PUBLISHED: 00:16 25 March 2011 | UPDATED: 21:30 20 February 2013
It's a tradition at all weddings that the bride should have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. With a touch of poetic licence, Judy Sharp looks at Royal Collectables old and new - and yes, even blue!
The first popular commemorative items in England were actually Dutch-produced Delftware to mark the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, followed by the Coronation of King Charles II in 1661 and his marriage to Catherine of Braganza in 1662. Such items are very rare nowadays and worth thousands of pounds if they are in good condition. Simon Langton, an auctioneer with Warnham-based Denhams, recalls a William & Mary Delft plate from the end of the 17th century being offered for sale there some years ago: it fetched around 1,000.
The major English pottery companies all produced ceramics for Royal occasions down the centuries.
While the big names have now moved most of their production to Indonesia and China, the Wedgwood Museum still has some beautiful items that really were Made in England.
So much for the old what about the new? Legally, anyone can use a photo of William and Catherine on commemorative items without a licence. Normally permission would be needed to use a royal coat of arms, but a dispensation has been granted for the Royal Wedding with strict time limits for production and sales. So anyone, anywhere, can produce collectables and many have done just that. The official Royal Collection includes a plate, a tankard and a pillbox made in the Potteries, as well as a heart-shaped Christmas-tree style decoration and the inevitable tea towel.
Some smaller English companies are producing limited edition ceramics for collectors. Caverswall China, based in the Potteries, proudly boasts that everything is produced in-house. Only formed in 1973, the company was granted a Royal Warrant to HRH The Prince of Wales in 2008. For the Royal Wedding, most items are limited to 2011 pieces and everything is hand gilded in 22 carat, 28 per cent liquid gold. Further north, in Yorkshire, Peter Jones China operates a popular mail order service for collectors. All ceramic items in their Royal Wedding collection are made in England and include an Aynsley Loving Cup limited to 100 pieces, priced at 295, and an octagonal plate from Royal Crown Derby, limited to1,500 pieces and retailing at 145.
One talented young lady in Sussex has also produced a limited edition item for the Royal Wedding. Eastbourne-based Jackie Field works with wood and lino cuts. Her large prints featuring architecture and plants display the intricate workmanship involved in this art form and corporate collectors such as American Express and Clifford Chance have purchased her work. Jackie is producing just twelve prints from her lino cut showing William and Catherine, with real gold leaf on the border and in the coat of arms, and is offering these from 125 each.
For borrowed lets use poetic licence to say collected what becomes of Royal memorabilia when the celebrations are over? Lynn Corbett of Chichester-based auctioneers Henry Adams has a collection of some 200 cups and mugs commemorating Royal occasions, from Queen Victoria to the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2005. She says that, as with anything, there is a fashion for Royal Collectables and the market is currently very sluggish: her own collection is packed away awaiting an upturn! People clearing homes and finding coronation or jubilee mugs are disappointed to find that, as job lots at auction, ten or fifteen such mugs fetch only 5 or 10.
Simon Langton of Denhams agrees. In the 1970s the market was so active that forgeries appeared something for collectors to beware of today. The emergence of eBay and specialist websites has undermined traditional sales outlets, cutting out the middle man, although there is also more potential for fraud when not dealing in person with a well-established, experienced firm.
He also mentions Royal Commemoratives with a Sussex twist. To mark the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902, the then mayor of Brighton organised a party in Preston Park and every child was presented with a ceramic Coronation beaker for their lemonade. These beakers are now highly sought-after, especially in the Brighton area.
All the professionals emphasise that you should never buy Royal memorabilia as an investment, but rather for its commemorative value. Markets are fickle, modern homes have IKEA open storage units rather than glass-fronted display cabinets. If you have an eye on the future, choose carefully. A limited edition is theoretically a better bet, but sometimes as with the Brighton beakers because they were common at the time, many were destroyed, and survivors have increased in value. And who knows, perhaps this Royal Wedding will spark fresh interest in the subject and revive the collectors market.
Finally, something blue: the ring. William presented Catherine with the engagement ring that his father, Prince Charles, gave to his mother, then Lady Diana Spencer: an 18-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by 14 brilliant cut diamonds. Anton Pruden and Rebecca Smith are both Freemen of the Goldsmiths Company and continue the tradition of designer craftsmen at their Ditchling workshop. Anton Pruden says they have noticed a trend for people to present old pieces of family jewellery and ask for new items to be created: the sentimental attachment remains, but in an updated style. The white gold mount of Dianas ring has sparked renewed interest in white metal and if such a sapphire is wishful thinking, then what about aquamarine, tourmaline or iolite? Pruden & Smith have created some stunning modern designs based on Royal Blue.
Royal Collectables through the ages represent pages of social history. There were, for instance, many items produced in anticipation of the Coronation of King Edward VIII but far fewer for the actual Coronation of George VI because there was so little time to organise production. Lets hope that, 50 years from now, we will see Royal Collectables to mark the Golden Wedding Anniversary of William and Catherine!