These little jugs are the cream of the crop

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Now is about the time of year that everyone’s new self begins to fade and those resolutions made with such resolve don’t seem quite so exciting any more.

As a practised and much failed resolution maker I have learned to keep it simple. This year (largely due to receiving a coffee percolator for Christmas) my resolution was to percolate every day. Even the price of freshly ground beans which required the production of my credit card didn’t put me off.

I don’t smoke tobacco any more, I drink less alcohol than ever, so I deserve a little luxury.

So it wasn’t the price that caused my resolve to dwindle, no, it was the fact that every time I go to make a drink my percolator is full of wet beans and cold coffee and I can’t be bothered to clean it out. I have updated my resolution to once a week with a get out clause to “as desired”.

The one thing above all else that makes a cup of coffee so wonderfully tasty and delightfully drinkable is an extra large portion of cream.

This made me think of cream jugs. The earliest form of cream jug was plain and pear, pitcher-shaped or ovoid (egg-shaped), with the low foot rim, the handle and the lip of the jug made separately and attached later. There should be no seaming evident on the body as these pieces were usually raised from a single sheet of silver. Some jugs were fitted with hinged lids and wooden handles and used for serving hot milk (popular before 1720). Early 18th century examples of the pear form are very sought after today.

The pear shape continued to be produced until the 1770s, but the three cast hoof, shell, scroll or pad feet, a wavy rim and double-scrolled handle were more common. The typical Irish form is a jug shaped liked an inverted helmet, on a spreading foot or cast feet, sometimes with a moulded centre rib around the body. Some of the finest versions of both types are chased all over with shells and scrolls.

Other types of vessel for cream produced in the mid 18th century were cream-boats (smaller versions of sauce-boats) and cow creamers. The cow creamer was a speciality of John Schuppe, a silversmith working in London, probably of Dutch origins. He is known to have been working between 1753 and 1773. These objects have a covered opening on the back of the cow, allowing it to be filled with cream, the curled-back tail acts as a handle and the cow’s mouth as a spout. The feet on these creamers were particularly vulnerable to damage. These cow creamers were also made in pottery and porcelain and are extremely popular today. Those produced by Schuppe are very rare and valuable in today’s market with good examples realising anything from £5,000 to £10,000.

In the Neo-classical period, the dominant style for cream jugs was the tapering urn-and-vase shape with a high loop handle, set on a rounded or shaped pedestal foot, sometimes on a square plinth. These were generally made of thin gauge silver and being heavily used, the likelihood of damage was high. Beading was often added around the rim for extra strength but the condition today is often poorer that other types of jugs. However, good examples will still realise high prices.

From the 1790s most cream jugs, like teapots and sugar baskets, were no longer made as individual items but rather produced as part of a matching tea service.