DATE: ca. 1730 (made)
PLACE: England (made) possibly
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Carved serpentine with silver mounts

This teapot is made from serpentine mounted in silver with a wooden handle. Serpentine is a precious mineral, the name of which derives from its resemblance to snakeskin because of its mottled colours that range from green or yellow to a deep red and brown. From the 16th century, serpentine was mined in Saxony (Northern Germany) where it was used to produce vessels such as tankards and drinking cups. The mineral was highly prized across Europe and was thought to offer protection against poison. As serpentine is a soft stone that is easy to work and can be turned on a lathe, craftsmen would deliberately leave protrusions which could hold silver mounts, to enhance the vessel’s appearance. Due to the high cost of both silver and serpentine, this teapot was probably intended for display, rather than for use, to demonstrate wealth and fashionable taste. It is likely that the mineral was bought from Germany and made into this teapot in England or The Netherlands, as the form follows that of silver ‘bullet’ teapots made around this time.