Sunday, June 2, 2013

Antique China Tea Sets

Antique tea sets can be elegant, beautiful and even quirky. They evoke the essence of a more refined, bygone era. High Tea just wouldn't be the same without one.

Historians generally agree that the tea set is an Ancient Chinese invention. Tea was introduced to Europe by the Dutch in the 16th Century. Before long, it had reached the shores of Great Britain, but it was an acquired taste. We often think of tea as being a quintessentially English drink. If you've ever visited the British Isles, you might have noticed that there are a lot of cafes and tea rooms! Nevertheless, British people took to tea slowly at first, until they forged a lasting relationship with the beverage. This drink became so popular, that it ended up being drunk throughout the British Empire.

The early English tea sets of high society were typically made from fine bone china, or even silver. One of the
characteristics of these early tea sets is their delicate appearance. They were often adorned with ornate patterns, consisting of scrolls and flowers. At one point, a blue and white Chinese style of decoration was all the rage.
These antique, china tea sets were made by craftsmen, and the patterns and images were created by the designers. They would have often left a mark on the underside of a piece of crockery. Today, people look for these markings, so that they can identify and date them. People love these pretty antique styles of tea sets.

Original, undamaged and complete sets by famous names such as Stafford shire, are rare and expensive. Luckily, good copies based on original designs are available.

Some people are confused by the term "vintage", as it means different things to different people. We know that vintage covers the kinds of styles we might have seen in back in the 1800s, but "vintage" is a rather loose and eclectic term.

So, moving towards the end of the Victorian era, a new style emerged, known as "Art Nouveau". At the time, the organic patterns and shapes were rather unorthodox! Many tea sets created at this time were still made from fine bone china, but a more "rustic" appearance also became fashionable. So, how do you spot an Art Nouveau set? Well, the style is characterized by asymmetrical, rounded designs and whiplash lines.

In contrast, the Art Deco era produced an entirely different style of tea set. The Art Deco style emerged during the 1920's. Art Deco ceramics, prints and furniture are extremely collectible items. The style evokes the spirit of the roaring 20's, and it can be identified by the angular lines and linear patterns. During the 1920's people cast aside the reserved attitude of the Victorian age, in favor of a more liberal approach to life. Nevertheless, proper tea etiquette was still observed in polite society!

Tableware and other items dating from the 1930s, and onwards, are also considered to be vintage. The tea sets from the 1930's can be recognized by their simple, clean lines and soft, pastel colors. They are extremely popular with collectors at the moment, and you'll find that many "shabby chic" items borrow from the style of the era.

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