Silver trays represent a standard of elegance that is often associated with bygone times, when a maid or a butler bearing a silver service on such a tray would serve tea and coffee in a drawing room. Famous silverware manufacturers created distinctive patterns for silver trays that reflect the lifestyles for which they were originally designed. In some cases, these patterns remain in production, and in others, there are occasions when a collectible silver tray appears in an online sale or auction, at an estate sale or in an antique shop, much to the delight of collectors.
Gorham silverware is named for John Gorham, who immigrated to America from England in 1640. A descendent founded Jabez Gorham & Son in 1841 in Providence, Rhode Island. The Gorham company adopted the sterling standard in 1868. Among its silver tray patterns is “Maintenon” reportedly inspired by Francoise d”Aubigne, Marquise de Maintenon (1635 to 1719), said to be a favorite of King Louis XIV of France. Maintenon is an opulent tray pattern with a laurel border and a rim with scrolling foliage. Maintenon trays and an array of other items in this pattern were produced around 1929.
Wallace Silversmiths was founded by Robert Wallace, a Connecticut native and son of a Scottish immigrant and silversmith. The company grew to be the largest manufacturer of silver flatware in the world. In 1941, designer William S. Warren created the silver pattern known as “Grande Baroque” which was inspired by the romance and elegance of the 16th century. It remains a pattern for which Wallace Silversmiths is acknowledged. It is one of a series of special designs called three-dimensional because their patterns are apparent whether viewed from the front, back or in profile.
In the mid-1950s, Wallace Silversmiths bought the Tuttle Silver Company, which was founded by Timothy Tuttle in Boston, Massachusetts in 1890. Among the silver tray and flatware patterns for which Tuttle was noted are “Richelieu”, whose ornate, Renaissance-inspired design celebrates the style of King Francis I of France, and features the acanthus leaf, and “Pantheon” which takes its inspiration from the glory that was once Greece and Rome.
During the early 1900s, Tiffany & Co., manufactured silverware featuring the “Chrysanthemum” pattern designed by Charles Grosjean. It was originally known as “Indian Chrysanthemum," possibly inspired by a flower from India. The pattern also appears to have been influenced by Indian art symbols such as the lotus and features deep casting of blossoms set in chrysanthemum foliage.
Horse racing or "the sport of kings" is well known for its spectacular silver trophies awarded to winning owners and horses. An interesting example is the N.W. Virginia Agricultural Society Racing Trophy awarded in the 19th century to a horse named “Planter.” The tray trophy is intricately engraved in script and features a “Medallion” pattern.