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Exhibition National Museum of Scotland

Uniquely Scottish Silver

5 Aug 2023 - 26 May 2024

Gallery 4, Level 1

Uniquely Scottish Silver brings together five distinct Scottish silver object designs: mazers, quaichs, thistle cups, ovoid urns and heart brooches.

While some of these objects survive in plentiful numbers, others are amongst the earliest and rarest survivals within the Scottish silver smiths’ craft.

The display includes 43 pieces made between the 16th and early 20th centuries. During the Renaissance and Early Modern period (c.1450-1750) Scottish craftsmen designed and produced a wealth of silver artefacts. While most designs were influenced by contemporary British and European fashions, the country’s silversmiths also created a number of forms unique to Scotland. Their designs reveal that Scottish silversmiths were innovative in their work, and that they added their own twist to create a remarkably distinctive Scottish form of silverware.

Five large silver coffee pots shaped like eggs propped up on tall, curving legs and with spindly arms, some of them made to resemble serpents. They look a bit sci-fi, and are very shiny.

Ovoid urns by Alexander Gairdner, James Ker, John Main, William Aytoun and John Rollo, Edinburgh, 1719–1760 (H.MEQ 1573).

One unusual highlight of the display is a futuristic-looking ovoid urn, which, thanks to some detective work by researchers, is now believed to have been used for serving coffee rather than tea, as had previously been thought. Such items were owned and used by people from many walks of life, and often carried sentimental value while showcasing their owners' awareness of the latest trends and styles.

Admission to the National Museum of Scotland is free, with no charge for this display and no need to book in advance to see it.

  • USS Gallery Mazer

    The Galloway mazer by James Gray, Canongate, 1569.

  • USS Gallery Quaich

    Silver quaich made by William Scott, Banff or Aberdeen, c. 1681.

  • USS Gallery Thistle Cup

    The Huntly Race thistle cup, by William Scott II, Banff, 1695.

  • USS Gallery Ovoid Urn

    Ovoid urn by John Rollo, Edinburgh, 1735-36.

  • USS Gallery Heart Brooch

    Heart brooch with a 'bird head' design by Alexander Stewart, Inverness, c.1796-1800.

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National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street

Visiting information can be found on our Plan Your Visit pages.

Plan your visit


We want everyone who comes to our museums to enjoy their time with us and make the most of their visit. 

  • There is level access to the Museum via the main doors to the Entrance Hall on Chambers Street and the Tower entrance at the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge.  
  • Lifts are available to all floors and accessible toilets are available on Levels 0 and 3, as well as a Changing Places (U) toilet in the Entrance Hall on Level 0. 
  • Wheelchairs are available for loan at no charge. Please note wheelchairs cannot be booked in advance. On arrival, ask about availability at the Information Desk. Small mobility scooters are permitted inside the museum.
  • There is an induction loop in the Auditorium. 
  • Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are admitted. 

Find out more about our access information. If you have any questions about accessing this event, please email us in advance at

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