This month’s “Featured Museum Items” highlight three gorgeous selections from Wedgwood’s Tonquin-Ruby. This beautiful bone china is especially noted for an elegant spray of golden flowers applied on a deep ruby background. The pieces in this pattern that are on display in our museum include a soup tureen with underplate, an octagonal vegetable bowl, and a large ginger jar with lid. Tonquin was designed in 1930 by Wedgwood’s art director, John Edward Goodwin. The flower motif that Tonquin has become so famous for was designed by Mr. Goodwin using hand tracing. This hand tracing adds immensely to the value of the pattern. Because of this intricate design process, Wedgwood was able to produce only a limited number of pieces each year, enhancing the rarity and value of this pattern. Over the years, Wedgwood has produced a number of variations on the Tonquin-Ruby pattern, including Tonquin-Black and Tonquin-Blue . The Tonquin-Ruby pieces we have on display in our museum are very rare, and would sell for significant amounts if they were available for sale. (As a reminder, the featured museum pieces, due to their rarity, are not available for sale.) The tureen and underplate in Tonquin-Ruby are now valued at approximately $6,000.00, the octagonal bowl at $1,000.00, and the large ginger jar with lid at $1,300.00.
Wedgwood China has been recognized for centuries as a leader in inspired dinnerware design and innovative production processes. In 1759, Josiah Wedgwood established himself as an independent potter at the “Ivy House Works” in Burslem, England. During his first 10 years of business, Josiah made many advances in the refining of porcelain. One of Wedgwood’s most important creations is black basalt, a fine-grained stoneware superior to any that had been previously produced. Another creation of Wedgwood’s is that of creamware. Until that point in the evolution of tableware production, the best pieces available were made as earthenware, pottery made from clay fired at low temperatures which was porous and permeable by moisture. Wedgwood’s creamware was revolutionary in that it introduced true fine china which was fired at higher temperatures and thus became vitrified, or non-porous, making the pieces much more beautiful and usable. Creamware was easy to produce, relatively inexpensive to make, easily decorated, and desired by royalty and commoner alike. At that time, a piece of Wedgwood’s creamware sold for a just a few shillings. A tureen, by far one of the largest and most expensive pieces of china to produce and sell, sold for only seven shillings. As a comparison, Wedgwood’s employees made between a 14 shillings and four pounds a week, depending on their expertise. In 1765, King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, solicited Wedgwood to be “Potter to His and Her Majesty.” As a result of his new title, Wedgwood changed the official name of his creamware to “Queen’s Ware.” It was during this period that Wedgwood began to export his china. The company’s primary markets were Russia, France, and North America. Concerning North America’s insatiable demand for luxury items, Wedgwood once wrote a friend saying, “for the islands of North America we cannot make anything too rich and costly.” Wedgwood’s Tonquin-Ruby is a great example of Josiah Wedgwood’s observations about the Americans penchant for luxurious items from Europe!
While the pieces featured from our museum are not for sale, we do have a great selection of pieces in this and other beautiful Wedgwood patterns that are for sale. To see these pieces and our entire selection of Wedgwood patterns, click here. You can also see these pieces and more “in person” by visiting us at our Greensboro, North Carolina facilities. Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9am to 7pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to your visit!
Want to know more about Wedgwood? Click here for an informative history.