George II Pair of Antique Silver Tea Caddies


Stock: 10388

Date: 1746

Maker: John Swift

Country: England

An exceptional pair of rectangular silver tea cannisters with stepped hinged lids and canted corners. The plain form, almost cubic,...

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An exceptional pair of rectangular silver tea cannisters with stepped hinged lids and canted corners. The plain form, almost cubic, is very attractive. To the front of each is an expansive hand engraved armorial for Martin within a decorative cartouche, the covers have a crest.

Total weight 805g, 25.8 troy oz.
Height 9.6cm. Width 9.2cm. Depth 8.4cm.
London 1746.
Maker John Swift.
Sterling silver.

Marks. The boxes are stamped underneath with a full and matching set of English silver hallmarks, lion and maker’s mark below the lid.

Literature. A Tea Caddy is a box, jar, canister, or other receptacle used to store tea. The word is believed to be derived from “catty”, the Chinese pound, equal to about a pound and a third avoirdupois. The earliest examples that came to Europe were Chinese tea canisters in blue and white porcelain with china lids or stoppers. Tea in the early 18th Century was expensive, and also there was a tax on tea, so early tea caddies were small and made in precious materials such as silver, shagreen or tortoiseshell which reflected the valuable contents within.
Some of the earliest silver examples have sliding bases (or tops) and the cap was used for measuring the tea. By the mid 18th century matching sets were available, with two caddies (for green and black tea) and a sugar bowl (or mixing bowl), all fitted into a wooden or shagreen case, often with silver mounts. During the late 1700’s the locking silver tea caddy was introduced with its own key which the lady of the house kept on the chatelaine around her waist. Double locking tea caddies in silver are rare.


The tea boxes are in very good condition with crisp engravings. Minor wear consistent with age.

Maker Information

Maker: John Swift

John Swift, London silversmith, apprenticed to Thomas Langford 1718, turned over to William Paradise 1719, and again to Thomas Serle 1723. Free 1725. 1st mark enetered as smallworker 1728. 2nd mark as largeworker1739. 3rd mark small size 1757. 4th 1757. Livery 1758. His son John was apprenticed to him 1750. Swift's work was mainly hollowware, tankards, coffee pots and teapots, often with rococo and chinoiserie motifs.

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