There are other resources concerning the history of tea and its preparation. For our purposes, suffice it to say that sterling tea infusers / tea balls were most popular around the 1890-1910 time frame. The varieties in shapes and sizes of the infusers made by manufacturers and individual silversmiths during that time are extensive. Many times when smaller firms could not compete with the well-known larger makers like Tiffany or Gorham in the quality or weight of their infusers, they would make lighter weight, less sturdy infusers and would rely on fanciful shapes to attract buyers.
When New York tea merchant William Sullivan put his tea samples in silk bags and sent them to his customers around 1908, he unwittingly invented the disposable tea bag, leading to the sharp decline in popularity of the unwieldy and often hard-to-clean tea ball. There are still some infusers being made today, but most are made of cheaper materials such as stainless steel and porcelain with many of those mainly used for infusing spices or herbs. That reason alone is enough to make us treasure the craftsmanship and variety of the early infusers. And there are still those who enjoy a more leisurely and old-fashioned way of making tea, and we lift our teacups to them!