During the first half of the 18th century, Staffordshire became the centre for ceramic production in England. Josiah Wedgwood, a skilled ceramics technologist, salesman and entrepreneur, founded his Etruria ceramic manufactory in 1759. He experimented with various clays, glazes and decoration ‘in the antique manner’ that evoked the styles and themes of antiquity, and which appealed particularly to the rising European middle class. His most successful innovation was the creation of jasper ware, a discovery made in 1771 in which barium sulphate (caulk) and metallic oxides could be blended with the clay to create coloured and thinly potted items. The applied decoration was separately moulded in white stoneware to resemble ancient Roman cameos. These wares were so fashionable that they were imitated in biscuit porcelain at the French factory Sèvres and at Meissen, who produced a glazed version named Wedgwoodarbeit (‘Wedgwood work’).
This blue jasper ware tea set includes a teapot and presentoir, a milk jug and a sugar bowl. The set was made in the 19th century, when the taste for classical design was experiencing a revival, and was created using the ‘dip’ method, in which only the surface of the white stoneware is coloured.