One lump or two? Find beauty and value in these charming yet practical collectibles in a variety of styles.
Vintage tea sets are steeped in history.
Founded in 1896, this English firm specializes in bone china, which is known for its delicate appearance and translucence (although it is stronger than porcelain). Originally named simply the Albert Works after Queen Victoria’s husband, the “Royal” was added when the company received its first Royal Warrant, an honor given to craftspeople and firms that supply the British royal family. This cup and saucer date from the 1970s and are part of a Flower of the Month birthday series.
Josiah Wedgwood modernized pottery production in the mid-1700s, taking it from a cottage industry to the factory floor. He was also a savvy marketer, harnessing the prestige of his royal clientele to create broader demand. For instance, after Queen Charlotte ordered a creamware tea set, he dubbed the style Queen’s Ware; it is still sold under that name. This blue lavender cup and saucer are lovely examples. Wedgwood is perhaps best known for the creation of jasperware, a dense, unglazed stoneware often embellished with a raised white decoration. Although this line comes in a variety of colors, “Wedgwood blue” became synonymous with the blue of jasperware.
Created by industrial designer Russel Wright in the 1930s as part of his American Modern collection, these earthenware dishes were manufactured by the Steubenville Pottery Co. in Ohio and featured distinctive organic shapes. The original starter set had 12 pieces that could be added to over time from an assortment of six interchangeable colors, allowing consumers
a new kind of versatility. Wright’s dishes were examples of the Good Design movement, which championed “eye appeal, function, construction and price,” according to the Museum of Modern Art. American Modern dishes are produced today by California’s Bauer Pottery.
The name comes from a Hindi word meaning spattering or stain. It originally referred to a type of cotton fabric with an all-over floral print. During the Edwardian era, chintz was all the rage for wall coverings and upholstery. Soon tableware was created to match. Workers would cut patterns from floral lithographs and apply them directly to pottery pieces before glazing. This “transferware” was easier and quicker to produce, and therefore less expensive, than hand-painted china. Interest in chintz revived in the 1990s. English pottery firm Alfred Meakin manufactured the cup and saucer shown here.
Gibson & Sons
This English earthenware manufacturer dates to 1885 and is well known for its teapots, many of which were made for export. Earthenware is made of common, rougher clays and is fired at a lower temperature than porcelain, bone china or stoneware; as a result it is weaker and more porous. The teapot pictured, circa 1920-1940, is probably hand-painted.
Worth: Around $15