In the broadest sense, an epergne is a table centerpiece that is decorative and often functional. The basic design for an epergne is the use of a serving dish that is composed of a series of bowls or receptacles that are connected in some manner. An epergne can be made of just about any type of metal or glass.
Epergnes can be created in a number of different designs. The bowls or receptacles may be deep or hollow. Generally, there are at least two bowls connected through some sort of central branch or stem. However, it is not unusual for an epergne to be composed of anywhere between three to five sections that may be used to hold various elements.
In usage, this functional centerpiece may be utilized to hold any number of different items. If in use at an informal sit down dinner, an epergne may be used to hold side dishes that compliment the entrée. If the table is being set up in a buffet style, the epergne may be placed in the center and filled with colorful chips, dips, or other finger foods. In a formal dining room, an epergne may be used as the basis for centerpieces that creatively interweave floral arrangements with other elements, such as candles or gold and silver accent pieces.
The beauty of the epergne is that this versatile serving dish can be used in a number of different dining situations. The dish is perfectly acceptable at household meal and when company is over for dinner. Many designs for the dish are intended to be casual and ideal for everyday use. At the same time, there are epergne designs that are very ornate. For example, there are epergnes that are especially suited for various holidays, or other special occasions, such as a formal dinner. Whether used to display fruit, candy, or flowers, the epergne can remain on the table between mealtimes, adding a warm touch to the dining area throughout the day.