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French Art de Vivre

And the joy of Christofle's silverware designs

Beautiful and elegant petit sugar tongs with two delicious looking macarons
Delicate and beautifully crafted Christofle sugar tongs @ Quintessentially French

We are familiar with hearing all these French terms, but what is ‘l’art de vivre’? Like all phrases deeply embedded in a country's language and culture, there's no easy answer.

L'art de vivre encompasses aesthatics, taste and attention to detail . Gosh, that does sound very daunting!

On a more practical level, I see this as appreciation of the important things in life; one of which is creating an elegant home and table, to enjoy dining, not just when entertaining, but every day - as every day is special.

Even if one is eating a plain meal, l'art de vivre would be achieved by using good quality ingredients, carefully prepared. Sitting down and eating it at a thoughtfully set table with carefully chosen tableware to enhance the pleasure of the meal.

It is not so much about wealth but conscious choices in how we spend our money and how we live our lives. It is one if the traits that is so appealing about French life.

Christofle et l’art de vivre

Do you own or have you used a Christofle piece of tableware? They really are a cut above! Yes, this is the top of high-end French style.

Christofle is considered the premier marque in France. Still in existence, once you have visited their Paris shop and seen and felt the quality, you will understand why the French love it so.

Christmas window at one of Christofle's Paris store Picture credit @ Pinterest

It’s not just the quality, there is just something extra special about the design. In a display case of second-hand pieces, one can always spot the Christofle. And once you find one (and they do not come up often) They are easy to identify because they have the Christofle name as their mark.

However, I must admit that although the Paris store is sparkly and perfect, I do prefer a vintage piece and a collection built over time, even if it is mismatched, or truthfully, because it is mismatched.

As a student, while my university friends had whizzy modern cutlery sets, I rummaged around the charity shops, flea markets and my Grandmother’s cupboards and ended up with a quirky collection that always was a talking point when we had dinner parties. And thus collecting homeware began. Today I have a very large and eclectic collection of tableware, both my private collection and in the Quintessentially French shop too.

Elegant antique teapot and creamer with beautiful detail and ebonised wood handles
Mid 1800s Parisian Christofle tea service @ Quintessentially French

This is a beautiful example of collectible old Christofle; a teapot and creamer which appears to come from the tearoom of Parisian Grand Magasin department store. Printemps on Houssmann Boulevard. It appears to date from the same time as the opening of the store in 1865 and has the name of the store on the bow above the elegant flower basket.

Sipping tea and sampling delicate patisserie in such a stylish setting would certainly be living L'Art de Vivre!

Would you like to know a little bit more about Christofle?

‘La Maison’ Christofle was founded in 1830 with the intent of enhancing ‘l’art de vivre’. Beautifully crafted pieces that are designed to be a pleasure to own and to use as well as to look at.

Charles Christofle, image Christofle Paris

He developed the art of silver and gold plating to make great design within the reach of more people. Christofle won many awards including the coveted gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1844. King Louis-Philippe ordered a full service for the French Royal Family’s Chateau d’Eu, firmly establishing Christofle as a desirable brand. What is more Queen Elizabeth II had a large collection of Christofle silver too.

What is special is they are hand made by artisans with such attention to detail. The plating is thicker than most other pieces, adding to their longevity and second hand value too.

Dating Christofle pieces is not always easy, when the designs are so timeless, but the aesthetic and silver plate mark can help.

The poinçon or silver plate mark originally bore the letters CC (for Charles Christofle) encased in a lozenge shape. This changed in 1853 to CC and a bee and then OC (Orfèverie Christofle) with a balance scale added in 1935.

There are also two numbers individually in a square. This is the thickness of the silver plate and Christofle always is exceptionally good quality!

A bit confusing? Just look out for the word Christofle and you’ll be guaranteed a beautiful piece.

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Some more Christofle vintge beauties at Quintessentially French


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