Teacups have been collected for as long as people have enjoyed Tea. Beginning in China during the eighth century where Tea was served in small porcelain or stoneware bowls. Over the centuries Teacups have been made from various materials; clay, glass, porcelain, bone china, earthenware ceramic, glass, tin, plastics, paper and pottery.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, it became fashionable to collect fine bone china dinnerware in matching sets for the table. A trend began after World War 1 to make just the cups saucers and small plates called Trios and to serve Tea set out on a tray including a teapot, sugar bowl, and small jug (called a creamer) with cups, saucers and luncheon plates separate from the large dinner sets.
These were highly popular, patterned and decorative in a myriad of different colours and delicate gold embellishments and used for special occasions. Mothers, Grandmothers, and Aunts would collect the pretty elegant bone china cups and saucers as cherished possessions to be passed down to daughters and nieces or given as gifts and collected as souvenirs.
The trend continues today to some degree, although, the gold embellished dainty cups cannot go in the dishwasher so this has reduced the number of patterned sets being used on a daily basis.
On the other hand, in recent years there is a renewed interest for vintage and antique cups and saucers collected for special High Tea occasions like pre wedding or hens celebrations, wedding and baby showers or other special occasions and events. In fact, now the trend due to scarcity and expense of perfect sets is for miss-matched tea sets or just cups. Why waste perfect gorgeous porcelain Teacups just because it has no saucer?
Today, teacups and saucers often are memorabilia within families, cherished items from Mothers, Aunties and Grandma’s that were passed down through families. Objects to love and hold on to if we can store them and look after them properly. Fine China, Bone China, or Porcelain can be valuable, especially if the pieces are not cracked, chipped and still maintain that lovely ‘ping’ sound’ telling us there are no hairline cracks.
There are a lot of china and porcelain cups and saucers being sold online at highly exaggerated prices that are not necessarily worth the price but occasionally, in amongst them, you can find some hidden gems
My Tips For Collecting Vintage Tea Sets
- Look at the condition of pieces with no chips, cracks or crazing on the cups and the gold is still in tact. The price should be based on the condition.
- Look for interesting shapes which may be more valuable.
- Look at the Hallmark from the manufacturer underneath and the country of origin.
- Look for Royal Albert, Spode, Royal Worchester, Minton, Royal Stafford, Aynsley, Shelley, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, Paragon or Limoges amongst many others.
- Look for single cups and saucers that may go with your own miss matched pieces
- Look for what you love and use it.
At the end of the day, it is all about if you love the piece than the value or any investment advantage. Collecting China and Porcelain is not much fun if you don’t like the pieces even if they are valuable. Best to cherish and look after pieces you absolutely love.
Fine China, Bone China and Porcelain was made to be used and is very strong despite appearing delicate. Cheaper modern ceramics are far more likely to chip than older Bone China. If you look after the pieces and don’t ever put the gold ones in a dishwasher you can use them daily with no problem.
As the Colin Wright quote above says Life’s short use fine China!
I think today it is even more important to use the precious things we love rather than storing them away for a special day. Today is special, the time for precious and cherished items in the home is now.
The same applies to crystal, fine linens and silver, although many people dislike silver today because they don’t like cleaning it. If you use Sterling silver around the home, it will shine better with use and is so beautiful mixed amongst everyday items. Funny as it seems, cleaning the silver can be therapeutic too and as soon as I get the urge to clean the silver I will share some pics of the process. The results are always stunning.
Fine China porcelain, linens, crystal and silverware can be used all around the home for different purposes than what was intended when made. A silver tray or silver compote on the dressing table, a china butter dish in the bathroom for soap or jewellery, Silver jugs in the kitchen for utensils or a china platter and plates on the walls as a montage of the past. The ideas for use are endless as are the ways to use china for our everyday meals.
Life is made up of special moments; I love to turn every opportunity at the table into a special event even when we don’t have guests. Using different china and cutlery to match the mood, an eclectic mix of old and new that holds hints of the past with the present makes every day unique and creates beautiful memories. Formal with rustic, a touch of crystal amongst modern coloured plates or a delicate china cup and saucer at breakfast or morning tea. There is nothing better than a simple meal made unique by adding an heirloom piece with a history and story to tell.
Content Di Baker
Images Di Baker unless otherwise cited 2021