The Silver Tray

The silver tray as we know it nowadays has a long and fascinating history.  Silver in its natural state is too soft to work with and too soft to use, though it has been used for millennia. As early as the 1300’s silver was mixed with another alloy metal, usually copper, so that it could be fashioned into useful objects. Copper is the most common alloy used as it does not change the appearance of silver. Thus the standard for Sterling Silver is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper came into being, and the sterling silver tray was made.

Later, during the 17th century hallmarks were introduced that confirmed the purity of silver. Four marks were placed on silver pieces; the mark of the maker, the city it was made in, the mark denoting its purity at 92.5 percent and the date it was made.

Early salvers, or trays were usually flat and without handles. Some were supported by either a central foot or three or four smaller feet, while others were flat. They were usually either rectangular or circular in shape and they were used primarily to serve food and drinks at social functions.

By the mid 1600’s the silver serving tray was made with a wide rim and by the 1700’s, when tea became a common beverage amongst the upper class of Europe, they became an integral part of any silver tea set.

Perhaps the most sought after silverware, including the silver tray, is that from the Georgian period which lasted from 1714 till 1830 and saw the reign of three King Georges.  This period is when the silversmith produced perhaps his greatest works. Not only were utensils such as spoons and forks produced but the salver, as the tray was then called, was also made to complement tea and food servings during this time.

Antique Silver Trays

As mentioned above, Georgian silver is much sought after. For collectors of antique silver trays, this period is of special interest. Fortunately, because silver was produced in great quantities during this time there are still plenty around.

After this period, the other two favorites amongst collectors are the Art Nouveau period of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the Art Deco period that was at its height during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Again, there are plenty of silver trays to be found from these two periods also.

Modern Silver Trays

Today, the silver tray is often given as a gift for weddings, as a retirement gift and for a 25th wedding anniversary. A popular style is the engraved silver tray, used to serve food and snacks on at social functions or in the home. It is also very much a part of the sterling silver tea set, with the teapot, sugar bowl and sterling silver pitcher used for milk, as well as other silver serving pieces, frequently brought to the table sitting on a silver tray. Sterling silver trays can also be used as a silverware tray.

Silver can be safely kept for years and passed down from generation to generation. It is always a great gift for any woman, one that can be kept in the family for years to come. What may be a modern designed tray today will one day join the ranks of the antiques, and become an antique sterling silver tray.

Trays today come in many different shapes, sizes and styles although all possess the raised edge or lip that was first introduced by silversmiths in the 1600’s. Common shapes are oval, rectangular and octagonal. Many trays are elegantly designed with patterns skirting the outer perimeters of the tray and the raised lip. You can buy a silver tray with handles as well as those without. They also should still have silver tray markings on the bottom of the tray. There are many shops selling them, including Macys with Tiffany silverware being very high quality.

Prices are determined both by craftsmanship and by weight. An 8 ½ by 5 ½ inch oval shaped large silver tray weighing 95 grams will usually cost around $150. A smaller 4 x 6 inch tray would only cost around $75. This is more expensive than either a stainless steel tray or a pewter tray, or any other metal tray aside from a gold tray, but most people think it is worth the price. Of course the silver tray value of an antique piece bought today would be quite a bit more than this. Silver plate trays are generally less expensive.

Silver Tray Care

Basically you should care for your silver tray in much the same manner that you would care for any other silverware you own. A silver plated tray needs to be cared for in much the same way.

You should not place a silver tea tray in the dishwasher; instead wash it in the sink with a non lemon scented dishwashing detergent that is phosphate free. You should also dry your tray right away with a soft drying towel otherwise spots may appear on the silver.

Items should never be cut on a silver tray. The tray could possibly dent or end up with small lines in it that will not only decrease its value but may also tarnish more quickly.

Always wash and dry your silver tray after you use it. Keep the tray from bumping up against the sink while you are washing it.

If your silver is beginning to tarnish, where you can just see a yellowish tint appearing on the tray, it can be removed with a mixture of Windex and vinegar. Simply pour some on a piece of cotton and rub the spot gently. Remember to rotate the piece of cotton so that you are not cleaning the tray with a part of the cotton that has tarnish on it; it can scratch it.

If your tray is already tarnished or you are trying to shine up an old silver chest or other piece of silver, use a commercially sold silver cleaner to clean it. Follow the instructions written on the cleaner. Look for polishes that require you to wash them off; these are usually the least abrasive silver cleaners.

You should never use steel wool or scouring pads to clean silver.

Least Abrasive Silver Cleaners

  • 3M’s Tarni-Shield Silver Polish
  • Twinkle Silver Polish
  • Blitz Silver Care Polish
  • Weiman Silver Polish.

For Removing Heavy Tarnish

  • Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Polish
  • Goddard’s Silver Foam
  • Wright’s Anti-Tarnish Silver Polish
  • Wright’s Silver Cream

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