Yesterday, I took a quick pass through one of the local thrift shops. I was on the hunt for ramekins; I wanted to pack herb butter in them to give to friends, because my potted herb garden is going gangbusters.
Anyhow, there was not a ramekin in sight. But these beauties caught my eye:
Three china tea saucers without their cups. Orphans like these can be found for as little as 10 cents apiece in some parts of the United States. But in a big city like Los Angeles, and with savvy salespeople who flip the pieces over to check for manufacturer's marks, the price might jump as high as $2 each. I got mine for $1 apiece.
Still, they had some very pretty band details:
And some arresting persimmon-and-cobalt colors that totally make them worth the price.
If you are not sure you're looking at good-quality china, look on the back or bottom of the piece for the phrase "Made in England" (or Bavaria or France, two other sources of a lot of good china)...
...or look for the words "Bone China"...
...or look for the name of a reputable, established old firm. In this case, Aynsley:
And why do I prize bone china, as opposed to, say, pottery or ironstone? Simple: bone china is made with ground-up bits of bone, which gives material strength to whatever it's fashioned into. This means, when I accidentally thwack a teacup against the faucet, for instance, it's less likely to chip or--Heaven forbid--break. Ironstone and pottery are far more brittle and rack up nicks and chips at a disheartening pace.
I have two things in mind for these cup-less saucers. Either fill them with fudge or cookies and give them as gifts to friends, or keep them and pair them with cups I already own for a mix-and-match look.
For instance, the smallest saucer looks terrific when put with a smallish teacup that Lovely Daughter #2 "liberated" from her eating club at Cambridge University in England:
The plain cobalt saucer sets off this sweet floral cup nicely:
And going bolder, I like this pattern-on-pattern look by topping the last orphan saucer with a teacup that was my Grandma Bliss's back in the early 1900s:
You can also use cup-less saucers to hold a bar of soap in the powder room or bath, or as a jewelry holder on the bureau.
So, don't pass up those odd saucers if you see some beauties. Make them work for you!