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Who Says The Tea Isn’t Better
In A Fancy Teapot

Price Kensington English cottage teapot.
This teapot is shaped like an English cottage and has a chimney (complete with opening) as the finial on the lid. It was made by Price Kensington of England and is part of the line known as cottage ware.

Even in today’s easy-going 21st century, when tea is usually made by pouring boiling water over a tea bag, there are still those who insist that it can only be prepared properly with loose tea in a teapot. And, of course, there’s nothing easier than just putting a few tea bags directly into the teapot - a simple compromise.

Basically, the teapot has changed since the first ones were brought to Europe, and eventually to America, in the 1600s. Although the size and shape varies, a teapot is a vessel with a cover, a handle, and a spout.

The first shipment of tea leaves is said to have reached the ports in Holland in 1610. By the middle of that century, shipments were arriving regularly to England and other ports throughout Europe. Since it was coming from China, where it was always served from porcelain or pottery teapots, these became the accepted materials for preparing and serving this “exotic” drink in the West.

The early teapots were quite small, as tea itself was expensive. In fact, it was usually kept in a locked container.

By the early 1700s, silver became an acceptable material for a teapot, for those families with the income to afford silver. The first silver ones were small and round, and often had wooden handles. A little later in the century, pear-shaped silver teapots became fashionable, and then in the middle of the 1700s, an inverted pear shape (with the bulbous part at the top) was popular. By the end of that century, the style in teapots was straight-sided. These differences are one way to help date the early silver teapots.

Pewter teapots were also made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as some made of copper or tin. A few were even made of wood.

But pottery and porcelain remained the favored materials. The variety seems to have been unlimited, ranging in material from Wedgwood’s blue jasper to salt-glazed stoneware.

Teapot shapes became fanciful, too. A teapot might be shaped like a house, a camel, or a pineapple!

By the 1700s, new decorating techniques and glazes were being used in England and America. The Rockingham glaze, which produced a mottled brown, was used by many of the early American potteries.

It was during this century that transferware was developed and it, too, was readily adapted for use on teapots. And while the size and shape of the transfer-decorated teapots showed great variation, and several different colors were used, there is no doubt that the blue and white transferware imported into America from potteries in Staffordshire, England, during the 18th century was far and away the favorite.

By the 19th century, still more ways of decorating pottery and porcelain came into favor. Gaudy Dutch, associated with the Pennsylvania German settlers, has brightly colored patterns. Spatterware, or spongeware, has mottled colors over the surface.

Ironstone china was introduced by the Mason brothers in the early 1800s. It was glossy, hard and durable and a Mason ironstone teapot is a great collector’s find today.

Colorful majolica teapots, shaped like fanciful fruits and vegetables, appeared during this century. In contrast, this was also the time period when luster ware became popular, with its more delicate pink and rose colors, decorated with gold or platinum.

Since many early teapots were not marked, knowing the years of popularity help give a general idea as to the age of the piece.

By the 20th century, teapots of all kinds - pottery, porcelain, silver, copper - were being made and there were no clear trends of design or decoration. There were some that have become popular with collectors, however. The Torquay, or mottoware, teapots from England are popular with mottoware collectors. A Snow White teapot will be scooped up by a Disney collector. American pottery collectors love to find teapots made by the Hall pottery. Hummel collectors will be happy to find a teapot shaped like Friar Tuck. And kitchenware collectors will be happy to find a Cornflower teapot by Corning in excellent condition.

In summary, then - one can say a teapot collector’s opportunities are almost endless.

As a reference book, I like Collectible Teapots, by Tina M. Carter. It was a Krause publication in 2000. While the pricing is probably not accurate for today’s market, the information and examples are excellent. A book titled Teapot Treasury and Related Items, by Richard Luckin, published in 1987, deals specifically with railroad china.

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