1 Dessert servers sometimes suffer from a case of mistaken identity, as they look remarkably similar to items such as crumbers or jelly trowels. You can usually identify a dessert server by its flat blade and triangular shape.
2 Ceramic servers, such as this mid-20th-century one with a red floral motif, right, were often sold with matching cake plates. Easily breakable, they are a rare find.
3 The natural world has frequently made its way to the table, in the form of dessert servers crafted from materials such as horn, ivory, and wood. The minimalist example, sixth from bottom, was made entirely from horn in Italy.
4 The spade-shaped silver-plate server, far right, was made by Tiffany in the 1880s. Because of its desirable name, the piece can fetch a few hundred dollars (others pictured here go for far less).
5 This server is by Chase Brass & Copper, a company that mass-produced high-design pieces in the 1930s and '40's. Because so many were made, they are still easy to find.
6 With ornate blades and handles, some servers are as dazzling as wedding cakes. The server at the far left was engraved using a technique called bright cutting. A practice that originated in 18th-century England, it involves cutting facets to create a sparkle.
7 The subtler decoration on the 1880s server, fourth from right, was created by acid etching using a stencil. Austrian and German servers, such as the one in the center, are slender because the pastries and tortes made in those countries tend to be small.
8 Dessert servers weren't made until the mid-19th century, but many designers took their cues from 18th-century flatware; indeed, some servers even look like wide-blade knives.
9 They come in sterling and silver plate, bone and bakelite. Dessert servers make easy, elegant collectibles. But using them as intended is the sweetest reward.
10 Large late-19th-century serving utensils, used for pies and pastries, are ornately decorated and come in a variety of imaginative shapes, including a helmet, far right.
11 Bright-cut napkin rings bring a touch of brilliance to the dinner hour. By the 1870's, napkin rings had evolved from simple, unadorned bands to ovals, barrels, and octagons lavishly engraved with botanical patterns and other fanciful, minutely crafted designs.
12 The designs on these slender Georgian silver teaspoons from the late 18th century are confined to the hands and edges.
13 Victorians treasured sumptuous hand-engraved silver.
14 These butter and dessert knives, along with a large ice cream knife, center, represent a variety of styles, including delicate Japanese-inspired motifs, geometrics, and patterns that mix flowers, leaves and vines.
15 A silver-plate teapot and creamer from the late 1880s; bright-cut patterns decorate both sides of the hollowware.
16 A Victorian silver-plate basket has bamboo-shaped handles inspired by the Far East.
17 These late-Victorian spoons are embellished with intricate butterflies and flowers; the larger one is washed with a thin layer of gold.
18 Most steels were sold as part of carving sets because of a love of matching flatware. The idea was that they would be used at the table to hone the knife in front of everyone -- a grand flourish to start off the ritual carving.
19 This American silver-plate set from the 1920's features a then-popular streamlined design: the Patrician pattern, produced by a company called Community. A 5-piece set can be used to carve a variety of roasts.
20 Larger than carving forks, these utensils are meant to lift roasts and other heavy meats, and to steady them while you carve. They were usually sold separately from carving sets.
21 Blades come in a variety of shapes and metals. The multitude of designs -- from the dashingly pointed saber blades (second and third from left) to the subtly curved scimitar blade (fourth from left) -- is less about utility than whatever was fashionable at the time.
22 Spanning more than 100 years, these handles show a fascinating array of materials. A real ivory handle, such as the twirled one with the sterling-silver Renaissance-revival top (center left), was the most coveted.
23 A wooden-knobbed tea caddy.
24 The lion-head wine cooler was an extremely popular form.
25 Here is a water urn with an ivory-topped spigot.
26 The popularity of tea parties in the 18th century moved entertaining from inns and taverns into private homes, creating a demand for fine pieces with which to serve hot beverages and various foods.
27 This beautiful silver sugar dish has a beautiful engraving of initials.