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This lovely quatrefoil shaped tea caddy was made in Hong Kong, probably in the city of Swatow, a seacoast town that was one of the major pewter producing centers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Made of heavy pewter, it was given a thin wash of coppery color enamel. Each of the four lobes was then hand engraved. On one side the incised Chinese characters were enameled in both gold and jade green and on the other side in bright gold. The bamboo leaves and flowers on the other lobes were enameled in a pale gold. There is a four character mark impressed into the unenameled pewter bottom, but there are no English words (such as "Made in Hong Kong") so we can deduce this was not made for export but for the Chinese market. According to our research, the marks read "Kut Hing" (a well-known pewter maker) and "pewter."
The caddy stands on four shapely feet and has both an inner and outer lid that makes it virtually airtight, in order to keep the loose tea fresh. It is 7 inches tall, 4 1/2 inches wide and 3 1/2 inches front to back. It's heavy for its size, weighing about 1 1/2 pounds. It's in excellent condition, especially for a household item that would have seen regular use. The lid is lightly dented along the edges on the outside, on the center top and more heavily on the built-in tube inside. There is a very small amount of wear on the enameling and it remains fresh and colorful.
This is a fine, decorative example of high quality Chinese craftsmanship made circa 1895-1900.