Q. I inherited this small tray which has Asian letters marked on the back. Can you tell me anything about it?
A. Your small silver filigree tray has Japanese silver marks on the back which my research found are from the Meiji period, used from 1868 to about 1912. I cannot decipher the other stamps but the one I found was used at this time for export purposes and has Japanese characters which mean “pure silver”. It is made of twisted silver wire.
The Chinese and Japanese had large deposits of silver which have been widely used in decorative objects since the 7th century. Beginning in the 18th century, exports of Chinese and Japanese silver increased due to the West’s seemingly unquenchable desire for Asian porcelain and lacquer ware. During this time it was very fashionable to own exotic oriental works and materials. Filigree jewelry and other filigree articles were trendy as well. Asian silversmiths produced silver jewelry, flatware as well as teapots, trays and other examples of Western house wares. The Western styles and reproduction pieces were so lucrative that some Asian manufacturers not only copied the shapes but also the English marks of British silversmiths.
Due to the shape and size of your small tray, it may have been used as a calling card tray or a hairpin tray. It would sell for about $50 at auction.
Karen Waterman is a fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions about your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter or email with a question, you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, attn. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.