One of the first decorative objects I ever bought was a blue and white ginger jar from a jumble sale. It was missing its lid and was ordinary as these things go but, aged 10, the 1 shilling price tag was perfect in my eyes.
There are many serious collectors and then there are those who just like the impact they have on a table. Whichever you are – keep your eyes open for these gutsy little pots.
Though ginger jars were initially used to store and transport spices, hence their name, the containers (which usually lack handles) have been used chiefly as decorative objects since the 19th century, when demand in the West for Chinese antiques spurred the export of these pieces to Europe, as well as the manufacture of copycat jars in pottery centres such as Staffordshire.
Some of the decorative treatments on ginger jars have included dragons,
carp, landscapes, and florals,
either glazed in a rainbow of colours
or limited to the blues and whites of flow blue.
Because of their wide shape, ginger jars lent themselves to a “rose medallion” treatment, in which florid designs around the jar framed smaller scenes, almost like a graphic novel in porcelain. Today, because the jars are squat, giving them a low centre of gravity, they are sometimes converted into table lamps.