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Antiques and Collecting: Floral patterns are new flower power |

Antiques and Collecting: Floral patterns are new flower power

Spring brings flowers, and lately designers are using more floral prints than usual for fabrics and designs. But a picture of a plant as a decoration on dinnerware is an old idea going back to at least the 1600s.

In 1761, an Encyclopedia of Danish Flowers (Flora Danica) was commissioned by King Frederik V of Denmark. Thousands of hand-colored illustrations from engraved copper plates were made that accurately showed the wild flowers and plants. It was not completed until 1874, but some of the drawings were used to decorate a banquet service in 1790.


The first Flora Danica dinner set of 1,802 pieces was made for King Christian VII to give as a gift to Empress Catherine II of Russia. It is said it was to make up for not helping the Russians in their war with Sweden.

Catherine the Great died before the set was finished, so it stayed in Denmark. The remaining 1,530 pieces belong to Queen Margethe II, and some have been used for special occasions.

You can still buy new dishes from the Royal Copenhagen factory or old ones at antiques shops and auctions. It is said to be the only 18th-century set that is still being made.

Each piece has a single plant pictured as the decoration. Dishes can be ordered with the preferred plant.

A Flora Danica platter recently sold for almost $1,000. It was decorated with “Verbascum Thapsiforme Beuspidatum Shad.”

We call it a mullein or velvet plant. The tall yellow flowers are used in herbal medicine. Today, there are more than 300 varieties of mullein, and more are being propagated to get more flowers, shorter flower stalks and other changes.

If you own a Flora Danica piece, be very careful. Even a tiny chip in the notched edge can lower the price by half or more.

I bought a Belleek creamer and sugar bowl decorated with a yellow ribbon and bow back in the 1960s. The marks has a circle “R” over a harp and the words “Belleek, Ireland” and “Deanta in Eirinn, Reg. No. 0857.” The sugar bowl has a green mark and the creamer a black mark. Why are the marks different colors?

The black mark with the words Deanta in Eirinn was used from 1926 to 1946. The green mark that is the same, except for the color, was used from 1946 to 1955.

A sugar and creamer pair usually have the same marks since they were bought at the same time. Belleek made some patterns for many years, and you may have a replacement for a broken piece.

Tip: Your cellphone’s camera is a magnifying glass. Focus on the marking you want to read and go in for a close-up. It is great for ceramics or prints, but a little difficult for metal because of glare. No need for a ruler and a magnifier anymore. Now you can go to a show with a dollar bill — a 6-inch ruler — and a phone.

Category: Dinnerware  Tags: ,  Comments off
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