Teacups and Saucers- A Sip of the Past

Teacup Collections

Teacup Collections

It has always amazed me how many people want information on teacups and saucers. Once I had an internet guru help me interpret statistics on my web site and it turned out that there were two pages that had the highest ranking. The first one was about the History of the “White” Wedding dress. I guess there are a lot of brides out there.

The second was… you guessed it – my article on Teacups and Saucers

The problem with doing research on teacups and saucers ( now referred to as T&S) is that there is so much information out there but not much that a person can necessarily use. The most important thing however is that you need to be able to describe what you have before you even start to look.

Check out the mark on the base of the cup or saucer. First of all, these must match. If it was bought at the same time the marks will be identical. It is possible for them to be the same pattern but from different years. Take for example a pattern known as Blue Mikado.

Blue Mikado by Royal Crown Derby

Blue Mikado by Royal Crown Derby

Blue Mikado is made by Royal Crown Derby and it has been made for many years. It is still popular. Now this china was never cheap so new brides and housewives spent many years acquiring a set of it. A teacup and saucer for Christmas, a plate for a birthday and so on. That is why the marks could be different although similar. It’s uncommon to see a whole set of high quality dishes all with the same mark – because it would mean it was bought all at once.

I find the early pieces to be my favorite. Their colours are of a richer, deeper blue. There is also more gold on the pattern. The later years – the 60’s and later seem to pale by comparison.

China manufacturers also changed the shape of their cups and sizes of their plates. The serving pieces sure changed a lot too. The sugar holder changed from a lovely lidded container that looked like an Aladdin’s lamp to a plain un- lidded open bowl.

So that’s your first challenge – to figure out the age of what you have. Companies like Crown Derby have been around for a long time and there are fabulous books like the” Goddards Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks” to help you find information on your British cups and saucers. Many of the china that was sold and distributed In Canada is from England.

Solid Color T & S are popular

Solid Color T & S are popular

Information of American made T&S can be found in any of the Kovel Books of Marks as well as “Lehner’s Encyclopedia of US Marks on Pottery, Porcelain and Clay“.

Some teacups might not have a distinguished pedigree but people love them. The cup at left is such an example. Solid colour teacups like this one find their way in many collections. The companies who made such items made them in a host of different colours – you would not typically have seen a set of 12 black teacups.

Another thing to remember is that many dinner sets did not have cups and saucers to match the rest of the set of dishes. This is because T&S were put out at the end of the meal when all the rest of the other china had already been removed from the table. Matching was unecessary. Sometimes the hostess brought out her extra special T&S for after dinner coffee and tea. This is most common in sets before 1930.

 

Learning about teacups and saucers is fascinating because not only do you learn about the companies that manufactured them, you also learn about the social habits of the time. Good Stuff!

 

18 responses to “Teacups and Saucers- A Sip of the Past

  1. Dear Johanne: Please see my comment in ‘Teacup and Saucer Collections’. Thank you – Marilee

  2. I really like your Blue Mikado set. My wife and I are collecting a lot of different white and blue sets as of late… although, we have more antique colorful sets than blue and white so far.

    Thanks for the article… so many tea cups and so little time!!

    Sol

    • Sol- Yes Blue Mikado is lovely to look at isn’t it? I find that it is one of the nicest sets of what I call cabinet china because it just looks so nice in a cabinet. This is the kind of dishes that you show off, not stack up and hide in a cupboard. It doesn’t look as good with food on it because it’s busy and blue – not always the best combination for mashed potatoes and gravy. (smile)

  3. Not finding a market for cups and saucers, I decided it was time to bring back afternoon tea and use mine for their intended purpose. Not only does it provide a wonderful respite during the day, the ladies I invite love to talk about the beautiful patterns and enjoy these tea parties that harken to a more gentle time.

  4. Thanks for the great info Johanne. I managed to salvage a number of solid colored tea cups and saucers from my mothers collection. The flowered ones weren’t my cup of tea. They aren’t particularily old the 50’s and 60’s most likely but very nice none the less. The black and white one with gold trim from Adderley is particularily nice. Some from Colclough and Royal Winton have amazing colors. I have a number of pieces of my parents Mayflower patterned china from Copeland Spode they brought with them from England when they came in the early 50’s. My sisters never seemed to be to fussy about keeping the china so I will care for it until it is time to pass it on to a younger family member. Even men can have a taste for the finner things in life.

    • John – I totally agree – the finer things in life should feel available to all. I have never understood the emasculating property of flowers or the colour pink!

  5. We host a Victorian garden tea party every year. It gives me an opportunity to show off my tea cup collection and other period antiques, including linens. As Joanne mentions, Copeland, Spode, Aynsley, Royal Crown Derby and so on…these are all highly collectible. I have some very old pieces, dating from mid 1800’s, some by lesser known potters. The handpainting on them is exquisite. and one of my favourite cups is square. Currently, I mostly collect double back stamped Paragon, and its earlier company Star China. Im not a fan of Royal Albert or Royal Doulton…as it is so common, everyone seems to have it- and its everywhere at the shows. Boring. I gave a collection of Caughley to a friend of mine to get her started…one only has so much room. I also find lots of young ladies are not interested in the fine art of taking tea, which , I agree, must be taken in a proper fine china tea cup. We also commit a fair bit of time every year to finding just the right teas to feature at our event. Usually 3 or 4. Its great fun and I enjoy putting together an authentic menu using period recipes. And of course we always do a theme…this year’s being Royal-Tea (Royalty) in honour of the Royal Wedding.

    • Hi Beverly
      You must have a big place to host a Tea party, I have several cups and saucers and I love China,
      but i don’t have room for more unless I pack some things up. I have several Aynsley cups And have
      Royal crown. I live in Canada, maybe you could give me some hints on having a tea party?

      hope to hear from you
      Isabelle

      • Hello Isobel
        We dont have a big house- but we do have a large backyard which I have spent many years landscaping- with an interest in heritage plants from the turn of the century. So we host an annual garden tea. But any occaision is an occaision for tea. You could do like Christine does and invite friends over weekly for an afternoon tea. If you have friends who collect teacups you could all take turns!

        Here’s how I go about planning our annual party.

        1) First, I decide on my guest list. You can make your guest list as short or as long as you like. Tea for two, or four or twenty four- its up to you. But only invite as many as you have place settings and seating for. If you are serving more than one kind of tea, make sure you have enough tea pots too.

        2) Pick a date and check the weather. As I plan several months in advance, I use the Farmer’s Almanac for long range forecasts. It is usually fairly accurate. We have a large coverd patio in the back yard, so weather is no longer an issue. We have had two teas get rained upon- most unfortunate, and most inconvenient- short downpours which utterly soaked everything.

        3) Choose a menu.
        The time of day you choose to host your party determines your menu. If you are having a mid afternoon tea, that is called a cream tea- serve light refreshments such as tea sandwiches, scones, madelaines or other light pastries- finger foods mostly. The cream tea is meant as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
        If your tea is 5 pm or later this is a high tea, and is considered a full course meal, with soup, meat, vegetables, scones, jam, devon cream, clotted cream -the works.
        You can make the menu items yourself, or find a store/deli/bakery. Its up to you.

        4) Choose a tea, or teas to go with your menu and time of day. There are a number of good online tea shops. I personally like The English tea store.com There is also Murchies in Vancouver, and my other favorite is Taylor’s of Harrowgate in England. I use only loose leaf tea, as it is the highest quality tea you can purchase. If its in a tea bag, its not very good tea. I also use pure water, (bottled) not tap water as our water here isnt very good- chlorine and other chemicals will affect the taste of the tea. I try to pick at least three different teas every year.

        5) Once you have your guest list, date, time, and menu…send off your invitations. Now, you could do this by email for the sake of expediency, but where is the fun (and gentility) in that? I have made my invitations, using Victorian period illustrations and graphics, or if I can find some very nice period style stationary, I will use that instead. Victorian Trading Company.com is a great resource for stationary and all manner of Victoriana reproductions.
        I have used a fountain pen to hand write the invitation, and I have also used Edwardian script on the computer to type them. Be creative! Its your party! I like to use formal language, as afterall, a tea party is a special event….and I do ask that my guests RSVP so I know how many places to set and how much food I will need.
        Plan to send out your invitations so that guests have time to respond. If responding by mail, allow at least 10 days for your invitation to arrive and for the guest to respond…I usually send my invitations out no earlier and no later than one month before the event.

        6) We have done a general Garden Tea Party and we have also hosted themed tea parties. One year we did an Alice in Wonderland theme- that was great fun! For the invitation I used a graphic of the March Hare dressed as a herald, and I believe the inside read, Their Royal Majesties, the Queen and King of Hearts kindly request your presence for tea…date, time, place…RSVP…The invitation was printed on the left hand side of the inside of the card, and the menu was on the right hand side…on the back was printed additional information such as…we will be playing the Queen’s croquet…Another year we did a riverboat gambler theme from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer…and the invitation read Y’all Come! ..

        You can make your tea party as simple or as complicated, as plain or as elaborate as you want- do whatever you like!
        My general rule of thumb is…if it not fun, Im not doing it. 🙂
        Hope this helps!

  6. I just love drinking tea from a teacup….It just tastes better and makes having a “cup of tea” a
    social event : ) Thanks for sharing this post, I will forward to my sister who shares a love for teacups
    as well!
    Lorraine

  7. I enjoyed your blog on “Cups and Saucers- A Sip from the Past.” My Mother and I have been collecting cups and saucers for sometime. My mother 1st received them as shower gifts for her wedding in 64″, and has a few that were her grandmother”s. She has in her collection well over 400 cups and saucers from the three and four legs, a heart shape cup/saucer, several saucers which have a lace hole trim, square cup and saucer, and raised chinese/dragon cups and saucers. She was told the “Ansley” and “Shelly” cups are valued the most. Can you give me more information on these?
    My father told me he recalls when his father would pour his tea from the cup into the saucer and drink from it. He said it was not as hot to drink from the saucer as from the cup… an Irish thing, perhaps? It’s a wonderful hobby and excitng when you find a new one you didn’t have.

    • Hi Susan – Wow that is quite the collection! Yes Shelley and Aynsley teacups are up there in price. There are some collectors that collect nothing but Shelley. Did you know they even have a club you can belong to? And you can attend their annual convention. A lady I knew many years back used to be very involved in this club. Aynsley is another British company. It makes excellent quality china and it’s a recognized name among collectors. There are others like Royal Crown Derby, Minton, Royal Doulton, Royal Worcester, Coalport and of course Wedgwood. Learning about the quality of certain companies is one of the things a collector gets to know quickly.

  8. I have my paternal grandmother’s cup and saucer collection and I will never part with them. After just displaying them for years, I have begun to use them and it is great fun. Some of the cups have little tiny feet on which to stand. They are all so beautiful and unique. There is something particularly soothing about enjoyed a cup of tea in such a vessel!

    • Hi Rosanna – yes. Not only does the tea taste better but it speaks of a gentler time when people slowed down to enjoy the ritual of making tea…

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