At Hayward and Stott, we pride ourselves on our premium sterling silver Quaichs, and we are delighted to share our Silver Thistle Quaich as part of our Thistle Collection, designed by Glasgow School of Art graduate Hamish Dobbie. The collection celebrates our Scottish heritage with bespoke sterling silver pieces that bring together traditional Scottish elements with refined, elegant design.
Origins of The Quaich – Clans and friendship
The word ‘Quaich’ comes from the Gaelic word ‘cuach’ meaning cup and is known as the Scottish “Loving Cup” or “Cup of Friendship”. Drinking from the quaich is a symbol of trust, friendship and love.
Historically, the quaich was used as Highland hospitality as well as ceremonially as a utensil to offer a welcoming drink, usually whisky or brandy, at clan gatherings and family occasions, and to greet friends and visitors. The quaich’s unique handles, or lugs (a Scottish term for ‘ears’), remain a symbol of trust between fellow drinkers.
Originally, it was said that if a clansman were to pass the quaich to another man, it would require them to use both hands. This meant that both drinkers would be unable to hold any weapons, having to trust one another not to take advantage of this weakness.
Traditionally, a quaich would be carved out of wood, an art form called ‘treen’. It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that they became popular in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow with metal variations appearing in the upper classes, typically made from pewter, silver or brass.
Mystery, history and evolution
The design of the quaich itself is steeped in mystery with unproven theories suggesting that the quaich evolved from the use of scallop shells as drinking vessels. Quaichs were also said to be designed with glass bottoms to allow the drinker to keep close guard of his companions. Some designs included a double glass bottom, to hold a lock of hair of a loved one, further cementing it as a treasured choice of gift.
In 1590, it’s said that King James VI had one designed for his bride Anne of Denmark as a wedding gift. Other notable Scottish figures who took pride in using a silver quaich are Sir Walter Scott and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Nowadays Quaichs are often ornate pieces, featuring Celtic illustration and design. Hayward and Stott have a range of stering silver and wood quaichs with an emphasis on simple, contemporary designs. The Thistle quaichs were designed with this in mind, bringing together traditional Scottish elements with stylish modern design.
Quaichs and ceremony
The Scottish quaich is now considered a beautiful symbolic tradition to mark a special occasion, such as a wedding. Quaichs can be passed between the bride and groom and their parents as a symbol of welcoming new members to the family, or shared with guests and used to make the ceremonial toasts as a symbol of the couple’s love and happiness.
Quaichs are also often used at Christening ceremonies, used in place of the baptismal font. Another popular use of the quaich is “wetting the baby’s head”. This is a well-known Scottish expression where the father and family will often choose a clan quaich to enjoy a ‘dram’ in celebration of the birth of a baby.
These memorable events can be engraved in the quaich with anniversary dates, clan crests and treasured messages. The option of engraving is also why silver Quaichs make an excellent alternative to trophies, particularly when incorporating Scottish heritage to the event. You might know of the Centenary Quaich, contested for every year by the Scottish and the Irish national rugby teams during the Six Nations Rugby Tournament.
The Silver Thistle Quaich celebrates what it means to be Scottish today, combining traditional elements with elegant contemporary design. We believe that luxury items like the quaich should be part of everyday life, designed to be enjoyed and celebrated with family and friends.
“Like all our silverware, our quaichs are not only for adding something special to that one off occasion but for daily life, and definitely not for sitting on a dusty sideboard. We’ve always believed that while silver is a precious metal there’s no reason to be precious about it. These quaichs are bespoke designs and luxury items, but we absolutely want and encourage them to be used and enjoyed every day when people are drinking and eating with friends.”
Charlie Stott, Managing Director