Tea strainer

ARTIST / MAKER: Marius Hammer (maker)
DATE: ca. 1900 (made)
PLACE: Norway (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Silver-gilt with plique-á-jour enamel

Tea strainers first appeared in the 1790s in replacement of the earlier ‘mote spoon’, which was used to remove any loose tea leaves floating in the cup. During the 19th century, strainers became an important piece of tea drinking equipage. This tea strainer is decorated with clear multicoloured enamels, a technique known as plique-à-jour. The technique was popular in France in the 1860s and in Norway and Russia at the turn of the 20th century, when this strainer was made. The metal support was either a prepared wire frame, or a metal object that was pierced multiple times to create minute spaces. Ground glass and iron oxides were then applied within these spaces, and fused to the metal at high temperatures. This produced a translucent effect similar to stained glass and is called plique ‘à jour’ because its transparency is ‘open to daylight’. Western European enamellers often used foil as a temporary support during firing, as the lack of metal backing made the fusing process very difficult.