English Bone China Tea Set

Kate Miller-Wilson
tea set

An English bone china tea set can be a special heirloom that gets passed down from generation to generation, as well as a popular item with collectors. Whether you're planning a tea party or simply looking for something lovely to display in your china cabinet, there are lots of gorgeous antique options out there.

Where to Buy

With its delicate, translucent beauty and gorgeous designs, English bone china is popular with collectors and antiques enthusiasts. Shopping for these tea sets can be a little challenging, especially if you're looking for a certain manufacturer or pattern. However, there are many great resources to try.

Local Antique Stores

Because seeing the tea set in person allows you to assess its condition and completeness, shopping locally is always a good idea. Check out the selection at local antique stores, and if you're looking for something specific, leave your name and number with the store. They can call you if your dream set comes in.

Online Antique Stores

Online antique stores have some of the best selection you'll find, especially of hard-to-find sets. You can even search for specific manufacturers or patterns. Try one of these popular stores:

  • Ruby Lane has dozens of bone china tea sets, and the selection is constantly changing.
  • GoAntiques has complete sets and partial sets from some of the very best manufacturers of English bone china.
  • CakeStandHeaven has a changing selection of bone china tea sets, some compiled of multiple antique patterns.

eBay

eBay is a great place to look for complete tea sets, as well as individual pieces to complete a set. There are many different manufacturers, and the selection is changing all the time. If you don't find what you need right away, check back later or set an eBay alert for the item you want.

Replacements, Ltd.

Although you can't buy a complete set on Replacements, Ltd., you can individually purchase all the pieces you need to assemble your set. This tends to be a pricey option, but it's also one of the best ways to get the set of your dreams. If they don't have your pattern, they can send you an alert when pieces of it come in. To find your set, search by the name of the manufacturer and pattern.

Popular Manufacturers and Patterns

bone china tea set

A complete antique tea set typically includes a tea pot and lid, sugar bowl and lid, cream pitcher, and tea cups and saucers. It might also include a cake or biscuit plate, a coffee pot and lid, and other auxiliary items. Often, when it comes to antique sets, one or more of these pieces will be broken or missing, and some manufacturers may have made slightly different pieces.

Tea sets by certain manufacturers are especially gorgeous and popular with collectors. If you're considering investing in an antique set, one of these may be just your cup of tea.

Spode Tea Sets

The classic name in antique bone china, Spode made tea sets throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Transferware, china with colored designs printed on it, is popular with Spode collectors, as are hand-painted pieces.

Minton Tea Sets

Minton bone china tea sets frequently feature elaborate floral patterns and Art Nouveau nature-inspired styling. These gorgeous sets, which include patterns like King's Lily and Fuchsia, are not hard to find.

Shelley Tea Sets

Shelley bone china tea sets are among the loveliest on the antiques market. These delicate sets come in a wide array of patterns, such as Briar Rose Chintz, Rosebud, Lily of the Valley, and more. There are several different shapes and sizes cups and saucers in the various patterns.

Royal Doulton Tea Sets

Royal Doulton is another famous name in English bone china as they produced many tea sets. Often, these pieces feature figural motifs and scenes, although there are also many lovely floral patterns. Complete sets are hard to come by, but you can assemble a set piece by piece.

Determining Value of Bone China Tea Sets

If you have an antique bone china tea set, the most accurate way to get a sense of its value is to have it professionally appraised. However, there are a few steps you can take to get a general idea on your own.

Evaluate the Number and Type of Pieces

Because tea sets can vary greatly in size and configuration, the number and size of pieces you have will be an important factor in determining how much your set is worth. In most cases, your set is worth more as individual pieces, but some collectors pay more for the complete set. Make a list of every piece you have and the number of place settings you own.

Assess the Condition

The condition of your tea set is also very important in assigning value. Cracks and chips will dramatically decrease its worth, as will crazing, or tiny cracks in the surface glaze. Also look for discolored spots and signs of past repairs.

Identify the Manufacturer and Pattern

Turn your pieces over to examine the backstamp. In many cases, this will tell you the manufacturer of your set and allow you to date it. It may also tell you the name of your pattern. If not, you can find out more about your pattern by contacting the manufacturer or a collecting club devoted to that manufacturer.

Look at Similar Sets

Once you know as much as possible about your set, you can look for similar sets on eBay and at antique stores. Note the sales price of these items to get a good idea of the value of your pieces.

Tips for Caring for Your Tea Set

tea set in use

To properly care for your tea set, follow these guidelines:

  • Keep handling to a minimum. Use it, but use with care.
  • Support plates by holding them underneath, not by the delicate edge.
  • Hold teapots by their sides and handles rather than just by the handle.
  • Gently lift and replace the covers.
  • Don't use pieces that have been broken and then mended.
  • Make certain that you display your china in a way that will keep it from harm, such as in a closed cabinet or a low-traffic area of your home.
  • When you stack plates place a piece of thick paper or a cloth between them.
  • When cleaning, use a gentle soap and water solution. Don't scrub or the gilded areas will buff off the surface. Use a soft toothbrush to get into any cracks or crevices.

Amazing and Beautiful

English bone china is an amazing and beautiful art form, and there are many gorgeous tea sets available in antique stores. If you're considering becoming a collector, it's great to learn as much as you can about this exciting antique china.

English Bone China Tea Set