The word tray is derived from the Middle English word ‘treg’ or ‘trig’ meaning ‘flat board with low rim’. Essentially a tray is a flat, shallow container made of wood, metal or a combination of the two, used for carrying or displaying food or drink related antiques.
Decoration can vary from heavy, detailed baroque styling to subtle, modern, Art Deco shapes and styles. At AC Silver, we have a wide variety of types and styles of tray to suit every need and home.
Whether you’re looking for a grand piece for ornamentation, a large, practical piece to use as part of dining service, or a specially decorated piece to use every day, we have a tea tray, a drinks tray, or a snuffer tray to suit you.
Andrew Campbell hand picks all of the silver serving trays and salvers in the AC Silver inventory and only includes the finest examples of their type.
Salvers and trays are easily confused, although they are separate items with individual histories and purposes. The salver is a small dish, usually crafted from silver. Mostly, salvers are round in shape, with some being rectangular and few being more unique shapes such as octagonal.
A primary difference between trays and salvers is the use of handles. Trays, largely being used to transport teasets with a lot of individual components, needed handles to be truly effective. Salvers, however, were traditionally only used to transport food for a small group of people, if not just a single individual, and so handles were not required.
The earliest example of a tray that we are able to verify the age of is an Etruscan black earthenware tray, said to date from the 7th or 6th century B.C.E. (Pre-Roman times). There is no certainty the Etruscan tray is the oldest in existence, but it does suggest that the concept of a tray is an ancient one, existing millennia before they became commonplace in aristocratic and wealthy homes.
During the eighteenth century, the popular style of the tray was a plain oval shape, featuring reeded moulding and loop handles. By the nineteenth century, carrying handles were being added to large-sized salvers, to accommodate the increasingly weighty tea and coffee services which were preferred by the members of society with higher social standing.
In the early nineteenth century, long, oblong trays became fashionable. Gallery trays -named for their lip or ridge, which was called a ‘gallery’ - were trays made in either wood or metal, with higher sides than the traditional tray.
This provides more security, preventing items being carried from slipping, or tipping off the surface of the tray. Victorian trays were heavily ornamented, to adhere to the style of many pieces of silverware and homeware at this time.
There are many different types of trays, defined by their size and composition. Here at AC Silver, we have a wide array of trays available of varying designs and styles.
The plain oval tray became popular in the late 1700s. By the 19th century, carrying handles were added to large-sized salvers to accommodate the increasingly weighty tea and coffee services.
A tea tray is literally and figuratively the foundation of formal tea preparation. It offers a surface for tea preparation, including setting out the cups, pouring the tea, and then taking the cups to the guests or to the table where tea is going to be served.
This is a rather traditional use of a tea tray, and for many owning such items made in sterling silver is a sign of wealth. For some, using a fine silver tea tray is to impress their guests. Yet there are also many people who simply have an impressive tray as a focal point in a room and it is never actually used for serving purposes.
Similar to the tea tray, the drinks tray is often used on special occasions. The tray provides a suitable surface upon which drinks may be presented at such events; thus, the scale of the tray is smaller than that of the tea tray.
Gallery trays are made in either wood or metal, with higher sides than the traditional tray, providing more security, preventing items from slipping or tipping off the surface of the tray. Typically, they will be more similarly sized to a drinks tray, however this is not to say that an ornamental gallery style border could not be present to a tea tray.
Unlike the above, snuffer trays weren’t used to serve drinks, they were produced so households had a receptacle to hold their candle snuffer once used.
This type of tray increased in popularity as candles became associated with wealth. Unlike the present times, candles were a lighting necessity rather than choice. In the 21st century the snuffer tray can be seen as a small tray to display items, often being a pleasing accompaniment to a desk or office environment to display small trinkets or even act as a pen receptacle.