In the male-dominated teahouses of Russia that emerged at the turn of the 19th century, porcelain was considered more appropriate for women, so instead, tea was served in tall glasses (stakan) which were placed in metal holders (podstakannik) to insulate the heat emanating from the tea. By the end of the century, this custom had spread to everyday life in Russia, and these utensils quickly became appreciated as decorative objects, showcasing the skills of Russian silversmiths and enamellers.
This tea glass holder was made by Stefan Wäkevä (1833-1910), a Finnish silversmith who apprenticed in St Petersburg at the workshop of Olof Wennerström in 1843, becoming a Master in 1856. From his own silversmithing premises, Wäkevä supplied Fabergé with silverware, mostly tea services, tankards and punch bowls. The spot-hammered silver surface reflects the influence of Japanese metalwork designs and the contemporary taste for Art Nouveau forms, known in Russia as ‘Stil Moderne’. The serpent motif was used regularly by Fabergé designers, becoming more curvilinear and naturalistic as the Art Nouveau movement gained popularity.