learn more about royal crown derby thimbles

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.


Well that opening statement was true when I first composed this page on RCD, but two recent treasures have turned up with thimbles with a 1936 and a 1940 date. The latter is an intriguing date as England was in the heart of World War II. Have you ever encountered another RCD with a date earlier than 1983? The Thimble Society of London in their spring 1985 issue, mentions an Imari patterned thimble that dates to 1920s-1930, but these two finds bear the modern red date maker's marks for Royal Crown Derby.


In 1981 when the Franklin Mint thimbles set of Porcelain Houses of the World was commissioned, Royal Doulton and Royal Albert thimbles were included in the set of 25, but no thimble by RCD. By 1985 when the Thimble Collectors Club commissioned the Hallmarked Thimbles of the World's Great Porcelain Houses, Minton, Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Royal Crown Derby thimbles were included in the set of 50.


In 1986, RCD began production of sets of fine bone china thimbles that reflect the patterns from the old Derby Porcelain pattern books of their dinnerware range.


Most of their thimbles are marked inside with a Roman numeral and this helps collectors identify matching sets. Or does it? A puzzle has arisen as some identical thimbles have a different Roman number. In 1937 Royal Crown Derby introduced a dating system for their products. In 1937 items were marked with the Roman numeral I and so on for each year. If an item is marked L [=50], add this to 1937 and the date of manufacture is 1987. This is a really unique feature, as one can now tell exactly when our thimbles were made - ie that it was part of the original issue or not.


In 2000 RCD changed their policy to one using the actual Roman numeral to correspond with the year of manufacture eg. MM for 2000.



















The first series of six thimbles was produced in 1986 and continued in manufacture until 1993, which explains the differing Roman numerals in identically patterned thimbles. The set was named The Derby Collection. This launch was so successful amongst thimble collectors, that another larger set was commissioned Lawleys by Post, the commercial arm of Royal Doulton, who promoted the second series of fifteen, produced in 1986. The collection is named The Historical Thimble Collection. A booklet written by Betty Bailey A collection of thimbles accompanied this set. The book lists the thimbles with the name assigned and a brief description of the origins of the patterns. I have included the dates that Derby first introduced the original pattern. No pattern names are in the thimbles, so the names can only be found in Bailey's booklet or in the original advertisements from Lawleys by Post. Once separated, the naming becomes impossible. I have recorded them here for posterity.


It was lovely to be alerted by collectors to The Chatsworth Collection by RCD. This is a set of twelve thimbles - in more pastel shades than the earlier series. They were produced for Lawleys by Post in 1995 and designed by the RCD artist, Sue Rowe. They all have names but these names are again not marked inside the thimbles. Nor are they marked with a Roman numeral as are most of the other Royal Crown Derby thimbles, but they do have a second backstamp for Chatsworth House in the same colour as the RCD stamp. In addition the word 'Chatsworth' appears under the RCD backstamp. These designs are all based on a flower and the motifs come from the interior of the mansion of the Duke and Duchess of Devon who own Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.


Then there is a The Curator's Collection of six thimbles. This set was issued in 1999, bearing the Roman numerals LXII.


The shape of the RCD thimbles conforms to the later thimbles made by Royal Doulton. These are squatter than the original Doulton thimbles produced in the early 1980s. These RCD thimbles are richly gilded with 22-carat gold and the colours reflect the rich colours one has come to associate with RCD merchandise. The apexes have gilding of the indentations, making them quite distinctive. There is a slight variation between the first and subsequent sets, in the apex gilding. If you have several RCD thimbles, it will be worth your while to compare this gold-dotted apexes - they are different enough to be an identifying "tool" for you. If you have a photo of the apexes of other sets, please share.


The patterning goes around the thimble, usually repeating the design. Where this is not the case, I have shown the other side.


Does anyone know whether RCD are currently producing thimbles? We know from thimbles using the RCD dating system they were still producing thimbles in 2002 [MMII]. Aren't these Royal Crown Derby thimbles some of the 'richest' looking thimbles you have encountered, in all their deep jewel colours? In the collectables market, Royal Crown Derby are primarily associated with their range of animal paperweights in their rich colours and some of this uniqueness is reflected in their range of thimbles.


These thimbles are arranged in date order of their initial release



Click on the following link to "Learn more about..."

Royal Crown Derby thimbles

This listing of Royal Crown Derby thimbles does not purport to be complete or accurate in all aspects.

Rather it invites comment and contribution to add to our knowledge.

My thanks to the contributors.




Betty Bailey A collection of thimbles. 1986

Crown Derby thimbles The Thimble Society of London vol 2 issue 2 spring 1985


Royal Crown Derby website

Royal Crown Derby marks website






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September 2005








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