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Cup & saucer

  • Place of origin:

    India (made)

  • Date:

    c. 1850 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Agate, cut & polished using abrasives, most probably fashioned by turning on a bow-driven lathe

  • Credit Line:

    Wells Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This cup and saucer would have been made primarily as an ornament rather than for use. Although agate is a tough and durable material, it is prone to crack when subjected to sudden and significant changes in temperature. Also, when worked to give fine edges or thicknesses, it is easily chipped or cracked when knocked. With this in mind, finely worked agate vessels that survive undamaged are uncommon.
The cup and saucer were made in India in the 19th century with most of the fashioning process involving a combination of hand-working and turning on a bow-driven lathe.

Physical description

A round cup and saucer fashioned in translucent brownish grey agate with dark brown markings, with a good overall polish.
The cup has straight sides that gradually angle outwards as they rise from the short recessed foot with rim. The interior surface is smooth interiors and the exterior has been carved with vertical fluting.
The saucer stands on a short recessed foot with rim, and has a wide flat base with short straight sides that angle slightly outwards. The upper surface is plain and the outer face of the wall has been carved with vertical fluting.

Place of Origin

India (made)


c. 1850 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Agate, cut & polished using abrasives, most probably fashioned by turning on a bow-driven lathe


Diameter: 59.6 to 61.5 mm Cup (1587-1882), Height: 38.6 to 39.1 mm Cup (1587-1882), Thickness: 1.5 to 2.2 mm Cup (1587-1882), Thickness: 2.2 to 2.7 mm Cup (1587-1882), Depth: 33.0 mm Cup (1587-1882), Diameter: 31.5 to 32.3 mm Cup (1587-1882), Depth: 2.9 mm Cup (1587-1882), Diameter: 78.7 to 79.5 mm Saucer (1587A-1882), Height: 10.3 to 11.7 mm Saucer (1587A-1882), Thickness: 1.2 to 2.7 mm Saucer (1587A-1882), Thickness: 2.0 to 3.5 mm Saucer (1587A-1882), Depth: 7.5 to 8.1 mm Saucer (1587A-1882), Diameter: 60.0 to 60.6 mm Saucer (1587A-1882), Depth: 1.6 mm Saucer (1587A-1882)

Object history note

These objects were made in India in the 19th century and were acquired by Arthur Wells who was a Nottingham solicitor and Clerk of the Peace. He was a keen traveller and was made a Fellow of the Geographical Society. He is considered to be the first private British collector of Chinese jade and his collection of jade and other hardstone objects from South Asia was on exhibition at the South Kensington Museum at the time of his death in 1882. This collection was left to the museum in his will - the Wells Bequest.

Descriptive line

Cup and saucer, circular, external fluting, translucent brownish grey agate, India, c. 1850




Drinking; Food vessels & Tableware; Gemstones; Hardstone; Tea, Coffee & Chocolate wares


South & South East Asia Collection

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