Tea strainer

DATE: late 19th - early 20th century (made)
PLACE: Norway (made) probably
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Silver-gilt and plique-à-jour enamel

Tea strainers first appeared in the 1790s and gradually replaced the earlier ‘mote spoon’, which had been used to remove loose leaves floating in the teacup. Strainers became an essential part of the tea set in the 19th century, before being superseded by the tea bag in the 1950s and 1960s. The translucent, coloured enamels on this tea strainer were achieved using a technique known as plique-à-jour, which became popular in France in the 1860s and in Norway at the turn of the 20th century. Ground glass and iron oxide are applied to a wire framework and fused together during firing at high temperatures, resulting in an effect similar to stained glass. Plique-à-jour translates to ‘open to daylight’ on account of its transparency, and is considered one of the most difficult enamelling techniques due to the high failure rate.