Playing cards engraved in silver from Peru, 1745
Wealthy card players have always enjoyed playing with - or perhaps just looking at - expensive luxury sets of illuminated, hand-painted and gilded cards, or cards printed from finely engraved plates. Silver playing cards are recorded as having been used at the French court in the reign of Louis XV, probably not because silver was cheaper than paper or vellum! Engraved silver cards are said to have become fashionable as early as the end of the sixteenth century for inclusion in princely display cabinets and examples are known with French, German and Italian suits. [See for example cliché no. E3407 in the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Bruxelles]
The example of Spanish-suited silver cards shown here is grotesquely embellished and enamelled. It came from a former Spanish Viceroy in Peru and is dated 1745. The ace of coins displays the arms of Castille and León and the two-headed imperial eagle. A similar set is said to be in the Museo de America in Madrid and yet another in Italy.