An epergne generally has a large central "bowl" or basket sitting on three to five feet. From this center "bowl" radiate branches supporting small baskets, dishes, or candleholders. There may be between two and seven branches. Epergnes were traditionally made from silver, however from around the start of the 20th century glass was also employed.
An epergne may be used to hold any type of food or dessert. It may also be used as a designer object to hold candles, flowers or ornaments for a holiday etc.
In traditional use, an epergne is a fancy way to display side dishes, fruit, or sweetmeats, or can be used for chips, dips, or other finger foods etc.
Probably from the French "épargne" meaning "saving", the idea being that dinner guests were saved the trouble of passing dishes (although an epergne in French is called a surtout). In addition the word epergne in French can also mean "spare", another way of saying "to save", or a spare meaning "reserve or extra".
- Media related to Epergnes at Wikimedia Commons