Jamestown Gazette

KC’S Corner

Antique Tea Cup

Now that Easter has passed (and if you are very, very smart), you are preparing for the next third most important holiday of all – Mother’s Day.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy…..”  (which brings to mind, “Ain’t, ain’t a word and I ain’t gonna say it”), but I digress…

Anyway, as a bit of background on Mother’s Day, some historians believe the earliest celebrations started as ancient spring festivals dedicated to mother goddesses.  England’s “Mothering Sunday,” also called Mid-Lent Sunday, is observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent.  In the 1600’s in England, young men and women who were apprentices or servants returned home on Mothering Sunday bringing to their mothers small gifts like trinkets or a “mothering cake.”  In Northern England and Scotland, mothers were served “carlings” – pancakes made of steeped pease fried in butter, with pepper & salt (possibly the early ancestor to “breakfast in bed”?)

Mother’s Day became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1914 under President Wilson, recognizing Anna Jarvis’ effort to honor her mother, also Anna Jarvis, for her efforts to raise awareness of poor health conditions in Appalachia.  We have many ways to show our Mothers appreciation on Mother’s Day for their love and care throughout the year.  My own mother passed any many years ago, so I thought I would write a bit about what my husband’s mother enjoys receiving and we have fun searching out for her — tea cups.

Antique Tea Cup and Saucer

My mother-in-law prefers floral-motif on her cups, which is the most standard pattern you will find but, not by any means, the only one.  You will find every artistic design you can think of (and some you never would have) depending on how much time you spend searching.  So first, determine what you might want to collect:  a) maybe cups/saucers from a specific era or you find a specific artist or motif appealing.  Take the time to do some research to learn which items in that area are more common and which ones are harder to find, that way if you are lucky enough to stumble across a rare find, you’ll know to snatch it up!  Also familiarize yourself with some of the major names that collectors value so that you can recognize them if you should come across them:  Havilland, Royal Doulton, Limoges, and Wedgewood to name a few.  Antique Chinese and Japanese tea cups make a good collection too. Marks on the bottom are important too.  Small hand-written marks in colors tend to be used before the 1800’s.  Printed/stamped marks in colors other than blue are usually post 1850.  Use of the word “royal” before the company name was typically used after 1850.  Use of the term “LTD” or “Limited” appears mostly after 1860.  The term “Trademark” is used after 1862.  Use of registration Numbers such as “Rd No.10057” started in 1884. Research these marks to help you find approximate age and maker.

Now, you are ready to search!  You can shop online, at estate sales, auctions, antique stores.  If you find the cup, don’t be afraid to purchase it because you might find the matching saucer later. Keep your collection displayed safely and out of direct sunlight, and never wash in the dishwasher.

The first photos shown are from Royal Sealy Japan. Note the “X” shaped saucer of the pink floral cup.  Royal Sealy Company was producing from the mid 1940s – early 60’s and was a steady importer from Japan. They made a quantity of lusterware (see cup #1) and are very popular now for their unusual tea cups and vases.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Always remember that this year’s gifts could be the next generation’s treasures!

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