Antique Silver Tea Set Markings

Tea sets made from silver are quite the addition to an enthusiast’s collection. Whether you set it on display or gently use your antiquated set on special occasions, knowing as much as possible about the tea set will bring it back to life. But how do you know what your set is worth and where its story begins? There are many books that catalog the various antique silver tea set markings, but seeking a knowledgeable professional will save time and money.

Where to Begin

The short story is that the first silver teapot that we know of is dated only to 1627. The cups and saucers that complement the teapot weren’t even considered until 1648. To get a better understanding of why silver tea sets are not much older despite the precious metal being mined and refined for thousands of years to that date, you have to look at the history of tea.

Silver tea pot with stamp

Tea has its origin as a medicinal drink in the Orient. While many myths date the source of tea back to 3000 BC, the official story dates the birth of tea to the Han Dynasty, sometime during 206-220 BC. They used porcelain bowls, lacking in the handles we think of today. Sometime during the Song Dynasty, 960-1279 AD, the first tea pot for brewing emerged. As tea became more and more popular, making its way into different parts of the world through trade, the tea set began to emerge into what we know it as today. But tea was expensive to drink. Records indicate that one pound of tea was worth $100. It is no surprise that tea sets were only held by the wealthy enough to afford the affluent brew.

Origin of Antique Silver Tea Set Markings

It is when tea made it to Europe and the British monarchy around the turn of the 18th century that the silver tea set was revealed in all its propriety. Queen Victoria unveiled the first known complete silver tea service set that included the full six pieces of the teapot, sugar bowl, kettle, creamer, coffee pot and bowl for waste. As a result of an abundance of silver from a recent silver boom, silver tea sets began making their way across the parlors of society’s affluent. These handcrafted sets were subject to the establishment of the hallmarking system set in place a few hundred years earlier.

There are usually two to four markings stamped onto the set to denote a few distinguishing characteristics. The first being whether or not the set is sterling or silver-plated. As tea became even more popular, tea sets were manufactured using a less expensive method of silver plating so the middle classes could enjoy the beverage.

Another marking would tell you who made the piece and another would show when it was made. An assayer’s mark will reveal where the piece was assessed for purity and duty marks will show if a tax was paid to the crown or not. Sometimes more than one duty mark was stamped to show the tax paid multiple times.

There is a rich history to tea and the birth of silver tea sets. The place to start in revealing the history behind your antique silver tea set is to have it assessed by a professional appraiser.

All About Antique Silver Tea Sets

Silver Tea set

Determination of Value

Antique silver tea sets never seem to go out of style, but beautiful as they are they require a great deal of upkeep. If you are looking to sell or just value your piece this short guide will assist you in learning about your silver tea set. Valuing a tea set depends on looking at the marks to determine maker and age, and the items included in the set.

History and description of tea services

Silver tea sets, or services, are part of the past when afternoon high tea was offered as a small meal. If important guests were coming by, the silver tea set would be used. ‘High tea’ began in the early 17th century after Europeans observed the formal tea in the Far East, and the tradition grew by the middle of the 18th century with trade with India increasing access to tea. Often a strong oriental influence can be seen in European tea sets of this time period.

A true silver service sterling silver. At the bare minimum, these sets include the tea pot, sugar bowl and milk jug (creamer). Some sets include sugar tongs, teaspoons or even occasionally, cups, and saucers. The best, and most valuable, include a silver serving tray.

Determining value

Hallmarks can be found on each piece of an antique sterling silver tea set and these hallmarks should each match, including the tray. The markings are a bit confusing, but with some study of a good quality guide, you should be able to distinguish most of them. A professional appraiser might perform an acid test to tell the silver content, although services produced after 1850 should have a mark of ‘sterling,’ ‘.995,’ or ‘925/1000’ to state the sterling composition. Other sets would be silver plated or weighted silver, and will not be as valuable.
Based on age, maker, and the pieces included, value can be a wide range. A sterling set can start at $1,000, while a silver-plated set is much less- though the maker will matter. Services without a tray are less valuable, and those with additional pieces are of course more desirable.

It can be hard to determine the age and authenticity of a silver tea service, so for an accurate appraisal it is best to visit a professional antiques dealer.. At Sarasota Silver Buyers, we offer the best price throughout central Florida and have many years of experience in evaluating antiques.

The Exquisite World of Antique Silver Tea Sets

I work in an interesting field: Antique dealing in the modern world. It wasn’t always that way – when I got started, over 25 years ago, I still had to go from place to place, auction house to auction house. But that’s how I fell in love with the world of antiques.

Some of you may know (and some of you may not) that despite my French sounding name, I was born and raised in England and so it’s no surprise that Antique Silver Tea Sets are a personal joy of mine!

English Tea Service is supported by a rich and diverse history which, inevitably spread across Europe and into North America. This history is not overly pressing when consulting a professional appraiser about the price of your antique silver tea set.

antique silver tea sets
antique silver tea sets

 

However, when dealing with such exquisite works of art, it will only enrich the experience to imagine where it came from. It’s certainly something many silver tea set buyers take a great pride in understanding.

I often talk about the many differing factors that determine the value of antique silver. With items like this, the history can hold a great deal of significance. The evolution of the tea pot from an almost coffee urn shape to the more modern ball or pear shapes help both determine the period from which it was crafted, to the kind of society it may have entertained. This is a great video you can watch on the history of Silver Tea Sets

When looking for silver tea sets for sale, or for interested buyers, you also want to consider how complete the set is. Smaller sets may contain just the tea pot and perhaps a creamer and sugar bowl. The more pieces you have in your set, the more ‘complete’ it is, the more drastically you will see the value rise.

Going back to my original thought of how the antique dealing world has changed, almost everything is done online these days. I get a lot of phone calls or e-mails from people who are rightly a little nervous about where to sell their silver tea sets online. It is a very impersonal experience. While I do, first and foremost, encourage people to take their time to find someone they trust and feel comfortable dealing with – I’ve made it my goal find a way to bridge these two worlds (the online and the offline).

Everyday I get e-mails from curious new customers who want to know more about their silver, I’ve contained my business exclusively within the state of Florida so that I can be available, not only through e-mail, but by phone and in person to offer the best price and instant cash on your silver and antiques.

I hope that, whether you are looking to sell your silver tea set or are looking for a stunning new addition to your next afternoon tea service, that you have a wonderful time discovering the vast history and artistry that has gone into countless styles of tea sets around the world.