Tea came to Scotland at around the same time as England, in the mid-17th century. Due to the high cost of tea leaves, tea-drinking was at first only fashionable amongst the very wealthy, who created a demand for silver vessels made locally. As silver was exceptionally valuable and its design was dictated by contemporary fashions, silver teawares were an indication of wealth and social status. This is an example of a silver ‘bullet teapot’, which owes its name to its spherical body that supposedly resembles that of the round lead musket ball. This form developed from earlier pear-shaped examples. The spherical shape of this teapot and its raised foot are features that became synonymous with Scottish silver teapot design.
James Ker was one of Edinburgh’s most prolific goldsmiths, creating teawares, trays and silver trophy vessels for the Leith Races, an important horse racing event accompanied by a fair on the sands of Leith. Born in 1700, he apprenticed to his father Thomas Ker at the age of 9, before becoming a successful businessman and an active participant in the affairs of the incorporation of Goldsmiths of Edinburgh.