Historians have noted that in the 18th century, according to the etiquette, women drank tea from porcelain cups and men drank it from glasses. The tea was always freshly brewed and steaming hot. As glass tends to get extremely hot very fast, it raised the need to create a special utensil to protect hands. And that is how Tea-glass holders appeared.
The first mention of a Tea Glass holder, or "podstakannik" (literally "item under the glass") also dates back to the late 18th century. At first, a Podstakannik looked very simple and only served its practical function. Soon, Russian craftsmen started decorating Glass Holders and developed different designs turning them into true works of art, just like samovars that were used for boiling water for the tea.
With the wave of popularity of Tea Glass Holders, all kinds of private workshops and large factories began producing them, often upon special requests, in various styles, and using various techniques (stamping, casting, embossing, color retouching). The ornaments on Podstakanniks were either made in the Russian traditional style, or followed other world trends like Classicism, Rococo, Modern, Art Nouveau, or Gothic art styles. Glass Holders were decorated with flowers, fruits, angels, vignettes, and garlands. Often Podstakanniks depicted historic events, fairy tales, and myths in truly elaborate patterns. The most famous jewelers of Russia, including Faberge, Khlebnikov, Klingert, and Lorie, used precious metals and stones to create elite versions of Tea Glass holders intended for aristocracy.
After the October Revolution, under the influence of Soviet communist propaganda, the design of Tea Glass holders drastically changed. The Podstakannik became a kind of an ideological mouthpiece of the achievements of the Soviet Union. With the new wave of popularity in the late 1920s, the production of Podstakanniks started out on an industrial scale. At that time, Tea Glass Holders reflected the diverse aspects of the political and cultural life of the country. Landmarks, famous objects of architecture, memorable dates, cities of the USSR, workers, tractors, stars, and Lenin and Stalin portraits could often be found on the Glass Holders. Postakanniks were made mostly from nickel silver, cupronickel, and other alloys with nickel, silver, or gold plating. The Kolchugino Non-Ferrous Metals Processing Plant in Vladimir Oblast, which has been the largest producer of Tea Glass Holders since 1871, still remains the main Podstakannik manufecturer.
After the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union the main wholesale customer of Glass Holders was the Ministry of Railways. As tea was served in constantly shaking carriages, Tea Glass Holders were extremely useful since they provided more safety while drinking or carrying tea on a moving train.
In the subsequent years the most popular themes for Glass Holder designs were mostly devoted to the great achievements of the USSR, such as rockets, cosmonauts, Moscow Olympic Games, Bolshoi Theater, et cetera.
Today, in the modern Russian households, Tea Glass Holders are almost completely replaced by cups and mugs. However, Podstakanniks are still used for serving tea while traveling on trains. The filigree Tea Glass Holders with intricate designs remain collectible items and family heirlooms. The Podstakannik became the mirror of the collective vision and history of Russia, reflecting ideology, art, literature, culture, and mentality.