Spirit kettles were first introduced to the European tea equipage in the late 17th century and served to replenish empty teapots. Often ornate and decorative in appearance they acted as a focal point of the tea ceremony and an obvious expression of wealth. To keep the water hot, they were supplied with stands fitted with a spirit burner that warmed the underside of the kettle, allowing the silver to act as a conductor. Although they fell out of favour with the introduction of the tea urn in around 1760, there was a resurgence in their popularity in the 19th century due to the discovery of odourless spirits that could be used in the burner.
The silversmith firm of Koch and Bergfeld was established in 1829 by Gottfried Koch and Ludwig Bergfeld in Bremen, Germany. Purveyors of high-quality silver, they are most famous for their flatware but also produced large silver items such as centrepieces and trophies. The business was passed to the sons of the owners in 1865, introducing machine-based manufacturing and enjoying considerable success after showcasing their work at the Vienna World Exhibition in 1873. This kettle and stand evoke a few artistic movements, the palmettes and gadrooned borders reminiscent of the Neo-classical style, while the scrolling reticulations of the stand are evocative of the Art Nouveau movement, or Jugenstil (‘Youth Style’) as it was known in Germany, influenced by natural forms and folk art themes.