1892 Russian Tea Service
Appraised Value: $10,000 (1998)
$20,000 - $30,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 5
Appraisal Video: (2:47)
Senior Vice President & Department Head, Silver
APPRAISER: I understand you have a gift box here.
GUEST 1: Yes, we do.
APPRAISER: From your family?
GUEST: This was a gift from the czar of Russia to my great-grandfather back in 1892.
GUEST 2: Yes, he was a preacher and traveled the world as such. He was labeled a preacher and he was born a hundred years before his great-grandson.
APPRAISER: So a hundred years before you were born?
GUEST 1: A hundred years before me-- 1832.
APPRAISER: Shall we take a look?
GUEST: Sure. Oh, please do-- we're pretty excited about it.
Appraiser: Wow, that's beautiful.
GUEST 2: This was a tea set that was presented to him in thanks for his work not just for preaching but because he collected money to help with the famine.
APPRAISER: A famine? Interesting.
GUEST 2: Yes-- in the 1890s, right?
GUEST 1: 1888 or 1890, there was a huge famine in Russia and he raised $35,000 through his preaching efforts and his evangelistic efforts which was a lot of money in those times...
APPRAISER: Back then, I'll say.
GUEST 1: And bought about three million pounds of flour and had it delivered to Russia.
APPRAISER: Distributed to the hungry-- amazing. I presume this is your ancestor right here.
GUEST 1: This is he, yes.
GUEST 2: This is when he was 25 years old.
APPRAISER: And well before his trip to Russia.
GUEST 1: Yes, this was before his trip to Russia.
APPRAISER: Interesting that he should be presented with such an elaborate, gorgeous silver gilt tea service.
GUEST 2: He also met the Emperor Alexander twice and also met his son Nicholas as well. And he and his family were presented to the whole family of Nicholas. This is the picture of Nicholas.
APPRAISER: That certainly is.
GUEST 2: In the book, there's pictures showing him with Alexander as well.
APPRAISER: And so he was presented this original photograph of Nicholas II. That's marvelous. The tea service is also marvelous.
GUEST 2: We're excited about learning about it.
APPRAISER: The quality of it is certainly well worthy of an imperial gift. It was made by Ovchinnikov. You can see the name right here. It's a little hard to read.
GUEST 2: I can't read it.
APPRAISER: A little hard to read because it's in Cyrillic, of course but we can recognize that mark of Ovchinnikov because it was a very well known maker in Moscow in this period. The technique used to make the tea service is enameling. It's called cloisonne enamel. And you can see here these little wires, or cloisonnes are connected and then the enamel coloring is filled in to make this very elaborate, very typically Russian pattern and a colorful one. As far as the imperial presentation I don't see any sign on the tea service itself that it comes from the Czar. Undoubtedly, your ancestor was close to the imperial family but it is very difficult to know if exactly-- without an inscription-- this was handed to your ancestor by the czar. The marks show that there is indeed an imperial warrant but that is an imperial approval of the firm Ovchinnikov in general. But the date is 1892, which indeed fits with your story and is in the hallmark here on the tea service. So I think one has to consider the service as the thing of beauty that it is for tea, sugar. There's a caddy spoon, a lemon fork a sugar sifter and sugar tongs so it's very complete. And on its own, a market value... Besides the sentimental value, the market value would be about $10,000 today.
GUEST 2: We don't know whether we're scared or very happy.
APPRAISER: More than you thought. The sentimental value-- I never think it's enough, really.
GUEST 2: It'll stay safe in the family.
APPRAISER: But it's a beautiful, beautiful example of silver gilt and valuable as such.
GUEST 1: Thank you very much.
GUEST 2: We really appreciate the information.
APPRAISER: It's beautiful.
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