Learn more about thimbles

Having had a book on thimbles published, I know just how difficult it is to have unlimited photos included to illustrate the text, especially those in colour. With the ease of the internet, it is now straightforward for me to add as many colour photos as needed and to supplement them with my unscholarly text as a means of sharing thimble information.

 

These topics bring together all the current information on specific thimble topics on one site. My aim is to make it a the best repository of thimble information with photos, for the thimble topics I have chosen over the last 16 years.

I have had heaps of help from experts in the thimble field and the information and photographs are all laid out here in PDF format for your use. Any errors are mine alone. The areas of my research are fairly specific and are not covered in any depth in the published thimble literature. I have chosen thematic collections as well as brands and specific makers.

 

Most thimble collectors do not have enough of one category of thimble to make comparisons and thus learn more from their own thimbles. Now you have a source or yardstick to compare with, those thimbles from your own collection. This should make you a better informed and observant collector.

 

None of these thimbles are for sale.

THESE PAGES ARE CONSTANTLY BEING UPDATED and THE LATEST 31 SMALLER TOPICS ARE INCLUDED UNDER MISCELLANY OF THIMBLES.

A TOTAL OF 64 DIFFERENT THIMBLE TOPICS FOR YOU TO BROWSE AND MAYBE CONTRIBUTE TO. PLEASE SHARE!

CLICK ON THE ACCOMPANYING PHOTO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH TOPIC.

ENJOY!

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Most thimble collectors will know of aluminium advertising thimbles which were produced in their millions, mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. There are thousands of different advertising brands available and it would be such a difficult topic for me to tackle - especially to find photos. I do have a database of different aluminium brands and there are currently 1350 on it. Most of these thimbles originate in the USA for American brands and adverts.

January 2009 - last updated 24 October 2019

Brass advertising thimbles

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I wasn't a thimble collector when the first thimbles appeared for the most important commemorative event in the modern era of thimble making. I am talking about Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977. The exquisitely-made sterling silver thimbles by James Swann & Son must surely be one of the most well-known modern thimbles and shortly after I became a thimble collector in 1984, one joined my collection. It is still the only silver royal commemorative I own. The next huge occasion for commemorative thimbles in the United Kingdom was the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and I eagerly sought one of these thimbles for my collection in 1984.

October 2006 - last updated 6 November 2019 

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What do British seaside holiday resorts have to do with thimbles? There are many British silver thimbles made in the late 1920s by Henry Griffith & Sons, with names of placenames or towns which include seaside resorts, that have now become collectable in their own right. The placename is lettered in upper case in relief around the band of the thimble. Occasionally the name is lettered over vertical striations. I have noticed that some placenames are enclosed within inverted commas or quote marks eg "Stratford-on-Avon". 'Rhyl' has an asterisk at either end - others may have this as well. Only 'Stratford-on-Avon' has the lettering in smaller print than the standard.

April 2005 - last updated 30 September 2019

British sterling silver placename thimbles

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Charles May was not one of the most prolific Victorian silver thimble makers; Charles Horner of Halifax and the Birmingham silver thimble makers (Henry Griffith, James Fenton and James Swann) were much bigger producers. Because of this Charles May thimbles make a nice niche collection. He was different from most of the English Victorian thimble silversmiths: in that, he didn't work in Birmingham. May was London-based and he registered his maker's mark at the London assay office. The firm had two primary places of manufacture in London: Shoreditch, and later in Hackney. Gold and silver thimble making was their primary manufacture.

June 2003 - last updated 24 July 2019

Charles May's silver and gold thimbles

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I used to have a thimble stall at a series of collectables fairs where one of the prerequisites was to produce a display. The fairs were themed and one of my most popular displays featured Christmas thimbles. It was fairly simple, using a small Christmas tree as the backdrop and displaying the colourful thimbles that usually depict Christmas. From that display seeds were sown as to how easy it was to have a collection within a collection. Thimble collecting with a theme is really popular. One of the most collectable is the annual Christmas thimble.

June 2003 - last updated 1 October 2019

Christmas thimbles

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I have always been attracted to good quality English china and Coalport bone china thimbles are no exception. Like Caverswall thimbles, they have a very identifiable shape. Coalport thimbles have domed apexes and rarely have gold-painted rims. The rim is flared and the china is slightly chunky, not being fine bone china. I am sure you too will recognise a Coalport thimble by its shape once you have looked at this page! Coalport China was founded in 1795 by John Rose and Edward Blakeway, tho the 1750 date appears as part of their backstamp. The Coalport China Museum in Ironbridge is the site of the Coalport Pottery at Colebrookdale, Shropshire.

November 2004 - last updated 3 November 2019

Coalport Bone China thimbles

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In 2000 the members of the Needlework Tool Collectors Society of Australia [NTCSA] made their Dorcas thimble boxes available for recording. Lee Bateman and Sue Gowan undertook this to coincide with Lee's presentation on Dorcas thimbles. It is only with a good quantity of items for comparison, that any research becomes possible. Copies of the photographs were placed in the library of the NTCSA and a second set given to the Dorset Thimble Society. Originally the boxes were photographed against a ruler, but this has not proved satisfactory in showing the actual measurements of the boxes.

September 2004 - last updated 23 December 2018

Dorcas thimble boxes

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There is a growing trend to have collections within thimble collections and a small, specialised themed area is Easter thimbles. For thimbles to fit within this category they should be dated. This then qualifies them both as commemorative as well as Easter thimbles. The Thimble Guild of Biggar in Scotland has featured Easter thimbles in their catalogues over the years. These seem to be undated or only produced for one year. If the thimbles are not branded, it is difficult to track the makers after the event.

April 2003 - last updated 19 August 2019

Easter thimbles

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There has been an increase in interest in collecting thimbles where the shape is predominant. Most of these thimbles are not being produced nowadays, so it is very difficult to obtain a complete listing. This is the list to date, but I know it is possibly not complete. It only covers thimbles that are made from china and porcelain, so though there are pewter thimbles in many shapes, they are outside the scope of this study. For completeness sake, I have included examples of all the head-shape thimbles known to me and these do not cover all figurals. These have come from various catalogues of the time, which is always a good source, or from items that I have had for sale over the years. I presume Francesca pioneered this trend in thimbles?

September 2002 - last updated 23 October 2019

Francesca and other Character Head thimbles

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A collection of gadget thimbles would form a niche within a collection. It wouldn't be a large collection, judging by the number of identical gadget thimbles repeated throughout the thimble literature, but it would be of great interest. Some sources list these as gimmick thimbles, but the usual terminology is gadget. Gosh - in the 13 years since I created this topic, the number of gadget thimbles has ballooned. Most of the gadgets are made of cheaper materials - i.e. brass and metals - as they were meant for sewing. Where the country of origin is known, the USA predominates. It is so difficult to tell what most of these gadgets are made from, so I have grouped those together with a similar function.

March 2003 - last updated 21 September 2019

Gadget thimbles

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After the success of the 1980 Franklin Mint Porcelain Houses of the World set of thimbles Thimbles of the World's Greatest Porcelain Houses, this set of 50 thimbles, entitled The Hallmarked Thimbles of the World's Great Porcelain Houses was commissioned by the Thimble Collectors Club in 1985. The striking difference between this set and the earlier one, is that the thimble design is largely made up of the enlarged backstamp, registered mark or hallmark of the porcelain house being portrayed. Obviously there are a few thimble houses that are duplicated from the first set, but this collection is more representative of the large range of firms making thimbles in the mid-1980s - a decade later most of them no longer produced thimbles or even existed. This list also reflects many of the thimble houses that formed part of the Thimble Collectors Club, who issued monthly thimbles to the members of their Club. As well as issuing monthly thimbles, the TCC also offered special sets for sale. This Hallmarked set is one of many offered.

July 2005 - last updated 22 July 2019

Hallmarked Thimbles of the World's Great Porcelain Houses

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Compulsory hallmarking of British silver thimbles came into effect in 1884 when all silver over a certain weight had to be assayed to test for the purity of the silver used. Before this time is was optional to mark them, as thimbles weighed less than the required amount for assaying. Thimbles have to be 925 of 1000 parts silver (i.e. .925) to have an assay mark applied. The Lion passant is the hallmark symbol used to indicate this. In Dublin the Lion passant is replaced by Hibernia. When the silver is purer than sterling silver i.e. 950 of 1000 parts silver, the Britannia mark is used.

November 2002 - last updated 1 November 2019

Marks on British silver thimbles

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All of these 32 smaller topics and themes or thimble manufacturers have always held a fascination for me - the high quality of Danish thimbles, the small Victorian thimble producers and unusual themes or well-crafted modern thimbles all appeal to me - I thought I'd share them with you. It is often difficult to find all the range produced, anywhere else, so they are gathered here for your enjoyment and I am sure there are many I have missed? This is the only page where I add new thimble topics. It is also my forum for adding information on Australian thimbles to update Thimbles of Australia.

NEW RETAIL JEWELLERS THIMBLE CASES and BOXES

February 2010 - April 2019

Topics last updated 13 November 2019 

Miscellany of Thimbles - 32 smaller topics

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Mother's Day is celebrated around the world on the second Sunday in May. The exception to this is the United Kingdom, who celebrates Mothering Sunday on the third Sunday in March. Is it because of the importance of Mothering Sunday in the UK that the branded china thimbles are all British-made? Some thimbles are lettered "To Mother" with the date; others just have "Mother" plus the date. There are not many thimbles made with 'Mother' on them. Caverswall, with their dated series, has the biggest selection that runs parallel with its Easter and Christmas series.

May 2003 - last updated 8 June 2019

'Mother' thimbles

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There is very little available about English Royal Albert bone china and their production of thimbles. According to the accompanying leaflets for the TCC thimbles, the company was founded in 1896 by Thomas Wild, in Longton, in the English Potteries. They became part of the Royal Doulton group in 1964. The part of the name 'Albert' is named from Albert, the Prince who was to become George VI. Currently Royal Albert is part of the Wedgwood group. It was sad news indeed to read that in this first week of 2009 of the Waterford-Wedgwood group being placed into liquidation. This group includes Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Rosenthal. Only time will tell what will happen now. So much of all these brands is already being made offshore.

April 2008 - last updated 12 October 2019

Royal Albert Bone China thimbles

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William Duesbury founded the Derby porcelain factory back around 1750 in the town of Derby in England. In 1770 and 1776 Duesbury expanded by buying up the Chelsea and Bow factories. There were no thimbles produced by Royal Crown Derby [RCD] until the 20th century around 1983. They were taken over and owned by the Royal Doulton Group [of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire] from 1985. The Doulton stable thru mergers included Minton, John Beswick, Caithness Glass, Royal Crown Derby and Royal Albert. From 2000 Royal Crown Derby is once again an independent company. This is the same company that took over the Stevenson and Hancock factory in 1935, which had been operational since 1848.

September 2005 - last updated 13 June 2019

Royal Crown Derby thimbles

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I was a collector of Royal Doulton china handpainted figurines, before I began collecting thimbles of any kind. These figurines are their most recognisable and collectable item, though there isn't anything that can be made of china or stoneware that hasn't been made by Royal Doulton!! I joined the Royal Doulton International Collectors Club, based in London, in 1983 and remained a member for 15 years. Once I became a thimble collector, I scoured the pages of their quarterly magazine for any mention or article on thimbles - in vain!!

May 2009 - last updated 13 June 2019

Royal Doulton thimbles

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One of the first fine bone china thimbles produced for the collectables market is one with a decal by Royal Worcester. In 1974 this Bridal thimble (I am not sure whether it was named this or it has become known by this name by thimble collectors over the last 30 years) was issued and is one of the most recognisable thimbles from RW. This 1974 date is now no longer correct, as copies were received as early as 1960, by collectors who have contacted me.

February 2007 - last updated 11 June 2019

Royal Worcester Decal Thimbles

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I have always had a deep love for handpainted Royal Worcester thimbles. My best find is an unmarked 19th century handpainted bird, with the lovely translucent porcelain of early Worcester's and the taller, narrow shape of their early thimbles. This was found here in Brisbane. It was sold to me as milk or opaline glass, a term I had never heard before - it is a term used for the translucent porcelain of 19th century Royal Worcester. Another term associated with early Royal Worcester porcelain, is blush, peach bloom or a biscuit finish, describing the warm creamy ground of the porcelain. It is rare to find that the apex has been gilded - usually a sign that it is not an early Royal Worcester thimble?

October 2002 - last updated 16 October 2019

Royal Worcester Handpainted Thimbles

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Henry Foskett was born in Iver, Buckinghamshire and baptised in April 1812. He was the son of Samuel and Mary Foskett. He married Eliza Ellen. He lived at 32 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell in London 1871 with his wife and nephew, Samuel (see below). He still lived there in 1881 and died in December 1885. Samuel Foskett was born in Limehouse, London, in 1848, the son of John Foskett [Henry's brother] and Sarah Scott. He married Elizabeth in 1871. In 1881 he lived with his family, including his three children, at 45 Essex Street, Islington. He still resided there in 1901. His eldest son, Samuel William Foskett, was a silversmith and his second son, Henry James Foskett, following in his father's footsteps, was a thimble maker.

October 2002 - last updated 16 February 2019

S + H Foskett silver thimbles

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Whilst I was researching the topics of silver British Placename thimbles and Thimbles with Slogans, I noticed a smaller grouping of silver thimbles with adverts and so my quest for information about Silver advertising thimbles began. Previously I thought that general products being advertised on thimbles were in the majority, with a few silver thimbles advertising jewellers. Exactly the opposite is true. The jewellers' thimbles are the most prolific, with 98% being for British jewellers.

February 2006 -  last updated 23 July 2019

Silver Advertising Thimbles - including Jewellers & Ships

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Josiah Spode founded Spode in 1776. His son, also Josiah, was responsible in 1797 for perfecting the process of adding bone ash to china clay to produce fine bone china, which is still used today as the benchmark for good china. This gives strength, whiteness and translucence to Spode china and this includes their thimbles. Spode underwent several name changes, according to von Hoelle, until William Copeland's son [Josiah's partner] took over the company in 1833 and from 1847 the name of the firm was Copeland. This name reverted to Spode in 1970 and thimbles, amongst other merchandise, were made in Stoke-on-Trent, England of fine bone china, from 1974.

March 2004 - last updated 13 July 2018

Spode thimbles

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The first thimble recorded in my thimble catalogue is for a thimble marked 'Stratnoid England', with the size 0-12. This is the thimble I use for any hand sewing, tho it is far too big for my finger. It was in a flat plastic needlebook, housed in an opening in the cover. I have no recollection how or when I received this sewing set, but it would have been in the late 1950s. I now have a set of the different sizes of Stratnoid thimbles. The name Stratnoid is pressed into the plain band, within a rectangular lozenge; England is underneath, with the size markings lettered at either end. There are also examples where the rectangular lozenge has a rounded top edge. Occasional examples exist of Stratnoid thimbles, where the name is stamped directly onto the band and not within a lozenge.

August 2003 - last updated 9 May 2017

Stratnoid thimbles

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The first time I saw SylvaC thimbles advertised, they were in Ruth Baum's Shopping Service in May 1981 and then in the spring 1982 issue. Ruth's mail order thimble company was based in London. I have since seen them for sale in the Spring 1978 issue of The Sewing Corner catalogue, from New York. Most of the following thimbles were offered for sale at the princely sum of #2.90 from Ruth: US$10 from New York. The nine animals' and buildings' names I have used are from Ruth's catalogue. There are no further details in the catalogue about SylvaC thimbles. I traced the three other designs thru the listing of products in Ashbrook and Verbeek's books. In 2000, Ashbrook valued SylvaC thimbles at #20-30 [US$30-50].

October 2004 - last updated 20 November 2018

SylvaC thimbles

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I am often asked about thimble and needlework tool books: which ones to buy or where to purchase them. Being a librarian and being passionate about books, it is easy for me. I try to obtain a copy of each relevant title as it is published! Most of the books listed below are out of print, so you will have to look for those that interest you thru the second-hand market, which includes eBay. Where I know the books are still in print, I have listed them as such, with an address or email link where one is known and the ISBN [international standard book number which uniquely identifies each book]. Using this ISBN is the quickest in any search on the internet, if you are looking to buy.

January 2003 - last updated 29 June 2019

Thimble & Needlework Tools Books

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The Thimble Collectors Club [TCC] came to my attention quite early on in my thimble collecting days - 1986. The glossy pamphlets that they issued promoted the idea of collecting "good" brands of china or porcelain from famous or often unheard of thimble china manufacturers. The added appeal was that on joining the Club one would automatically receive a new thimble every month. What a selection of high quality thimbles!! I lived in South Africa when I made my first enquiry about joining the Club, but I had no response to my application. I put this down to being where I lived. I have always enjoyed collecting Royal Doulton thimbles and once I knew that TCC had issued a thimble featuring Balloon Seller, I approached them again and was able to purchase this lovely thimble as a one-off, in October 1987.

October-November 2003 - last updated 18 February 2019

Thimble Collectors Club thimbles

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I have done a thorough search of all my thimble books and the internet and I was surprised to find how little information there is on thimblefuls. There are two photos in one of McConnel's thimbles books, which confirm my findings that the Thimble Society of London has rarely had any of these for sale. There are no examples in the book on Settmacher in Austria, but there is record of a German advertising thimbleful, made by Gabler. Where there are brief mentions in the literature, I have included the photos. Johnson lists them under 'Novelties and Oddities'. The exception to scant information is Holmes who has an entire chapter entitled 'Just a Thimbleful', which lends credence to collecting them. Gaussen maintains that thimblefuls are collected with sewing accessories because of their thimble shape.

February 2003 - last updated 14 May 2019

Thimblefuls

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To me it is the single most important part of my thimble collecting life to belong to as many groups as is practicable. I know there are many collectors who like to collect in private, or who would rather spend the membership fees on buying another special treasure. At grass roots, find a local group where you meet on a regular basis: for the fellowship and sharing of new finds and information. If there is a national group in your country, support it by becoming a member. Often there is a newsletter to keep you in contact, if you cannot attend in person and many of the organisations hold monthly, annual or biennial meetings or conferences and conventions. The friendships made over the years form the backbone of my thimble collecting. Join a group near you today or write away to join a group in another country.

March 2005 - last updated 21 February 2017

Thimble Societies from around the world

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I have always been fascinated with slogans, mementoes, inscriptions, mottos or keepsake messages on thimbles, with sayings using the language of love and chivalry. It was only when I acquired my first MIZPAH thimble, that I began to look at these thimbles with lettering around the rims, more closely. Mizpah is a Hebrew blessing "May the Lord watch between me and thee whilst we are absent one from another". [Genesis 31.v49] Go back in time, when women were closely chaperoned, to the Victorian era and picture a young man in love. How was he to plead his love? A gift of a thimble with a word or phrase was not too personal and if it was accepted, he knew he could then pay suit. So we get a glimpse of this bygone era and its manners with these unique themed thimbles. Some of these tokens of love were given when parting and there may be several sad stories attached to a few of these messages.

November 2005 - last update 31 October 2019

Thimbles with Slogans

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My first English silver thimble with a wide scenic band in relief, was the one I bought for 'Windsor' and having done a bit of research, this seems to be the most popular design of this type of thimble, with many examples still in existence. Recently I was a very lucky girl when I received a thimble from a non-thimble friend [thanks Phil] - he found a treasure for me on a recent visit to South Africa. There is no lettering to identify the scene, but it shows a bridge scene on a very wide band, on a typical tall, narrow Victorian thimble. It turns out to be the Menai Bridge scene and in contrast to my first purchase, this is a rare example. I think two of these wonderful old thimbles is enough for my collection but it's been fun looking for what else was made and I hope you'll enjoy this small journey.

January 2008 - last updated 31 October 2019

Victorian Silver Scenic Thimbles

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It is four years now since I started my 'Learn More About...' topics and I have come a full circle by returning to Wedgwood thimbles - this page is not about the Jasperware Wedgwood thimbles, which I covered separately but about those made of Wedgwood bone china. Originally I listed these with the Wedgwood jasperware thimbles topic but there were no accompanying photos and it's time now to remedy that. Like the other iconic English china manufacturers such as Royal Doulton, Royal Worcester, Wedgwood has a large range of bone china decorative and serviceable ware and some of their thimbles are decorated with these patterns. These are decaled or transferware. Some of the dinner service or tableware patterns are replicated on thimbles - like Kutani crane and Osborne designs.

September 2006 - last updated 8 October 2019

Wedgwood Bone China thimbles

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Josiah Wedgwood founded Wedgwood at Burslem in 1754. Though factory records show that Wedgwood made thimbles in the late 18th century, it seems that none have survived. With the increase in popularity of thimble collecting, Wedgwood began to produce thimbles again in 1980. Wedgwood jasperware has been produced since 1774. Jasperware is matt stoneware made from Cornish clay that is coloured throughout the body and has an applied decoration or cameo of a contrasting colour. The most famous jasperware combination is a white cameo design on what has become know as 'Wedgwood blue'. The cameos are hand applied, as they have been since jasperware was first invented.

August 2002 - last updated 3 September 2018

Wedgwood Jasperware thimbles

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The August 1980 Franklin Mint "Thimbles of the Worlds' Porcelain Houses" set has proved to be a very popular set with collectors. Nearly 30 years after its release, this set is still marks the beginning of the collectable thimbles interest. It covered most of the thimble china and porcelain brands of England and Europe of the time. With the popularity of the Franklin Mint set, many of these china houses first made thimbles for this set and went on to produce thimbles for the next 10-15 years. Lladro of Spain produced their only thimble for the set and the Noritake and Lladro thimbles are the most sought after of the set. The Lladro differs markedly from the rest of the set. It is of bisqueware and the Lladro maker's mark or backstamp is incorporated within the design of two children playing. Love it or hate it?

January 2004  - last updated 20 September 2016

World's Greatest Porcelain Houses thimbles

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