There are certain styles and shapes that suggest the nationality of an antique and this delightful tea strainer by its design alone says 'I am Russian.'
In support of its iconic shape, there are three sets of Russian silver hallmarks on this antique. The Kokoshnik Mark is embossed on the rim, the inside base and on the handle. Because the face is towards the left, we know that it was made between 1899 and 1908. The initials AC to the right of the face signify that it was assayed in Kostroma which was one of those Russian fairytale cities on the legendary Volga. The makers mark in Cyrillic letters is HIM.
The tea strainer is 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 inch in height.
The tea strainer is in excellent condition, there are no spits or cracks or dings in the silver. The handle is securely attached to the strainer.
This beautiful strainer was used by hooking the handle onto a metal hanger which was inserted into the spout of the teapot. When you tilted the teapot the tea flowed into the strainer and then into the cup or glass as glasses were used in Russia. The metal hanger is not silver. I have tested the design on several teapots and with slight adjustment to the metal hanger, it works on all the teapot types in my collection.
I have observed that the strainer holes are very fine and it seems to me that the tea was poured into the strainer over a small glass and then allowed to slowly strain into the glass. This suggests that the full of the strainer was a measure for one glass of tea. This may seem small but one must remember that tea was almost as expensive as gold and probably more scarce and hence the small serving. It is amazing the information that can be found from experimenting with an antique such as this one.
One last piece of information for those not familiar with Russian silver marks. The Kokoshnik was the head scarf worn by Russian peasant woman and girls. It became fashionable in Russian high society in the nineteenth century and was adapted as the silver symbol of quality by the Czar in 1899.
It is now time for a nice cup of tea.