teapot (food service); teapot lid; tea jug (jug (food service)); lids (food service); sugar bowl (bowl (food service)); bowl (food service); teacups (cups (food service)); saucers (food service); tea tray (tray (food service)); tray (food service); container (food service)

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This clove tea set from Maluku, Indonesia has been made from dried cloves, a spice generally used in cooking. It was made over 200 years ago, but the aroma is still strong today. Although it looks like items in a tea set, such as a tea pot, cups and saucers, it was never intended to function as a tea set; it was made as a souvenir, and the collector was S. Lawrence.

Novelty objects made from cloves were popular with visitors to the Indonesian Spice Islands from the 17th century onwards. Spices, such as cloves which were native to Indonesia, were deemed a luxury commodity and were so highly sought after in the 16th and 17th centuries that wars erupted over control of the spice trade.

Although the production and collection of objects made from cloves was particularly popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the craft is still practiced today on Ambon Island in the Moluccas. As well as tea sets, objects, including models of a variety of boats, horse and cart, canons and containers, were also made from cloves. Research has identified that clove curios made in the Spice Islands were collected and distributed around the world to countries including the UK, Holland, America and Australia. These curious objects could demonstrate how an individual had travelled and, at a time when spices were luxury goods, would have been able to showcase the owners’ wealth.

Charlotte Dixon Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD student, University of Southampton / The British Museum

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

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