November 12, 2012

Tea cups steeped in rich history


When it comes to the bowl, there are 15 shapes, ranging from scalloped, fluted and ribbed to basic straight or rounded sides. Furthermore, tea-cup handles are just as distinctive, with names that describe their form, such as angular, D-shaped, serpentine, ring and curled. Decorative designs range from hand-painted motifs like fruit and flowers to decals of animals, silhouettes or Victorian couples. Some tea cups even have the decoration on both the inside and outside of the cup.

The best teacup collections contain sentimental pieces that were inherited or acquired as special gifts. Donna’s favorite pieces are the two miniature Bavarian cups that once belonged to her grandmother, who was also a collector. Over the years, friends and loved ones have also added to her collection, but she only buys when she finds a bargain at antique shops or auctions. She has never paid more than $22 for a matching three-piece set.

Her best deal was a $15 auction buy; a Japanese luncheon tea set for six fashioned of white-glazed porcelain heavily hand-decorated with gold. It features an oriental village scene against the backdrop of Mount Fuji, but the most fascinating thing about the set is the lithophane porcelain bottom of each delicate cup. When held to the light, a three-dimensional image of a geisha girl appears.

Julie Robinson Robards is an antiques journalist and dealer living in Upper Jay. She is the author of two published books on celluloid, an advisor to several antique price guides and a writer for AntiqueWeek Newspaper since 1995. She may be reached through her website

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