Norway’s largest and most impressive silver tankard was made in Bergen in the sixteen-thirties by Lucas Andersen Steen, the leading goldsmith in Norway at the time. But the very fact that it can hold three litres of liquid most likely indicates that it was not used for ordinary drinking sessions, explains Trond Indahl, former senior conservator at KODE Art Museums in Bergen.
Of course, it’s possible that men used it for drinking beer at social gatherings, but we think it’s unlikely that this tankard was in everyday use. Primarily, it was all about prestige. It was a status symbol that may have been used only on very special occasions. And of course on those occasions, owning the biggest tankard was a matter of pride. Being able to show off the country’s biggest tankard, having it as one of your possessions, would confer status.
But rich merchants weren’t the only people who had silver items in their homes. Ordinary people might own a small silver spoon, for example, which would double as an eating implement and an investment. Today, Norwegians own more silver per capita than people in any other country in the world.
Silver has maintained its strong position in Norway among very many people right up until the present day. It’s still very common to lay the table with elegant silver cutlery on important occasions, and we often see silver candlesticks on the table at special celebrations. There’s no doubt this is a tradition that’s stronger in Norway than in most other places.