From the late 18th to the early 20th century, Chinese silver was almost exclusively produced from melted Spanish silver dollars, the only currency accepted for the trading of tea, silk and spices with other nations. China’s plentiful supply of silver bullion meant that workshops produced finely decorated objects at a fraction of the prices demanded in the West. Direct commissions prompted Chinese silversmiths to produce objects in pseudo-European styles (see CCN.424), but by the mid-19th century they began to incorporate East-Asian motifs in their work to cater both to export and to affluent domestic markets.
The square-form teawares in this set bear various marks for the master silversmith Tu Mao Hsing and for the silver retailing company Wu Hua. Each item was finely decorated with bamboo foliage using the repoussé technique, whereby the design was traced on the front and relief was raised from the back.