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One of the earliest known teapots is one called the YiXing teapot. It dates back to 1533. It was found during an excavation in Nanjing, from the Ming Dynasty eunuch Wu Jing's tomb, a palace servant. It was used for boiling water instead of brewing tea. The YiXing teapot was made from red stoneware.
The practice of drinking and brewing tea most likely originated in China. Teapot-like vessels have been around in China for thousands of years, but they were not used for brewing tea. They were initially used for water and wine. When the practice of leaf infusion started a teapot was necessary for tea to be allowed to steep. China was well in advance of the rest of the world in the production of porcelain and had begun to export tea and teapots by the mid 17th century to other countries. Tea was a major cargo by the 1720's and filled 90% of the space in a ship's hold. The ships that carried the tea also carried the tea vessels, such as porcelain teapots, bowls, and saucers.
It was in the 1730's that the first silver service for tea were designed. It was first designed as a simple globular shape. It was later transformed into a straight-sided teapot, which was then replaced with oval shaped teapots of the 1770's. Footed teapots were later designed in the 1780's, which protected tabletops from scarring from the heat.
In the 1750's, potteries in England began to produce and copy teapots in their own styles. Some of those potteries were Wedgwood and Whieldon. They would produce them in shapes of pineapples, cauliflowers, and other fruits. Later they began to appear in the shapes of two-story houses, dragons, and birds.
During the Victorian era, teapots were produced in the shapes of cottages, Dickens characters, and animals. During the 19th century Minton and George Jones began producing the finest teapots ever made in majolica. The majolica type teapots have become quite rare, expensive, and collectible. Those in the shape of monkeys, animals of all types, and fish have become sought after by collectors.
During the 1920's and 1930's the Art Deco movement produced a whole new range of novelty type teapots. Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper were two of the well-known designers.
In 1939, James Sadler & Sons in Stoke-on-Trent, England produced novelty teapots in the shapes of automobiles, airplanes, and tanks.
World War II slowed production and it was not until the 1950's that novelty teapots were again popular and a large number of them were produced.
Since the 1970's new potters were starting up cottage industries/companies producing novelty teapots by the thousands. Some of them known in the U.S. are Fitz and Floyd and Department 56.
The majority of teapots used today date from 1870 to the present.
Be aware of the following reproduction indicators:
(1). Majolica styles with modern marks
(2). Blue Willow which has been in production for almost two centuries
(3). Those marked "Made in China"(older teapots have "chop marks" in Chinese).
To view some examples of YiXing Teapots: YiXing Teapots
The Need For Teapots
The Teapot Tribune
Warman's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide - 8th Edition
Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide-18th edition
The Next Monthly Newsletter will feature the history of hatpins and hatpin holders.
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