Whether you've discovered a dusty old tea set in the loft or bought a tea set from a garage sale or thrift store, you can become a dectective and find out the manufacturer. Identifying markings, researching at the library and asking experts will enable you to build a set of clues to find the answer.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Find out where the tea set came from by asking a friend or family member (if you already own the tea set) or the seller in the store where you bought or found the set. It might just be that they can tell you if it came from a particular country, factory or manufacturer.
Determine what material the tea set is made from. Porcelain, fine bone china, durable plastic, silver or ceramic are possible materials. Silver is easiest to identify because the set will be silver coloured and will have a hallmark on the bottom. Plastic is lighter than china or porcelain, while porcelain is smoother to the touch than china or ceramic.
Look at the bottom of the vessel. Remove the lid or hold it in place with one hand as you turn the teapot over so it does not fall and break.
Look for a manufacturer's stamp on the base of the teapot. This will give you an indication of who made the tea set and when. The stamp may also appear on the bottom of the other tea set items including cups, milk jug or saucers. Check all the items that are in the tea set thoroughly.
Take a picture of the stamp and tea set or sketch it on a piece of paper. This will help you look for the correct information without carrying the tea set around with you for reference. Silver markings often have a number that indicates the year of manufacture alongside an image relating to the company.
Research at a library to identify the manufacturer's mark. Request copies of antique reference guides from the librarian if you can't find them. Wedgwood ceramics have clear stamps that read "Wedgwood England" on the base, so look up Wedgwood in the index. Look at images to see if the tea set has a similar pattern or design. For example, classic Wedgwood designs are made from blue ceramic with white embossed patterns.
Contact an auction house to seek advice from an expert in tea sets. Offer to send an e-mail with photographs and description of the tea set so that they can help you identify who made it. Experts at the auction house are trained and qualified to identify key markings, and therefore will have expert insight into who made your tea set.
Use online references such as Antique Marks or Marks 4 Antiques which provide a comprehensive list of markings for antiques. For example, if your tea set is made by Meissen, the mark will be two blue swords crossing, whereas the English maker Royal Worcester uses a crown marking with "Royal Worcester England" beneath it.
Tips and warnings
- Look under the lid or on the side of the pot, cups or saucers if you're unable to find a stamp or marking on the base.
- Research similar styles or patterns in reference books if you can't find a distinct marking.
- If you have a mass produced tea set from a large supplier such as Ikea or Wall Mart, the set may have no markings or "Made In China" as its stamp. With so many designs and styles available it may be a fruitless task looking for the exact maker, as the set will be too generic.
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