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Antique Silver Teapots And Tea Sets
By the beginning of the eighteenth century silver articles were-in more general use. There was more money to spend and more silversmiths to work, and also new needs for household pieces. About 1650 tea was introduced into England, but it was very expensive and only the wealthy could afford it. In his diary Pepys mentions trying it for the first time in 1660. 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 in time tea became fashionable in London, where it was served Chinese fashion from china teapots and tiny china cups, and with no silver appointments.
The first English silver teapot, which still exists in the Victoria and Albert Museum, looks like a Chinese porcelain wine pot. It even has a detachable cover and is very small,, for tea was still expensive. When one silversmith made a new object, however, others copied it so teapots were soon being made to order and tea-drinking in London became a social custom.
The American Colonists, following the London vogue, also learned to take tea and demanded teapots. Some of the early silver ones show how well Colonial silversmiths kept their clients up-to-date. Like the first English pots, early Colonial counterparts were small, some like a ball, and usually with a lovely crest or cypher engraved to indicate a family name. Coffee and chocolate pots also were made as these beverages became popular, but not until well into the eighteenth century were there complete sets such as we use today. There were silver pots, but no one used sugar or cream for some time, so there was no need for the sugar bowl and creamer. These were added late in the century.
Old silver, bearing maker's marks and the name or crest of a family, has always been a delight to student and collector. Names or initials give clues to families which can often be traced in wills and church or court records. With a specific maker's initials and the name of the owner, it has even been possible to learn much about the date and origin of a piece, and some articles of considerable historical significance have been discovered.
Sugar was advertised in the Boston NewsLetter in 1724 at three shillings a pound. This was rather expensive for the average household and explains why so little sugar was used with tea. For cooking, molasses and sirup served as sweetening. When sugar was brought in from the West Indies, it was in the form of a cone weighing eight to ten pounds and it was done up in a dark blue paper. (This the thrifty housewife saved to use as a dye for her wool and cotton materials.) To break up the cone a utensil was used that looked rather like a nutcracker with cutting edges.
Later As sugar became cheaper and more households could afford it, it was used in tea and coffee. Now a container was necessary, which the silversmith supplied along with the tea or coffee pot, although some households used a porringer or a small silver or even china bowl for sugar. Then something was needed to take the sugar from the bowl and silver tongs came into fashion. The first ones were called nippers and worked like scissors. Later tongs were made in one piece. Then as milk and cream came into general use with coffee and tea, a small pitcher, usually called a creamer, was needed for the table and was made by the silversmith and often in a design to match pot and sugar bowl.