20 November 2012

Spode and Royal Jade

Backstamp on greyhound
On my Spode ABC I have written about Royal Jade - a matt green glaze produced for a short time in the 1930s. (Click here for my Spode ABC and look on the relevant pages for entries on Olsen and Royal Jade for more information). There is no record of the actual pieces which were made and evidence has to be gleaned from factory records in the Spode archive which include old photographs, brochures and shape books.

Other evidence comes when pieces are found by collectors who kindly share their finds. One such is a beautiful greyhound in Royal Jade which is illustrated here. It is small and fits in the palm of a hand. (More on Spode and Dogs can be found here).

Royal Jade fascinates me partly because it was made for only a few years (from about 1932 to about 1939) so not many items were made in comparison to other Spode products. But also because it didn't seem to know where to fit. The idea of the green glaze seems to have come from late 18th century pieces when green glazes had been in vogue but the matt finish was a more modern idea.

Green glazed,
Beaker matchpot, c1800
The designs in Royal Jade seem an odd mix of traditional and modern. For the development of new designs archive material such as pattern books, antique objects, copper plates or moulds could be used to drive and influence the new products. For Royal Jade old moulds were brought back into use and items such as the two styles of greyhounds, which had previously been produced around the late 19th century and painted in natural colours, were issued in the new finish. Designs for a Toby Jug from the mid-19th century and a basket from the early 19th century rubbed shoulders with Art Deco ornamental pieces and a lot of ashtrays - which says something of the acceptance and fashion of cigarette smoking at the time.

Thank you to the private collector who owns the greyhound who also shared with me another piece of Royal Jade as a sort of 'mystery object' and the first image I saw showed it upside down. But once turned the right way up I felt it was a lamp base complete with notch for the flex. I have never seen the design nor researched it fully but it is a great example of Spode's Art Deco designs. What sort of lampshade was provided I don't yet know. I thought perhaps a simple glass globe but the owner suggested a glass lighthouse. This latter seems logical. They are known at this period and the base of the lamp resembles a rocky pediment with stylised waves below.

The Spode factory produced lighting from the late 1700s to 2009 - a subject which is sometimes neglected but interests me. I shall perhaps one day research it if only to reveal to the public what now seem hilariously designed lampshades produced for new-fangled electric lamp bases in the late 19th century.
Lamp Base
Incidentally Spode's matt glazes never gained popularity in the US market where a shiny glaze was preferred. The ivory coloured Velamour was matt in the UK but similar decorative pieces in the range were made with a shiny glaze and marketed as Imperial Fancies for the US. See my Spode ABC for more on Velamour under V.