Keep It

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.

Royal Al­bert

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.

Worth: $15-$30


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.

Worth: $15-$20

Rus­sel Wright

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.

Worth: $7.50-$15


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.

Worth: $15-$20

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

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