Antique china teacups are fun to collect. They add beauty and elegance to the tea table as well as looking beautiful in glass front display cases. These lovely collectibles do require some special care in order to look their best for the longest period of time possible.
History of China Teacups
Teacups have been used in China for centuries. The earliest cups were small bowls without handles. These bowls were cupped in the hands and sipped from. While this design was perfect for Chinese royalty it was not so good for the Europeans who used silver and pewter cups.
When tea was introduced into Europe the nobility was accustomed to drinking from either silver or pewter. The heat from the tea made the metal hot and burned the hands of the person drinking it as well as anyone who served it. Porcelain cups with handles were developed to keep the hands of the tea aficionado from being burned.
Once bone china, a mixture of bone ash, china stone, and china clay, was developed by Joseph Spode it became the most popular type of china for teacups as well as dinnerware. It was a strong material that did not easily break or chip and yet was so light and delicate that you can see a shadow of your hand through the walls of the cup.
Teacups reached the height of popularity during the reign of Queen Victoria. She made the tea time celebration popular among people all over Europe and the United States. Dainty and beautiful cups were created to compliment the beautiful china and special tidbits used for the tea tray. Cups were used as gifts for birthdays, showers, weddings, and other occasions.
Collecting China Teacups
Cups can be collected according to several criteria. Many people just pick up teacups that appeal to them regardless of whether or not they have a similar cup. Others collect only according to the design, the color, or the manufacturer. You may want to collect only cup and saucer sets or you may want to choose just cups. The choice is entirely up to the individual collector.
Collecting by Manufacturer
Some of the most widely collected antique china teacups are from the manufacturers that you may already be familiar with.
- Royal Doulton
While these are not the only teacups worth collecting, they are some of the most collected and most beautiful.
Collecting By Pattern or Color
Some collectors choose to collect certain patterns or colors. They may choose only handpainted pieces or only pieces that have gold leaf added. These patterns can include any of the following.
- Blue Willow
- Gold edges
- Pink bands
Collecting By Country of Origin
Some collectors like to collect antique teacups from a certain location. Some of the most popular are:
- Occupied Japan
Some collectors prefer to collect only bone china, or only porcelain. Others love footed teacups over the flat bottom styled cups. There are a wide variety of ways to collect and each is as satisfying as the other.
Choosing Vintage Teacups
It is easy to fall in love with a teacup and snatch it up without looking carefully at the condition of the cup. Teacups are prone to chips and cracks; there may be repairs that have been made. These defects not only significantly lower the value of your cup, they may cause it to break when tea is added. This can cause burns or other injuries.
Always examine the cup carefully for chips, cracks, repairs, or flaking paint. If you really love the cup you can still purchase it for display but you won't want to use it.
You can find teacups almost anywhere. Thrift shops, antique stores, and garage sales are some of the best places to find them locally. Online there are a plethora of virtual antique malls and auctions. Consider:
Be sure that if you are buying online you always purchase the insurance for mailing and that you fully understand the return policy of the seller.
Caring for Antique China Teacups
You will probably want to use your teacups as well as display them. This doesn't pose a problem as long as you follow a few simple rules.
- If lemon or other acidic liquid has been added to the cup rinse it immediately. The acids will damage the glaze over time.
- Don't leave your antique china cups to soak. This may compromise the glaze and cause problems.
- Keep a folded tea towel in the bottom of the sink when washing and rinsing to guard against chips and breakage.
- Wash with mild soap never a detergent.
- Allow to air dry if possible.
- Never put your antique china in the dishwasher.
- Store away from direct sunlight.
Treat your antique china teacups gently and they will last for many generations of tea parties.