During these chilly Winter days, we are featuring a selection of trays now in-stock at LEO Design. We look-forward to the time (the sooner, the better) when we can use these trays to serve family, friends and other loved ones.
For most of human history, the world was dominated by a small number of monarchs, the aristocratic one percent, and all the rest of us—the 99% who served those monarchs and aristocrats. "Luxury" was out-of-reach for all but the tippy-top. And then came the Industrial Revolution.
While the Industrial Revolution did create many problems—pollution, exploitation, and the relegation of human labor to that of an interchangeable commodity—it also allowed for the growth of a modern Middle Class. And this new middle class had something heretofore unknown to them: discretionary income. For the first time, a growing middle class could afford to buy things that they wanted, not just what they needed. But they were still not rich enough to match the top one percent. They sought to purchase quality items which emulated those of the aristocracy—but, perhaps, made in a more cost-effective manner. And that's where the Industrial Revolution paid dividends.
Consider the tray above. 300 years ago, such a tray would be made out of hand-hammered silver. Such an item would be impossibly expensive for a tradesman (and would be locked-up in a "silver vault" to protect it from "thieving servants"). In 1742 in England, "Sheffield Plate" was invented, in which a thin layer of precious metal was rolled-over and bonded to a thicker base of inexpensive (though stronger) metal. The next advancement came in 1805 (in Italy) with the invention of Electroplating, in which a piece of base metal was dipped into an electrified tub of liquid mixed with metal powder. Zap! The silver (or gold) powder was now securely bonded to the cheaper metal base.
As the Nineteenth Century Industrial Revolution rolled-on, electroplating became more and more popular—creating "luxury" pieces for a growing middle class. The economies of scale enjoyed by large factories allowed quality items to me made much more economically, quickly and in great volume. An electroplated silver tray, like the one shown here, was durable (stronger than sterling sliver), affordable (one-fifth the price) and looked (from a few feet away) just like its pure silver cousin.
The modest Arts & Crafts oval tray shown here was hand-hammered, then electroplated by Meriden in Connecticut. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.
More selections from our expansive tray collection tomorrow and in the days to come.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248