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Ice Cream, Iced Cream, and Porcelain

When enjoying ice cream did you ever think about who invented it? Ice cream  evolved from “iced cream,” a European dessert dating to the late 17th and early 18th century. Iced cream would have been served from porcelain ice pails. During the hot summer months, in a time long before refrigerators and air conditioning, iced cream for dessert was a fabulous treat!

A History of the Dessert

While the precise origins of the dessert are unknown, the first recorded English use of the term “iced cream”was in 1671 when it appeared on a menu detailing what was served in a royal feast at Windsor Castle. In the 17th and 18th centuries, obtaining and preserving ice year-round was a huge undertaking.  Ice was often obtained from icehouses, which were built deep in the ground near great estates.  Because of the expense, iced food was typically enjoyed by the rich, who could afford to build icehouses and had servants or slaves who shaved the ice and prepared iced cream.

Making Iced Cream

Traditionally placed on the sideboard in the dining room, the base was filled with ice and salt, the liner filled with cream and occasionally cut fruit. Additional ice was placed on the high walled cover. The cream would freeze, and then at the end of the meal the Hostess would serve iced cream.

Porcelain and Iced Cream

Iced cream was made in porcelain iced cream pails. Porcelain was an ideal medium for such vessels, as its non-porous surface prevented the leakage of salt water into the ice(d) cream.

See: Jane Austen’s World

18th century Clignancourt Porcelain Ice Pails

Spode Porcelain Ice Coolers

The design of the typical iced cream cooler allowed for ice to be stored both in the interior, below the liner that held the cream, and on the exterior, in the cavity of the steep-sided lid.

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James Tassie Cameo Portraits

Bardith has acquired 3 pairs of James Tassie cameos featuring historical figures from Great Britain. Read below for some background on these amazing objects as well as for the details about our own pieces.


James Tassie (1735-1799) was a Scottish-born modeler and engraver who produced many cameos and portrait medallions of celebrated figures of the time. He worked with physician Henry Quin to invent a secret composition of white enamel paste to replicate the precious gemstones that were typically used for cameos. This made the process much less expensive, and Tassie saw the opportunity to profit from the invention. He moved to London in 1766 and opened a workshop, where he met with great success.

F. Malpas, Trade card of J. Tassie, glass tradesman, late 18th c. The British Museum.

Always concerned with reproductibility, Tassie usually made designs in three iterations: using his secret glass formula, plaster, or sulfur wax. This allowed him to make multiple copies of a portrait and allowed his nephew to continue reproducing his designs after he died.

Oak Cabinet Containing Sixty Drawers of Gem Impressions in Red Sulfur Wax, ca. 1766-1776. The Walters Art Museum.

Bardith has recently acquired three pairs of Tassie cameos and they are available for purchase.

Hexagonal wax cameo portrait of Alexander Waugh



Inscription reads:

[recto] “Alex.Waugh A.M. Wells Street Lond. 1794 Tassie”

[verso] “Alexander Waugh 1794”

Alexander Waugh (1754-1827), a Scottish reverend and Doctor of Divinity who oversaw the Wells Street church.

Hexagonal wax cameo portrait


Inscription reads: “Uni Aequus Virtuti” “Tassie —”

Rectangular wax cameo portrait


Inscription reads: “G. O. Dempster Esquire M.P. for Perth & C. 1787 Sec. to them N. O. TH”

Rectangular wax cameo portrait


Inscription reads: “D. S. Buchaniae Comes 1783”

Oval cameo portrait


Inscription reads: “W. Ewing Maclae 1791”

Oval cameo portrait


Inscription reads: “Capt. Sir Will. Fraser Bar.T F. R. S. 1807”

Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about these wonderful cameos.


Gray, John Miller. James and William Tassie: A Biographical and Critical Sketch, with a Catalog of Their Portrait Medallions of Modern Personages, W. G. Patterson: 1894.

Lee, Sydney ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1899.