Secret Life of Antiques | Sterling Silver Tea Strainers



Spring is the season of elegant tea parties, Mother’s Day, garden parties, birthday tea parties…all of them are such perfect opportunities for a tea. Like you, I adore the multi sensual ritual of tea, it’s an opportunity to share our culinary skills, show off our garden, and share stories of our latest travel experiences.  More than that, it is the opportunity to connect with friends and family, sharing memories, interests and discoveries over a hot cup of tea.

Serving tea at home with meaningful pieces of the past is part of the fun, collected tea services, antique porcelain cups, each with a story, and a bit of personality. An antique sterling tea strainer adds a conversation piece to your table. I was thrilled recently to purchase a collection of silver strainers, here’s a little history for you to know about these beautifully hand crafted antiques.


American Sterling Tea “Spout” Strainer in floral shape.

One of the most collectable “parts” of a tea service, sterling tea strainers have been used for centuries. During the 18th and 19th century, when having tea was an important social event, tea strainers were made for the luxury market by almost every silversmith. As no one really enjoyed fishing loose leaves of tea out of their teacup, strainers were a much beloved addition to the tea table. After loose leaves were brewed in hot water in the pot, the strainer enabled the hostess to filter the leaves out while pouring tea in each individual cup.  Two different kinds of strainers were produced: a small basket shaped strainer with wires that were inserted into to the pot, like the ones shown above, and below.


French Silver Plated Cristofle Spout Tea Strainer

And the kind held over each individual cup while pouring, like the rest of these shown below. Each silversmith produced a dazzling array of tea strainers, elegant in design, each one slightly different in size, shape and decoration.


Fantastic antique sterling strainer with wide band of repousse roses and flowers.

Made by Davis and Galt in the late 1800’s.





AntiqueScrollworkSterlingStrainerEach antique strainer is a work of art. Collectors avidly search out and thrill to add unusual sterling strainers to their collection as often as they can.

In 1908,  William Sullivan, a New York tea merchant, packaged his loose tea leaves in small silk and later muslim sachet bags, his clients were unsure about what to do with the bags. They poured hot water over them, steeping the tea leaves, and so the disposable tea bag was invented.


Mr. Sullivan unwittingly changed the course of how one makes tea, although true aficionados continue to insist on steeping loose leaves in a pot. Whether you obtain one beautiful sterling silver strainer, or start a stylish collection of antique strainers, using them will add a sense of history and whimsy to your tea. You can see my current collection offered for sale here: Collect Sterling Tea Strainers


To read more about tea, you can click on the photographs below to read some of my past posts on tea.



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7 thoughts on “Secret Life of Antiques | Sterling Silver Tea Strainers”

  1. Judith@Lavender Cottage

    Thank you for the most interesting information about the tea strainers. I have a couple of different types but nothing as elegant as a sterling one.

  2. These silver tea strainers are stunning. Pure elegance and incredible attention to detail. To think that such little pieces of art were used to strain tea leaves. How genius.

    I love to collect them as well. Intricate ones are hard to find. Thank you for the bit of history. Wishing you a lovely week.


  3. Always broaden my horizons when I read your blog. While traveling in Europe this past year, we saw many Sterling strainers in luxury shops. I prefer the antique ones like the ones you show here, those were not nearly as beautiful nor as well priced. Asking for one ( or more) for Mother’s Day this year using your “send this to someone” links, hope they take the hint.

  4. Brandon Hartford

    Thank you for such a lovely blog! I love everything tea-related and especially sterling silver items. I have a small collection of tea strainers of varying designs and origin which I use every day! I prefer English hallmarked silver from London or Birmingham, but have strainers from American companies as well. They are all beautiful and when matched with the right tea china or sterling pieces, it really does turn a simple cup of tea into an event!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write Brandon. It sounds like we both love the same things, I agree that beautiful strainers, cups and spoons turn a simple cup of tea into an event! {I love that statement!}

  5. I have a silver tea strainer and enjoy using it, but I wonder if you know where to put the strainer once the tea has been poured through it. It’s messy, but I am certain there must be an elegant solution to the problem. Thank you.

  6. Barbara A Wolf

    Hello. I have purchased several vintage tea strainers only to discover that they will not work. When you pour hot tea through the top of the strainer it merely collects and then flows over the edge of the strainer. I have cleaned them and stuck a needle through the holes but still they do not work. Any comments/advice would be welcome. THANK YOU!!

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