Antique Silver Tea Sets
Antique silver tea sets, often called tea services, are a very formal version of the more usual porcelain tea set.
History and Description
In the days when afternoon high tea was a fashionable small meal, the silver tea set would be reserved for use when entertaining especially important or highly esteemed company.
Made of sterling silver, silver tea sets usually consist of teapot (sometimes also a coffee-pot, traditionally taller and narrower than the teapot) milk jug or creamer, sugar basket or sugar bowl, sugar tongs, and teaspoons.
No other cutlery is included in a tea set, and the plates used to serve the usual small sandwiches and cakes would be bone china. A silver tea set is always presented on a silver tray.
Guide For Collectors
The tradition of 'high tea' is derived from the highly formal Chinese and Japanese tea-ceremonies which had been observed by travellers to the East during the early 17th century.
By the middle of the 18th century, trade with India had made tea widely accessible, and all things 'eastern' became fashionable. Therefore, there is a stong 'oriental' influence to the design of earlier tea sets.
Sterling silver tea sets are always hallmarked on each piece, and the hallmarks should usually match. Therefore, the collector should carefully examine each piece, including the tray, to ensure that they belong to the same set.
If the pieces all have the same shaped marks, symbols or lettering, select one item with the clearest markings, and carefully clean it, using jeweller's cloth, to remove any tarnish, so that you can identify the markings clearly.
If possible consult a silver identification guide, or take clear, close-up photographs so that you can seek expert advice before buying.
In May 2007, a sterling silver tea set was sold by Ken's Antiques and Auction for $550.
A five-piece sterling silver tea set was sold by Ken's Antiques and Auction for $800 in May 2007.
A five-piece assembled Russian silver tea set was sold by Antiques at Pompey Hollow LLC in September 2011 for $6750.
In March 2011, a four-piece silver tea set was sold by Harrison Auctions Inc. for $2020.