Sterling Tea Service and Coffee Pots

Tea arrived in Europe from China in the early 1600s. Despite its association with the aristocracy, tea actually began as a drink of sailors—in fact, it was considered a lower-class beverage throughout much of the 17th century. But all that changed in the late 1600s when England became infatuated with tea.

Although the English enjoyed their tea, they found it less than palatable to drink it in the traditional Chinese way, in which tea was brewed and subsequently sipped from the same cup. Swallowing floating tea leaves was deemed distasteful, so English artisans turned to the designs of porcelain vessels used to serve hot Chinese rice wines. These squat, low containers quickly evolved into teapots, with strainers in their spouts to keep tea leaves from spilling into cups.

English and French silversmiths began making silver tea services in the early 1700s. These were considered an upscale improvement on ceramic tea sets. Silver tea services generally included a teapot, a matching coffee pot, a sugar dish, a creamer, a waste bowl for used tea, and a matching tray. While not necessarily considered part of the tea service, teaspoons, sugar spoons, and sugar tongs often accompanied these sets.

Some of the most elaborate tea services were produced during the Victorian era. Silversmiths such as Dixon and Sons, Broadhead and Atkin, and Bradbury & Co. were famous for their tea services, and they brought their best to the Great Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. Many of the dominant patterns of the time were neoclassical in style, copying formal Greek and Roman designs. At the other end of the spectrum were tea services in the rococo style, which featured intricate vines, branches, and other patterns taken from nature.

Toward the end of the 19th century, design preferences shifted again as silver tea services became much more simplified and streamlined, putting them years ahead of the overall aesthetics of the time. Dixon and Sons was at the forefront of this movement in England. In America, Reed & Barton and Rogers Bros. were the leaders, adhering to formal, neoclassical treatments.

By the early 20th century, the look of silver tea services varied greatly from region to region. Some European designers stuck to the rococo designs that had been popular during the Victorian era, but across the Atlantic in America, the Arts and Crafts movement was in full swing. Silversmiths at the Kalo Shop (1900 to 1970) produced a range of designs—from "bean pot" teapots with ivory insulators on the handles to taller, fluted services with handsomely notched spouts. A short-lived offshoot of Kalo, the TC Shop (1910 to 1928), also in Chicago, produced hand-hammered tea services, whose forms were spare and geometric.

In New York, Scandinavians like Peer Smed made tall and elegant tea services, their weight often being of a point of value for contemporary collectors. Some were custom stamped or engraved with their owner’s initials or seals, and many were decorated with Art and Crafts-style vines, flowers, and bands.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Teainfusers.info

Teainfusers.info

Start some tea brewing, get your finger sandwiches ready and sit down to this exquisite reference by Elizabeth Wil… [read review or visit site]

Silversugartongs.com

Silversugartongs.com

Graham Hodges' collection of antique Georgian (as in King George of England) silver sugar tongs from 1760 to 1820. … [read review or visit site]

Chicago Silver

Chicago Silver

Paul Somerson's incredible reference on handwrought metalwork from the American Arts and Crafts movement of the ear… [read review or visit site]

Feeding America

Feeding America

This archive of 76 influential American cookbooks from the late 1700s to early 1900s, assembled by the Michigan St… [read review or visit site]

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

Silver Marks Encyclopedia

An extensive reference guide to silver marks, hallmarks, trademarks and maker's marks found on antique and vintage … [read review or visit site]

Tupper Diva

Tupper Diva

Kristian McManus’ fresh, airtight collection of Tupperware catalogs and related ephemera from the 1950s and 6… [read review or visit site]

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

Silver at the Victoria and Albert

This is a great reference site on silver, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can view silver items acc… [read review or visit site]

The Gilbert Collection

The Gilbert Collection

The late Sir Arthur Gilbert's collection of European silver, gold, enamel, and other items is now housed at the Vic… [read review or visit site]

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

“Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj” was the title of a 2008 exhibition at Columbia University’s Mi… [read review or visit site]

TheStieffCompany.com

TheStieffCompany.com

Scott Perkins is an enthusiastic evangelist for The Stieff Company, a significant Baltimore silversmith and maker o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Most watched eBay auctions    

Superb Large Heavy 261g English Antique 1891 Solid Sterling Silver Tea Caddy BoxBeautiful Antique Chinese Carved Jade Sterling Silver Tea Strainer With BoxFine Decorative Antique Victorian 1898 Solid Sterling Silver Tea Caddy CanisterSterling Silver Art Deco Octagonal Bachelor Teapot Roberts & Belk Sheffield 420gLovely Decorative English Antique 1897 Solid Sterling Silver Tea Caddy CanisterAntique Victorian Silver Large Spirit Kettle & Stand Christopher Dresser C1890Antique Solid Sterling Silver Tea Pot 1899/ 329 G/ 580 MlAntique Victorian Superb 3ps Solid Sterling Silver Bachelors Tea Set, 349g, 1899Rare Find Hallmarked Sterling Silver Spirit Kettle Food Warmer Burner Ldn 1912Rare 1879 Gorham Japonisme Sterling Tea Caddy With Birds & Hammered PanelsSolomon Hougham Georgian 1814 Silver Teapot 659 Grams! Decorative 800 Standard Solid Silver Tea Pot/ H 19 Cm/ 473 GChinese Export Silver Tea Bowls (2) Wang Hing DragonsDutch Sterling Silver Miniature Tea Caddy Trinket BoxVintage Stieff Rose 28 1/2 Three Piece Sterling Silver Demitasse Tea Set ServiceVintage International Sterling Silver Richmond Tea / Coffee Set - No Reserve1923 Superb Vintage Large Heavy Solid Silver Coffee Pot - 832g/26.75ozsSterling Silver Teapot: Peter & Wm Bateman 1807 16+ounces Family Of HesterA Superb Heavy Solid Sterling Silver Twin Handled Tea Strainer Goldsmiths 1917Huge Tea Caddy Jar Box Sterling Silver Old Danish Heavy Perfect Rare CollectibleGorham Sterling Tea Set Turkish Style 1877 Chinese Japanese Korean Sterling Silver Hand Chased Teapot & 5 Goblet Cups 11oztStunning William 1v Period Irish Silver Coffee Pot J. Fray C1830. Heavy 36oztBury Heavy Elkington Lovely 1883 Silver Coffee Pot 934g Vintage Chinese Superb Heavy Solid Silver Bulbous Teapot, 420g, Hong Kong C1930Early 1900s Antique Dutch 935 Sterling Silver Tea Strainer 92gFrank Whiting Sterling Silver Tea Strainer W/ Matching F. Whiting Drip BowlGerman Silver Coffee Pot Eagle Head C1880Antique French Export Sterling 950 Silver Repousse Tea Ball StrainerRare Imperial Russian Silver Doctors Memento Mori Skulls Tea Cup&dish Set In BoxVintage Russian Silver & Cloisonné Enamel Tea Infuser- Super Collectible - C1950 75 Oz Coffee Creamer Sugar Kettle Tea Sterling Silver Service .925 Scrap Or UseSchulz & Fisher Sterling Teapot Egyptian Revival Silver Sterling Silver English Tea Strainer Two Part With BowlFine Vintage Silver & 'moonstone' Enamel Tea Strainer By Marius Hammer NorwayA George V Solid Silver Tea Caddy Birmingham 1915 175 Grams 8.5cm High Schulz & Fisher Sterling Tea Cup & Saucer C1870 9 Oz.Antique Victorian Silver Coffee Pot Superb London 1860 – R & S Garrard & Co 544gFancy Antique Flower Repouse Sterling Silver In The Spout Tea StrainerTall Antique Chinese Export Sterling Silver Teapot+creamer+sugar Dragon Tea SetCirca 1900 Pretty 900 Grade Turkish Coffee Drinking Cup Zarf 38 Grams Antique Sterling Silver Asian Indian Calcutta Elephant Tea Set !!Nice Antique Sterling Silver Tea Strainer W/ Ebony Wooden Handle 1805 American Engraved Coin Silver Tea Сaddy Sugar Bowl Eoff & Howell Ny 466 GrAntique 19th Century Solid Silver Teapot Circa 1880Lovely 1904 Delightful Edwardian Elegant Silver Bachelor Teapot 365g KeightLot Of 2 With Glass Niello Soviet Period Russian Tea Glass Holder .875 SilverAntique Vienna Austrian Enameled Silver Miniature Tea Set Ludwig PolitzerInternational Silver Tea Set 2 Cups Saucers Liners Set Of 6 Piece Prelude International Silver Hand Chased Sterling Silver Tea English Sterling Teapot & Stand Cobra English Sterling Tea Set Cheltenham 67 Oz Smart Crested Large Antique Solid Sterling Silver Teapot 1892/ L 27 Cm/ 561 GVictorian Sterling Silver Tea Set By Joseph Gloster Ltd. 1900. Queen Anne StyleAntique William Vincent Georgian Sterling Silver Teapot Wood Handle London 1784Ao9: Japanese High-class Lacquered Wooden Tea Caddy, Natsume, SilverR Wallace Sterling Tea Strainer In A Hibiscus Pattern, NiceAntique Solid Silver Teapot Set Circa 1900Kangxi Period Porcelain Jug Teapot Coffee Porcelain Blue Vase Silver Circa 1700Pair Exquisite Vintage Signed Japanese Sterling Silver Arts & Crafts Tea Cups Nr