The Scottish Quaich and its Christening Connections

What is a Quaich?

A Quaich is a large, shallow cup with a long handle (or lug) on either side. It has been used in Scotland for centuries as a symbol of friendship and trust. The precise origins of the quaich are unclear, as it has no obvious antecedents in Europe. One popular theory holds that the vessel is descended from a scallop shell, from which ancient highlanders would drink whisky; another holds that it played an important role in druidic blood sacrifice.

While the origins of the quaich are disputed, most agree that quaich is a uniquely Scottish invention.  It was predominantly used to drink spirits, such as whisky and brandy – though larger forms of the quaich were also used to drink ale.

They were also carried by travellers, since they could be easily hung from a saddle or belt. It could be used to drink from streams, as well as in taverns and inns along the road. Over time, the quaich became a standard means of measurement, with one finger being the rough equivalent of one contemporary dram.

The Quaichs social function

The quaich was a social drinking vessel which came into being during a time when no-one drank out of someone else’s cup. The quaich thereby came to symbolise friendship; one person would present another with the quaich, using both hands – which would render them incapable of holding a secret weapon. In this way trust was fostered between warring clans.

It also became a traditional gift at important gatherings and ceremonies such as weddings and christenings. A newlywed couple might drink from the same quaich in order to indicate that they trusted one another, while at christenings the quaich might be passed between attendees, who would then drink from it to indicate that they were all good friends.

What is a Quaich made from?

Earlier forms of the quaich were made from a variety of materials (including bone) but the most popular was wood, since wood was widely available.  A quaich could either be hewn from a single body of wood, or spun from individual staves. Of the latter sort, the most elaborate were made from many different sorts of wood, in shades both light and dark, which were interwoven in complicated patterns and bound together with withies (strips of willow) or bands of silver if you were rich.

In the centre of the basin usually lay a large coin or medallion, which would seal the area where the wooden strands met. These coins would usually then be engraved with one of any number of different ways: with a coat of arms, a set of initials, a motto, or a toast:  ‘cheers!’

The evolution of the Quaich

Since the quaich was so often offered as a gift at special occasions, there arose a demand for more impressive versions of the vessel. This meant that the skills of those that could make such items became more sought-after. Quaich-makers came to be regarded as artisans and the best Quaichs were regarded as masterpieces; that were prized not only in Scotland, but in England, too.

By the late seventeenth century, the quaich had become a highly sought after item. It had to be altered to suit the needs of aristocracy. Some of the early Quaichs were very large, cumbersome devices – not entirely suitable for a refined lord or lady.

Fortunately, this rise in popularity coincided with the increased availability of lighter materials, such as silver. As quaich-makers began to make use of these materials, their products became progressively better and easy to make.

As a by-product of this, skilled quaich-makers could then use metalworking to create patterns of great complexity and artistic value; and from then on more decorated Quaichs became widely available than ever before. The lugs of the quaich, while functional, are also a source of the vessel’s aesthetic appeal and served as a canvas for elaborate engravings.

Later on came glass-bottomed variants of the quaich, which – in slight contradiction with the Quaichs traditional background – allowed the drinker to keep an eye on their companions, even whilst drinking. Other variants placed two panes of glass at the bottom, so that a keepsake (such as a lock of hair) could be preserved at the bottom of the glass. In 1589, King James of Scotland presented his wife, Anne of Norway, with one such quaich as a wedding gift.

Though wooden Quaichs are still widely available, modern Quaichs are typically made from metal, since this allows for cheaper manufacture; pewter, in particular, is very popular. They remain an ever popular gift at weddings and christenings.


Good News …. Good News Bible Returns

After a year’s absence, we now have replacement stock of our Good News Bible. Although the silversmiths have now stopped production of this popular bible, we have acquired all their remaining stock and will be selling this bible at a clearance price whilst stocks last.

This is a very attractive bible with a faux soft leather binding stitched at the edges. The binding is supple, leather-like and very tactile. There is a strip of hallmarked sterling silver on the cover with a plain cross embossed at the base.

The Good News Bible is a modern translation, written in plain, uncomplicated language. The accessibility of the text and simplicity of the contemporary typography make this the perfect bible for children – easy to read and less daunting than the King James version.

This is a bible that encourages daily use and, as a constant companion, is the perfect Christening gift for both boys and girls.


What to Engrave on a Christening Cup

Christening cups, mugs and tankards are very popular Christening gifts for both boys and girls. Here at CHRISTENINGsilver, over 60% of our cups are engraved before dispatch.

We are often asked for advice on what should be engraved on a Christening Cup.

The most common engraving design includes the child’s initials and a date. The date is a bit of a moveable feast – some choose to engrave the date of birth whilst others prefer to mark the date of the Christening. There is no fixed rule here and it comes down to personal preference, although we have engraved a higher proportion of dates that fall in the future, suggesting that these are being chosen in advance of the Christening.

Christening Cup with initials and a date

The next design includes just the Christian name and a date. This is a more intimate design and has become increasingly popular when initials may appear a bit formal.

Christening cup engraving on two lines

Sometimes we are asked to engrave the full name. This is an acceptable variant, but it is important to consider the balance of the design. The first name and surname are usually the most important and you don’t want to dominate the design with the middle names. This is definitely a design to use with care. Always consider which names will appear on which line.

Christening Cup engraving on three lines

Some of our Christening cups are engraved with a name, a location and a date. In this instance the location is usually the place of the Christening and the date is then always the Christening day. It is worth considering the amount of text required when choosing this format, since the more text you need, the smaller (and less legible) it will be since the text will need to be reduced to fit into the available engraving space.

Engraved Christening cup with the Christening location

Finally, it is not uncommon for Grandparents or Godparents to engrave a message on the Christening cup. Once again, consider the space carefully. “With our Love” or “On your Christening” work well, but don’t write a sermon, it won’t look that great and will be hard to read.

If you have any concerns about what to engrave or what it will look like, simply drop us an email with your preferred text and the name (or item code) of the Christening Cup you want engraved and we will email you a proof within 24 hours and advise on alternatives if your initial ideas are unsuitable.


Special 10% Discount on Christening Cups, Mugs and Tankards

For a limited time – until the end of May – CHRISTENINGsilver is offering a 10% discount on all Christening Cups, Mugs & Tankards.

As we approach the busiest time of the year for Christenings, CHRISTENINGsilver is carrying high stock levels of over thirty different designs of Christening cups, mugs and tankards. Prices start at under £50.00 for engraved pewter tankards in impressive presentation cases, rising to over £300.00 for traditional sterling silver cups. A popular Silver Christening Tankard, manufactured in Birmingham is currently priced at £165.00, so with the discount this would come in at under £150.00.

A new addition to the collection is a sterling silver baby Christening Cup that is currently priced at only £85.00. This is an amazing price for a sterling silver cup which can engraved and delivered for under £100!

Baby Silver Christening Cup in a presentation box

Our range of Christening cups is already very competitively priced and for the rest of May they come with an extra 10% discounted from the price. Simply enter the code  CUP10  in the voucher and discount box at check-out to receive the price reduction.


New teething rings added to our Silver Baby Rattle collection

silver teether rattle

Since 2006, CHRISTENINGsilver has built up a comprehensive range of silver baby rattles. For 2013 we are adding to this collection with a series of teething rings in sterling silver and silver plate.

Teething rings with silver rattles attached were a popular Christening gift at the turn of the last century, and these modern examples reflect the style of their Victorian and Edwardian counterparts. Whilst nowadays these teethers are considered rather more ornamental than practical, you should be prepared for them to receive a few bashes and dents on the way. If you look at any antique version, it is sure to carry one or two dents here and there if it’s been treated as intended ….

silver teether rattle

These make great gifts for both boys and girls. You can see the full range on our Silver Rattles page.


Easter is a popular time for Christenings

Easter is a busy time here at CHRISTENINGsilver. We will be shipping more Christening gifts over the next few weeks than in the previous few months – This period over Easter and the start of Spring is very popular for Christenings & Baptisms.

… if only the weather was a bit more Spring-like. It was three degrees below freezing outside the CHRISTENINGsilver offices this morning …

There has been a close connection between Christenings and Easter for centuries. It was traditional in the early Church for baptisms to take place during the Easter Vigil and today many churches include a Christening ceremony during their Easter Sunday service.

This is not surprising, the associations between, Spring, resurrection, rebirth, baptism and Easter have been intertwined like a celtic knot for thousands of years. Baptism’s themes of purification, embracing of new life and welcoming a child into the family are eternal themes we have celebrated since we first started bashing rocks together in some palaeolithic cave.

The timing of Easter is based on the Vernal Equinox, an important pagan festival of birth, rebirth and purification …. although the calculation of the date of Easter around the equinox can be a bit of a headache: Easter should fall on the first Sunday after the full moon following the Vernal Equinox. Got that? Basically, you calculate the date of the equinox, work out when the next full moon is after the equinox and then Easter falls on the Sunday following that full moon – any time between March 22nd and April 25th … oh, and if the equinox falls on the 19th or 20th of March, just pretend it was the 21st – it makes things a lot easier.

Easter itself is named after a pagan goddess of Spring and new life, Eostre. Interestingly, she is closely linked in mythology with the hare (or if you prefer, the Mad March Hare) that many thought laid eggs at Easter – hence the “Easter Bunny” … and what’s our most popular Christening gift at this time of year? … you’ve guessed it … a Silver Egg Cup.


New Pewter Christening Cups and Tankards


Over the next few weeks we will be adding to our Christening cup and tankard range with a collection of pewter baby cups, mugs and tankards.

With the price of silver remaining high, we are finding it difficult to offer sterling silver cups below £150.00 and our most competitively priced silver plate cups are now priced around £75.00. Many of you are looking for high quality gifts, but have a budget closer to £50.00 and it is for this reason we are introducing the new pewter range.

Pewter Christening Tankard

These are no ordinary pewter cups, they are based on the same designs as some of our silver cups and are made to the same quality craftsmanship and finish. Not only that, they are presented in truly impressive hinged cases, similar to the ones we use for our sterling silver range. We are confident that these are gifts you will be proud to give.

Some of these pewter cups can be engraved with up to three lines of text and can be dispatched on the same day if you order before 12 noon and select Next Day delivery.

… a Christening cup, engraved and beautifully presented for around £50.00 … what’s not to like?