Thursday, August 13, 2009

Collecting and Caring for Vintage Teacups

This article, written by Brenda, offers up some excellent advice on caring for vintage tea cups. 

by Brenda Hyde

I've been collecting teacups and teapots for at least 20 years now. I love them all, and look for bargains whenever I can, plus I splurge on new items now and then too. Today I have tips on the type of teacups you might find and a few on storage and care.

Porcelain or China?

When you see descriptions you find that porcelain and bone china is often mentioned. Porcelain is fired, then glazed, and fired again, which allows for a very refined dish. The designs are often very detailed and dainty. Bone china is made similar to porcelain, but finely ground bone ash is added to the clay. It's considered the strongest china and is very white. Fine china or fine ivory china is also very strong and similar to the bone china. Sometimes it will be strengthened with special treatments. Casual china is something other than bone or fine. It could be stoneware or earthenware, and you'll notice it's heavier, not as dainty.

Types of Teacups

There are many types of teacups available. The teacups we tend to use for the traditional afternoon tea are the footed cup and the flat teacup. The footed cup which usually has a saucer, can be used for coffee or tea. It has design where the cup is shaped at the bottom like a pedestal-- it will fit into the saucer, which should be indented.

Flat cups will also most likely have a matching saucer, but are flat on the bottom, instead of shaped. These can also be used for coffee or tea as well.

Often you'll see Demitasse cups and saucers, which are lovely, but traditionally are used for expresso or Turkish coffee. They are much smaller, and work well for childrens' tea parties. Tea and coffee mugs come in all shapes and sizes, and are especially nice for breakfast tea. They are informal and I love looking for whimsical designs to add to my collection.

Teacup Care

Never stack your cups more than two high, and if you have room, it's better not to stack. Place soft cloth between the cups if you do store them where they will be touching.

China shouldn't be washed in the dishwasher, especially if it's vintage. Newer designs will often say they are dishwasher safe, but if you plan on keeping them in the family and handing them down later, it's best to handwash with a gentle dishsoap and dry with a soft towel.

If you display your tea pieces be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight, and gently wash them twice a year or so. Better yet, it's nice to rotate the ones you use!

A note on metalllic trim, which is found on some teacups. These should never be placed in the microwave. If the trim tarnishes you can use a silver cleaner on it, but VERY gently.

One more note on collecting: Expensive tea sets are beautiful, but be sure if you spend the money to own a nice set that you use it. It doesn't truly become special until you have memories to go along with it!


  1. Dearest Amanda,
    Thank you for all those precious informations concerning the care
    of the teacups!
    Have a blessed day!
    With my kindest regards.

  2. Great information! I've been collecting tea cups for 10 years and I hope to hand them down to my daughter someday.


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