish Silver runs from 5 August 2023 until 26 May 2024. Admission is free.  

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JE; website.

(Images courtesy National Museum of Scotland/Stewart Attwood)