Abe Silverman's Antique Silver Shop
About Silver & Silverplate Tea Sets

Antique Silver Tea Sets and silver-plated tea sets were once practically a time honored and universal wedding gift.  Today, they are sought after collectibles!

A "Classic Twelve" is a silver or silver plate tea set consisting of a coffee pot, a tea pot, a chocolate pot, a hot water jug, a sugar bowl with gilded interior (for brown sugar), a sugar bowl with non-gilded interior (for white sugar), a cream jug, a milk jug, a waste (slop) bowl, a tea strainer with stand, a kettle on stand, and an enormous tray.  Some sets also included a covered butter dish.  The Classic Twelve was the style to serve High Tea.  Very few Classic Twelve's have survived intact.

Near the mid-1600's, tea was introduced into England, but it was very expensive and only the very wealthy could afford it.  When tea reached the Colonies, few liked it, and it is told that many boiled it as if it were a vegetable and ate the leaves with butter.  But over time tea became fashionable in London, where it was served Chinese fashion from china teapots and tiny china cups, and with no silver appointments.

Near the end of the 1700's, a British knife maker, by accident, discovered that when heated, copper and silver effectively fused into one metal.  The discovery of “Sheffield plate” presented the world with an inexpensive option to sterling silver.  Today, brass has replaced copper as the base metal of choice.

Early Americans adopted the London vogue of drinking tea and the demand for teapots rose accordingly.  Some of the early silver teapots show how well Colonial silversmiths kept up with the current designs from the other side of the Pond.  Resembling the first English pots, early Colonial teapots were small in size, some shaped like a ball, and usually with a lovely crest or monogram beautifully hand-engraved to indicate a family name. 

Antique silver tea sets with a maker's marks (hallmark or touch mark) together with the name or crest of a family, can often lead to clues to identify families.  This information can often be found and traced through wills and church or court documents.  A few identified pieces have considerable historical significance.

Silver tongs came into being when it was evident that some type of tool was needed to serve the sugar from the bowl.  The first tongs were called nippers and worked like scissors.  Afterwards, sugar tongs were made in one piece.

As milk and cream came into general use with coffee and tea, a small pitcher, usually called a creamer, was needed for the table.  This, too, was made by the silversmith in a matching design to the pot and sugar bowl.
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Reed and Barton’s most popular pattern, Francis I, was released in 1907. The company’s artists spent more than 3 years developing the Francis I design.
by Mike Deming/Chris Landon
Published May 05, 2004
Rochester on Demand

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