Antiques Column: Pretty tea sets with a limited value

The Wedgwood china.
The Wedgwood china.

Alarge percentage of tea servicefrom the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have limited value.

The service which upsets many with its lack of value is the one with gilded outlines which is inscribed “genuine 22ct gold”.

Perhaps now is the time to start buying them again

Sadly this cannot be scraped off and ‘weighed in’ for scrap to give the service at least some value. The gold used to decorate ceramics is always 22ct and it is applied by mixing and heating.

One of the earliest forms was honey and gold, ground together and painted onto the article.

When fired at a low temperature the result was thick and rich and could be tooled.

By the 1770s the practice of mercury gilding was taking over which led to a much thinner, more delicate result on tea sets.

Had there been an enthusiastic health and safety department operating in the 18th century they would have been very busy.

They would have been investigating unexplained deaths of kiln workers resulting from the poisonous nature of the mercury used in the gilding process. The other tea service which upsets people with its lack of value is the late Victorian printed and painted service.

These have all been owned by a ‘great great’ relative and are often complete, but that tends to be because they were rarely used by the orginal owner.

The reason they are worth so little is that every home had one then and now few homes want one.

With the resurgence of the traditional cup-cake and an ever growing interest in baking and decorating cakes, classic items such as cups, saucers and tea services are making a little bit of a comeback.

Perhaps now is the time to start buying these sets once again.