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Gorham Antique Sterling Silver Black Coffee Service, Providence, RI, 1896-97

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Executed in an Indo-Persian style, this black coffee service is extraordinary. It consists of a coffee pot, creamer, covered sugar, and tray - all of which are works of art.

The exotic form of the coffee pot with its bulbous body, slender neck capped with a domed cover, and curved spout terminating with a snake head and scales is exceptional. The details of the chasing against a shimmering, stippled background are some of the finest we have seen, incorporating motifs of various flora. The finely executed creamer and sugar are also breathtaking in their execution. Finally, the triangularly shaped tray is remarkable with its shaped, undulating border and fine details and design in this area.

This rare, all-original service is an artistic achievement executed by extremely accomplished artisans. According to the costing slips from the Gorham Archive, the net costs for these objects were:

waiter - $160.00
coffee - $220.00
creamer - $80.00
sugar - $112.00

Bringing the net wholesale price to $572.00, or about $700.00 retail - an enormous amount of money in the late 1890s. (The automobile had just been introduced, costing $300-$400 each. When this service was made, it cost the equivalent of two cars.)

It took 158 hours to hand-raise and assemble the pieces and another 361 hours to chase (or decorate) them - an exceptional amount of highly skilled work.

All four pieces are stamped with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING.' The coffee pot is further marked '5205/ 3 PINT'. The sugar and creamer are marked '5206' with the creamer stamped '5/8 PINT'. The tray is marked '1280/ 14 In'. The date marks for the coffee and sugar bowl are for 1896, and the creamer and tray are for 1897. The pot is 13.25 inches high; the service weighs an impressive 96.15 troy ounces, has never been monogrammed, and is in exceptional antique condition.

This service is licensed to sell in the state of New York.

Archival image of the Gorham Antique Sterling Silver Black Coffee Service from the Gorham Company Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.