Russian Tea Cup Holder
Being custom jewelers demands we be experts in many disciplines, including metals. We are often the last stop for individuals looking to learn more about items they have acquired that are not necessarily items of jewelry. Recently, a client brought us a cup he had purchased from eBay. He was told it was a 1930’s Russian tea cup holder made of silver with gold plating. Feeling confident by the top rating of this seller, he agreed to pay $150 for the cup.
After receiving it, he took it to a metal company in Olympia to validate the cup’s composition. They told him it was actually brass with a silvery-coating. He was given no more information about the cup holder, but believed what the metal company told him. Concerned by their assessment, he contacted the eBay seller to share what he had learned. The seller very strongly disagreed about their findings, and re-iterated what he had been originally told.
Feeling he needed another expert opinion, he brought the cup to us at Hartley Jewelers. Two of our experts, Rick Hartley and Craig Oliver, examined the piece to uncover some important clues about its composition. First, it was clear that somebody had already filed away a small portion of the metal surface to expose the base metal. It was clearly silver in color and not brass, like he was told by the other company. Futhermore, there is a stamp impressed by the original maker that is like a craftsman’s signature. This stamp shows the numbers 875, which translates to 87.5% silver. This is less than the more common sterling silver stamp, which must be 925, or 92.5%, silver content or more.
This was enough to confirm that the cup was, in fact, as it was advertised on eBay. We took the cup in to clean it, and re-plate the area that was filed off. The client will soon have a clean cup, which he intends to use to hold his own coffee cup. Holding a latte in a 1930’s silver and gold Russian cup holder is sure to spark conversation at the coffee shop. And, now, he can share the details with confidence. It is always a good idea to get a second opinion.