Recently while out shopping with a friend, I found this serving tray at a local thrift store buried under a haphazard stack of about a dozen other trays and platters. I was immediately attracted to the details—the delicate fan shapes of the cutouts in particular caught my eye—and when I pulled it from the pile its heft and sturdiness told me it was probably worth investigating a bit further.
It was quite dirty and tarnished, and when I held it up to better light it had the slight rainbow-iridescence that silverplate and some of the other plated metals like nickel can show when they darken. It had light scratches on the back where it was hung with a plate hanger, but no identifying marks and labels other than the price tag (there were what looked like two tiny dents near one end, and part of me thought—or hoped—they might be silver marks, but they were so much smaller than any I have ever seen that my rational mind decided they must be damage... but... who knows? stranger things happen...)
The workmanship felt and looked hand wrought, and even a tiny bit rustic, and there was something unusual about it too that made it seem special. With no clear indicators as to provenance, my first thought was that it was either antique and possibly unique, or a mass produced item from China made to look old and weathered, which is something manufacturers there have gotten better at mimicking in recent years and that I encounter all the time with things that look promising. I decided to go with my gut and assume it might be an antique, and I carried it around the store with me under my arm while I looked for more treasures. I also thought that if it turned out to be a $15 knock-off from Marshall's at least it was a beautifully patterned tray to add to my collection of household serving pieces.
I didn't see anything else of interest so I paid for my find, then my friend and I walked to my car just outside the shop. I showed her the tray on the way and told her of my suspicions (European design but Chinese knockoff, the pattern being probably some kind of chestnut) and hopes (that the dents might be silver hallmarks, that it was antique) and we got in my car, buckled up, and drove off to Bed, Bath & Beyond.
To be continued in Part 2…