Tea canister

ARTIST / MAKER: John Ruslen (maker)
DATE: 1710-1711 (made)
PLACE: London (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Britannia standard silver

This faceted canister was made in England during the period of the Britannia Standard, when a new silver rate was introduced in 1697 as part of a great recoinage scheme. This was a consequence of the English Civil War (1642-1651), during which vast amounts of silver were melted down and converted into money to pay the troops. After the war, the already scarce silver coins continued to be melted down, to cater to a rising demand for lavish silverwares. The Crown imposed a metal alloy with a higher silver content (95.8%) than the sterling silver coins (92.5%), effectively preventing British silversmiths from using the coins.

This Britannia silver tea canister once belonged to the Hollywood film star and singer Ava Gardner. After her death in 1990, the canister was sold at Sotheby’s along with her couture gowns, jewellery and antique French furniture.