This superb, rare betel or paan tray is of chased and gilded (gold-plated), high-grade silver and would have come from a princely residence in northern or Mughal India. It would have been used to hold elements of the betel or paan quid, betel being a mild social narcotic.
It stands on four flared feet, has two handles, and a raised rim that curve outward.
The outer rim and handles are decorated with dozens of turquoise-coloured glass cabochons and the edge of the tray is further decorated with dozens of silver pendant balls.
The interior of the tray is chased beautifully with scrolling, flowering shrubbery interspersed with parrot-like birds in flight. The interior raised edges are decorated with a border of oval cartouches which alternate between being blank, decorated with flowers and being decorated with resting birds in different poses.
A gold tray of similar form with suspended bells around the edges but attributed to Mysore, is illustrated in Birdwood (1880, pl. 9).
The tray here is particularly beautiful because of the fineness of the chasing to the silver and also the way in which the gilding has mellowed and softened.
Birdwood, G., The Industrial Arts of India, 1880.
Zebrowski, M., Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, Alexandria Press, 1997.