About Vintage Tea Cups

Written by julie boehlke
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About Vintage Tea Cups

Originally designed for use at a high tea, vintage tea cups were made in another era of time. These cups are usually made over fifty years from the current date. Most tea cups are also considered vintage if they are no longer in production or being made. Combined with a variety of designs and colour styles, vintage cups are a well sought after collectable in the antique world.


Tea cups were first introduced in the 17th century by the French culture, but the French originally used wooden cups in which to drink their tea. When the British began serving tea when the tea trade began, it was only available to British royals and those with wealth and class. Speciality designed cups were created from porcelain ornate designs and colours such as hand painted red roses with pale pink backgrounds. Tea was sipped from these beautiful, dainty cups. These were later referred to as tea cups. Hand painted tea cups were produced frequently right up until the 1920s when more commercialised mass production of tea cups evolved. Coffee also began to take over tea's popularity. Tea cups are still handmade and painted today in many speciality stores in Britain and around the world. Many are replicates of the original designs of most British tea cups. Many people search auction sites such as eBay and private estate sales for vintage tea cups from the old era.


Vintage tea cups are primarily sought after by collectors for display purposes only. Due to the delicate hand painted structure of many vintage tea cups, collectors do not use the tea for hot liquids. That's to prevent damage to any piece of the tea cup. Some tea cups can be used on special occasions only, such as social tea events, holiday gatherings and guest visits. Vintage tea cups can also be utilised in craft projects where they can be filled with a wick and wax. They can be transformed into candles, filled with old mismatched buttons or used as table settings to add to Victorian decor.


Vintage tea cups are made out of either bone china or porcelain. China finishes are more durable and are less likely to break as opposed to porcelain, due to the fact it is strengthened throughout the firing and finishing process. It is slightly heavier than porcelain. Vintage porcelain tea cups are daintier and the surface allows for painting of an intricate design much easier. There are two main styles of tea cups, the pedestal style and the smooth bottom style. The pedestal style has a small base at the bottom that coordinates with a saucer in which the base rests slightly on. Flat bottom teacups often times do not have matching saucers and are usually part of a matching set. Demitasse tea cups are small vintage cups that are well sought after by collectors of children's tea cups and toys.


One of the most distinguishing features of a vintage tea cup is the outside design. Most vintage tea cups are hand painted so each one is slightly different. Roses, vines, Victorian couples, pets, Santa Claus, celebrities, countries, states, Presidents, and leaves make up the designs of most vintage tea cups. Many vintage tea cups are outlined in metallic or 14 carat gold trim overlay, making them an expensive collector's item. Some vintage cups also have a design pattern that lines the inner rim of the cup, offering added style and flair. Tea cup handles are distinct and essential in raising the cup to the mouth to drink the tea. Handles can be trimmed in gold and offer scalloped designs that coordinate with the style of the cup.


One should consider having their vintage tea cups evaluated by a reputable appraiser to know how much to sell a tea cup for or to find out how much a cup is worth. Vintage tea cups should be stored in a location where they are away from direct sunlight to prevent fading. Store vintage cups on small hooks where they do not touch each other, otherwise chips and cracks can occur.

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