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Whiting Aesthetic Movement Sterling Silver and Mixed-Metal Tête-à-tête Tea Service, c. 1880

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Based on the form of ancient traditional Japanese tea pots, this small service features a honeycomb-hammered surface with applied mixed-metal decoration. This small set is exquisitely executed with fine details.

The teapot, with its swing handle, is decorated on one side with applied branches with leaves and copper berries. Addition branches and leaves are hand-engraved in the background. The reverse side has a beetle on hand-engraved foliage traveling down from the rim. The beetle consists of a copper body and silver legs. The removable cover is adorned with hand-engraved foliage both applied and engraved along with an applied copper accent. This style of teapot is very rarely seen in American silver. Typically, this form is the top of a hot water or toddy kettle in American silver.

The creamer and sugar bowl are equally charming with stunning appliques. The creamer uses the same branch and berry technique but uses different leaves and its reverse is decorated with two copper flies with silver wings. The creamer incorporates leaves and flowers with copper stamens and a couple of copper leaves for its exotic display. The reverse side features a single copper fly with silver wings. Both the creamer and sugar retail their original interior gilding. 

Tête-à-tête tea services are the rarest of the form. While most tea drinking was a social activity during the 18th, 19 and 20th centuries, the tête-à-tête service was meant for the very personal service of tea with only one other, with all the accompanying personal intimacies. Although this service is small enough it may be for only one.

This beautiful tea service is marked underneath with Whiting's trademark, 'STERLING", and the model number '445 B'. It is also stamped with the French import 'ET' mark so this set has traveled a bit. The teapot measures 5 inches to the top of the handle. Together, the pieces weigh 16.55 troy ounces and are in excellent antique condition with replaced insulators of synthetic ivorine.