The Museum of Fortune Telling Tea Cups and Saucers

From Mystic Tea Room

Jump to: navigation, search

Welcome to the Museum of Fortune Telling Tea Cups and Saucers!

This online museum is an extension of a real, physical museum that houses hundreds of fortune telling cups from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. More than just a colourful gallery of detailed images of dozens of fortune teller's tea cups and saucers, this museum also houses factual information about tea leaf reading cups, including patent drawings for a divination cups, instructional pamphlets that accompanied divination cup and saucer sets, books about tasseomancy, and historical overviews of the designers and manufacturers of tea leaf readers' cups.

Please begin your visit to my tea cup museum with this disclaimer: The divination cups and saucers you will see here may -- or may not -- be for sale at this or any other time, so please do not contact me with inquiries about buying or selling fortune teller's tea cups. As a museum, this a place in which to enjoy some beautiful things and learn about their history. It is a virtual tour of my own personal collection, accumulated over the course of 55 years ... and still on-growing.


  • To help navigate this site, you may click on links via the Directory that appears at top left of every page.
  • Right below the Directory is a link to the Main Page -- the home or top page of the entire site.
  • Right below the Main Page link is the Community Portal, which may help put you in touch with others who read tea leaves.


In order to understand what you are looking at, here are some common terms used when describing tea sets.

  • Airbrushed: A pattern applied by means of an airbrush and stencils is called airbrushed. The German name for this process is spritzdekor.
  • Backstamp A backstamp is a design or words on the underside of a cup, saucer, or other article of chinsware that designates information such as the name of the manufacturer, shape, pattern, date, nation of manufacture, or an alpha-numeric code of some sort.
  • Bone China Bone china is a type of porcelain developed in England in which calcined cattle bones were added to raw clay to create a more delicate and translucent type of ceramic.
  • Cabinet Cup: A cabinet cup is one that has been deigned to be collected as a souvenir or commemorative gift; the term also is used to describe any very fancy cup from which one does not drink, but which is housed in a collection, on display.
  • China: China and chinaware are old-fashioned terms for high-fired white porcelain, vitrified ware, or semi-vitreous articles.
  • Cup: A cup is a container from which one drinks. it may or may not have a handle; tea cups of the European style typically do have handles.
  • Earthenware: A low-fired form of pottery.
  • Foot The rim at the bottom of a cup which keeps it from laying flat on the saucer (and scratching the saucer's glaze) is called the foot. If the foot is very tall and stalk-like, it is called a pedestal foot. If the foot is made in the form of six flower-petals, as is common with Japanese ware, it is called a lotus foot.
  • Fired: Clay shapes that have been subjected to high heat in a kiln are said to have been fired. Low-fired clay results in a finished product called earthenware; high-fired clay may produce opaque or translucent wares called porcelain, stoneware, ironware, bone china, and so forth. Pottery may be fired twice -- once to concretize the clay and once to apply a glaze to it.
  • Frit When a new kiln is fired up, small particles of mineral substance, called frit, may explode from the fire-brick lining and be driven into the pottery under fire. Frit plays a role in the collecting of fortune telling tea cups because the antique-style bottle-kiln erected at the Wembley Exhibition in 1924 was, despite its retro appearance, brand new, and it threw frit copiously; hence many Wembley-marked pieces contain frit.
  • Gilding A special type of metallic glaze that looks like gold is called gilding. Unlike the harder clear glazes that protect transfer designs, gilding is applied after the cup is finished, and it may become worn away, especially around the rim of a cup that is frequently used. Loss of gilding to a cup's rim is common, and it is a defect as far as cup collectors are concerned.
  • Glaze: A fine layer of glass which, after firing, seals and protects a piece of pottery; it may be decorated, coloured with minerals, or a clear coat applied over an underglaze that bears decorations.
  • Hand-Painted: A hand-painted design is one that is applied by an artist using glazing paints.
  • Kiln A kiln is a brick oven in which pottery is fired. It may be fueed by wood, gas, or even electricity. When a kiln is new, the fire-bricks that line it may have pin-point explosions of imurities in their clay, which are driven into the wares that are being fired. This is called frit. A well-seasoned kiln will not throw frit into the pottery.
  • Pattern: A pattern is a decorative design that is applied across a line of pottery goods in one or more shapes. The same pattern may be applied to a number of shapes.
  • Pottery: Articles made of clay that have been fired in a kiln are called pottery. The word pottery is also used to refer to a company that makes ceramics for sale to the public; it may be called a pottery company or factory if it is large enough.
  • Reticulated: A saucer in which a regular circular design pierces through the clay to form a lacy effect is said to be reticulated or to consist of pierced work. This technqiue was strongly favoured by Japanese giftware potteries working in the post World War Two export market; the matching cups are often fancy as well; they may feature elaborately scrolled handles and pedestal feet or three curled legs.
  • Saucer: A saucer is a small dish made to fit under a cup; typically the foot of the cup fits into a recessed area called the well of the saucer.
  • Set: A set consists of more than one item, sold together. Examples include a pair or duo (a cup and a saucer), a trio (a cup, a saucer, and a small sandwich or cookie plate), or a tea set (a teapot, a creamer, a sugar, six cups, six saucers, and six sandwich or cookie plates).
  • Shape: A shape is the form of a cup, saucer, bowl, creamer, tea pot, plate, or dish. Generally speaking, most potteries have names for each of their shapes, although sometimes they only use numbers.
  • Topmark A topmark is a set of words or a monogram on the top surface of a saucer or plate or on the exterior or interior surface of a cup, saucer, or other article of chinaware that identifies it by conveying information such as the name of a restaurant or hotel, or the commemoration of some event or location.
  • Transfer Pattern: A pattern applied by means of a decal before the final glaze is called a transfer. The generic term for a line of goods decorated in this way is "transferware."

We Welcome Contributions

If you have a photo or scan of a vintage or contemporary fortune telling tea cup you want to share here, we welcome contributions!

We seek clear photos (without hands or cluttered backgrounds) of tea cups and saucers marked for tea leaf reading; we like to include the backstamps and instruction booklets as well as the beauty shots of the interiors and full sets, but we recognize that this is not always possible.

Images must be a minimum of 600 pixels wide after trimming away backgrounds and should include the maker. pattern-name, and nation of origin, if known, plus any other information you may have. If you do not know the maker, pattern-name, or nation of origin, we will assign one, based on our knowledge of the subject matter, and we will give it a 10-digit SKU number for ease of cataloguing.

We are also looking for BETTER photos of cups for which our only images are blurry, out of focus, or cluttered, and we will "retire" sub-par images as soon as improved imaged are submitted. Your help in making this a better site is greatly appreciated.

Please post your image donations in the "Tea Cup Image Donations" thread in my husband nagasiva's Facebook group:

Have fun!

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent

nagasiva yronwode
web site developer

The Mystic Tea Room

Personal tools