The common commercial law of " supply and demand " has governed production in all ages. Personal necessity was the first incentive to production, and then the avarice of the chieftain and of the powerful noble forced labour, or gave encouragement to the skilled artist. No doubt the first pieces of domestic plate were very crude and closely resembled the natural objects lying about, or the pottery which had been made at an earlier period, but very soon the inequalities of man's nature were apparent ; some excelled others in their ability to fashion or copy, and there were men who showed ingenuity in modelling and in original designs, their own abilities were to them incentives to production, and their marked superiority to others induced the wealthier patrons to encourage them, and pass to them commissions the fulfilment of which required more than ordinary ability. As time went on the incentives to production increased, for the improvement in man and in his surroundings brought into play the skill of the craftsmen who fashioned things, and led to discovery of the possibilities of making advanced types and shapes to meet newer needs. The art of reproduction has always been fostered by modern requirement, and as new practices came into common use the maker found fresh scope for his ability to develop. The older plate of the Middle Ages before so much perished to meet the needs of wars and a craving for altered designs and perhaps lighter and handier vessels, was essentially strong and useful. There was little difference in form between the silver vessels used in the church and those on the table of the secular feast. When the Medieval splendour of the church spread and the love of richer ornament became general, the silversmith had newer aims, and the incentive to production was increased in force. The designer and the decorator were encouraged, and the fact that many of those craftsmen were the monks and the lay brethren who understood and felt the motive of the decoration, and the form and ornament of the things they were fashioning, helped to promote good work, and was an incentive to better workmanship. In modern days the buyer is often the user ; in the past, however, there was a very general custom of making donative offerings. It may be contended that the world must be growing more selfish, for self now comes first, whereas in the past there was greater sacrifice. The world needs more personal goods than formerly it must be admitted, but notwithstanding that, many of to-day's purchases of plate and other things are for the buyer's own use, there are still many generous folk in the world, and even gifts of plate are not altogether abolished. Superstition had something to do with the lavish donations of plate and other treasures which began with the votive offerings at the shrines of heathen deities, continuing throughout the centuries as the great cathedrals were reared, and silver and gold altar ornaments were given to abbeys and churches, and in some instances bestowed as personal gifts to ecclesiastics. Records of corporations and civic communities tell of the great pieces of plate which were made to the order of their members for public use. Such bodies, too, in their corporate state were large buyers of plate. Personal donatives became very fashionable in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and that gave continued impetus to the manufacture of jewellery and plate after the days when the dower of great ecclesiastical establishments had been suspended (not altogether abolished). In " Antique Jewellery and Trinkets" mention is made of the practice of receiving jewellery as New Year's gifts, a practice traceable to early times, and observed with increasing volume in the days of Queen Elizabeth who encouraged her courtiers to give her presents of gold and silver ornaments. Such gifts often consisted of household plate, and many rare standing cups, salt cellars and the like, now treasured by old families, owe their origin to this ancient practice. It is said that Queen Elizabeth, however, preferred presents of jewellery, but was always very pleased when she received a piece of plate which differed in form and ornament from any others she already possessed. The Virgin Queen was not mean, for she generally made a return of gifts of plate of greater value, thus finding work for the court goldsmiths and silver-smiths who flourished worthily in those days. Gifts were not infrequently exchanged between the wealthy ecclesiastics and their sovereign, a custom which had found royal favour at an earlier date and before the days of the Protestant Queen. It is recorded that Queen Mary once received as a " New Year's gift " a " saulte " of silver richly enamelled, and a pair of silver-gilt " pots," weighing 144 ounces, from Cardinal Pole. The renewal of family plate in the days following the Restoration was, perhaps, the greatest incentive to production the silversmiths of this country ever had ; times had changed and ideas of ornament and decoration had altered too, so that there was an unparalleled impetus to production, for most family plate chests had been reduced and many of them had been entirely emptied. The increasing luxury of the times found new uses for many things. The silversmiths during the reign of Queen Anne seem to have excelled themselves in the art of designing acceptable domestic plate for the dinner table and the sideboard, for their designs have been repeated again and again, and they are still the leading patterns on which modern makers model so many of their most beautiful and acceptable works.
The " cup of tea " became an institution which gave rise to many new table appointments, and proved an incentive to production of no mean importance. When tea-drinking became general amongst the middle classes in the eighteenth century many beautiful little silver caddies and caddy spoons were made. The fanciful sugar-tongs of the Georgian period are the delight of the collector to-day. The tea table brought into use the cream jug and the sugar basin and later the full tea-sets. Then came the incentive to produce kettles, urns, and the like -new luxuries. Improved candles meant better candle-sticks and engendered a love for more light and greater distribution, adding very materially to the number needed ; and very beautiful indeed were those of the days when " old " silver was being fashioned ; such silver as the home connoisseur admires and loves to exhibit to friends.