This mote spoon is part of a larger set of tea equipage was probably given by Aaron Levy (1742-1815) to Benjamin Gratz (1792-1884), both of whose portraits hang in the Rosenbach house. Although the set is functional, its costly materials and ornate style echo the role of tea and sugar as luxury commodities. Scissor-like nippers were used to chip small pieces from a loaf, a solid block in which sugar was sold. The pierced bowl of the mote spoon skimmed leaves from the tea’s surface, while its pointed tip cleaned the strainer inside a teapot’s spout. The case is covered with shagreen, stingray skin filed down to reduce its natural, ovoid protuberances to a decorative pattern.
Teaspoon. Silver. Probably England, 1730-60.