It was consigned for sale by a descendant of the original recipient.
All eight elements of the set bear the mark for the well-known firm of Janaty Sazikov plus Moscow town marks and assay master's marks for either Lev Oleks (the tray and decanter) or A. Romanov (the cups).
The 11 3/4in (29.5cm) tray is engraved in cyrillic: For Edmond Edmundovitch Emson from colleagues in the Baltic Shipping Company and the Ziboda Engineers, 1873-1903.
Additional roundels include the dates, number of ships engines and boilers, and the cost in roubles of each item for which Edmond Emson was the engineer.
Modestly estimated at £2000-3000, it attracted bids from half a dozen telephones before it sold to a New York buyer at £40,000 (plus 15 per cent buyer's premium).