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Cups & Saucers

The nuanced nestle of a cup into its saucer is one of the simplest joys of an elegant porcelain place setting or ceramic coffee service. Though now a standard, the cup and saucer is a relatively recent creation, borne from innovation in coffee and tea drinking.

Early coffee and tea drinkers enjoyed their drink by somewhat different means. Tea drinkers typically opted for a bowl, which was very shallow in nature and was similar to today’s saucers, yet slightly deeper. Coffee was consumed from a small cylindrical cup made from metal, featuring a small handle on its side. Both methods proved problematic: the shallow tea bowl, small in part to compensate for the high cost of tea, proved easy to spill, and the coffee "cup" was often too hot to handle due to its metal exterior.

Fortunately, the rise of porcelain production in the late 18th and early 19th century led to the development of more ergonomically enjoyable drinking of both beverages with the creation of the cup and paired saucer. Added to this amplified ease of use was an ever-increasing level of elegance, with striking motifs and patterns incorporated to tie cups and saucers into larger coffee, tea, or dinner services.


Quick Facts

  • Early ceramic saucers were referred to as "coffee stands" in reference to the central depression in the saucer designed to hold the cup in place
  • The saucer increased in popularity at a slightly faster rate among tea drinkers, as it was essential not only for allowing one’s tea to cool but also in providing a place to rest a teaspoon
  • One of the most elegant tea services in recent years was a Meissen "Half-Figure" Service that appeared at a Bonham’s auction in 2012. Featuring, among other pieces, four double-handled beakers with matching saucers, the set sold for $819,360

Recommended Items at Auction

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HERMES, PARIS PARTIE DE SERVICE " BLEUS D'AILLEURS ", 18 PIÈCES
May 29, 2:00 PM CEST
HERMES, PARIS PARTIE DE SERVICE " BLEUS D'AILLEURS ", 18 PIÈCES
by Accademia Fine Art
Est: €500- €1,000
€24011 Bids
HANSEN-ROSS STUDIO - Cup with Blue Design
Jun 02, 1:00 PM CST
HANSEN-ROSS STUDIO - Cup with Blue Design
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $40- $50
$609 Bids
A pair of fox head stirrup cups with canine handles, Height 14cm, Gucci style
Jun 02, 5:00 PM AEST
A pair of fox head stirrup cups with canine handles, Height 14cm, Gucci style
by Lawsons
Est: AUD200- AUD300
AUD2405 Bids
Set of four Vintage stacking melamine nesting ducks measuring cups.
Jun 05, 8:00 PM AEST
Set of four Vintage stacking melamine nesting ducks measuring cups.
by Lawsons
Est: AUD50- AUD70
AUD304 Bids
Mary Lou Higgins N.C. Artist Pottery Cup
Jun 01, 10:00 AM EDT
Mary Lou Higgins N.C. Artist Pottery Cup
by Mebane Antique Auction
Est: $100- $10,000
$803 Bids
A Collection of Twelve 'Trios' - total 36 Items
May 27, 7:00 PM SAST
A Collection of Twelve 'Trios' - total 36 Items
by 5th Avenue Auctioneers
Est: R800- R1,200
R8003 Bids
(8) Dorothy Thorpe Porcelain Gold Teacup & Saucers
Jun 01, 10:00 AM MST
(8) Dorothy Thorpe Porcelain Gold Teacup & Saucers
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$253 Bids
A collection of Shelly teacups and saucers decorated with fine floral patterns (H:5.5cm)
May 30, 1:00 PM AEST
A collection of Shelly teacups and saucers decorated with fine floral patterns (H:5.5cm)
by Lawsons
Est: AUD100- AUD200
AUD353 Bids
HANSEN-ROSS STUDIO - Tall Cup
Jun 02, 1:00 PM CST
HANSEN-ROSS STUDIO - Tall Cup
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $40- $50
$343 Bids
Sechs Tassen mit Untertassen
May 31, 9:00 AM CEST
Sechs Tassen mit Untertassen
by Auktionshaus Zofingen
Est: CHF240- CHF300
CHF2602 Bids
Paar Tassen mit Untertassen
May 31, 9:00 AM CEST
Paar Tassen mit Untertassen
by Auktionshaus Zofingen
Est: CHF160- CHF200
CHF1702 Bids
Oriental cups, 3 Kentucky art plates
May 28, 9:00 AM EDT
Oriental cups, 3 Kentucky art plates
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$82 Bids
A Carol Boyes Book Holder Plus Two Carol Boyes Cups and Saucers (Book Holder Needs Attention)
May 27, 7:00 PM SAST
A Carol Boyes Book Holder Plus Two Carol Boyes Cups and Saucers (Book Holder Needs Attention)
by 5th Avenue Auctioneers
Est: R600- R900
R7002 Bids
Paul-Ami Bonifas 1893–1967
Jun 19, 1:00 PM CEST
Paul-Ami Bonifas 1893–1967
by Artcurial Beurret Bailly Widmer
Est: CHF3,000- CHF4,000
CHF3,0001 Bid
Paul-Ami Bonifas 1893–1967
Jun 19, 1:00 PM CEST
Paul-Ami Bonifas 1893–1967
by Artcurial Beurret Bailly Widmer
Est: CHF3,000- CHF4,000
CHF3,0001 Bid
Paul-Ami Bonifas 1893–1967
Jun 19, 1:00 PM CEST
Paul-Ami Bonifas 1893–1967
by Artcurial Beurret Bailly Widmer
Est: CHF4,000- CHF5,000
CHF4,0001 Bid
Misc. Coffee Cups/shot glassses/stuffed animals
May 28, 9:00 AM EDT
Misc. Coffee Cups/shot glassses/stuffed animals
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$21 Bid
Punch Bowl Set with Ladle & 10 Cups
May 28, 9:00 AM EDT
Punch Bowl Set with Ladle & 10 Cups
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$21 Bid
APRIL GARDEN CUPS/SAUCERS/PLATTER
May 30, 4:00 PM CDT
APRIL GARDEN CUPS/SAUCERS/PLATTER
by McCurley Auction Company
Est: $0- $0
$11 Bid
French Ceramic Game-Themed Demitasse Set Gien, France
Jun 18, 10:00 AM EDT
French Ceramic Game-Themed Demitasse Set Gien, France
by DOYLE Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
6 color Craft Cups/Candy Container/Duck Can
May 28, 9:00 AM EDT
6 color Craft Cups/Candy Container/Duck Can
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$21 Bid
A group of white porcelain covered teacups and saucers
Jun 01, 12:30 PM ICT
A group of white porcelain covered teacups and saucers
by RCB Auctions
Est: ฿5,000- ฿7,000
฿3,0001 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Cups & Saucers


Auktionshaus Wendl

Auktionshaus Wendl

Lion and Unicorn

Lion and Unicorn

DOYLE Auctioneers & Appraisers

DOYLE Auctioneers & Appraisers

Taylor & Harris

Taylor & Harris