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Aug 9, 2007 12:51 AM

How to shop for Victorian teacups?

The pre-wedding shopping craze continues...

I'm half kidding. I've always wanted to own a nice set of teacups. The kind you use when you go to fancy afternoon tea with the ladies.

So I know I'm looking for a Victorian style bone china set. I like flowers, light lively colors, not so much birds or butterflies. Ladybugs, for some reason, are okay. I love Roy Kirkham, for example, but maybe something more gilded and frilly in this case.

Where do I start? I don't even know the proper terminology to start looking on ebay, and I typed "china teacups" into Amazon and got a few really boring Royal Doulton sets--you know, the red/gold/white ones with a lot of roses on them.

How do I look for something more interesting? What's a good number of cups saucers to start with?

And what are those three-tiered dessert trays called? Is a silver one the best or is a china one easier to upkeep?

PS: I like this

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  1. I will make a suggestion: No need for sets. In England and Canada, it was (and still is) the custom to buy one beautiful teacup in different patterns and serve tea while admiring everyone else's cup. I have inherited my MIH's beautiful cup collection that she started in Canada. They are gorgeous and all are top of the line, beautiful English bone china, eac in a different and striking pattern. Sometimes you can find them on e-bay.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGC1982

      Thanks for this suggestion! That was definitely the long term plan. But I still need to buy a "starter set" of sorts. Maybe a nice teapot and two cups/saucers, and then I plan to build from there. I love the idea of each person getting a different cup (and hopefully asking me where each is from)!

    2. Many moons, and a couple of marriages ago, I got something called an "Afternoon tea set", which is pretty much as you described. It has also been referred to as a "high tea" set...

      Maybe google for these???

      1. Church rummage sales always have teacups and saucers. The Episcopal Church near me has two each year and I don't know how they keep coming up with so many. Most are beautiful and many are really, really good quality but priced for a song at the rummage sale.
        A nice silver tea service might be a special gift to put on your register if you're really going to get into this tea party thing seriously. Or save up and get a nice one on eBay.

        Those tiered serving trays are a pain IMO. Nothing I make ever seems to fit just right or look nice on them. The silver ones are hard to polish and the china ones are hard to store away.
        Another solution is two matching cake stands of different sizes that you can stack or not as the whim strikes.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          I bought a $65 silver plate three tiered stand that you put your own salad/dessert sized plates in and I love it for the rare occasions when I serve tea, and it is also pretty handy for serving canapes, particularly right after we got our puppy!

          I bought it at this store, but unfortunately I don't see it online:

          I'm not a fan of the mixed tea cup idea myself - but that is purely an aesthetic thing - I guess I like the "order" of having everything match.

          1. re: MMRuth

            You might also look into Shelley bone china on e-Bay - I bought a lily of the valley breakfast set at an auction house and was really interested in Shelley for awhile - literally hundreds of patterns - both shapes and designs.




            1. re: MMRuth

              That lily of the valley design is beautiful! Thanks for the leads. I know mix and match isn't for everyone, but I'm so fickle I know any tea set I own is going to end up mixed and matched anyway. I might as well make it look like it was on purpose!

              Dinnerware is another matter. That must match!

        2. What about the Goodwill or other used goods stores? Whenever I go into one of them I always see teacups and saucers. Ross and TJMaxx have nice china sometimes too. Hit or miss but check em out periodically.