Victorian fairings are small, porcelain decorative items, which were prizes given away at English fairs in the nineteenth century. Some are purely ornamental, but others, such as the artefacts from the Loch Ard, were designed as small household containers and often featured scenes of human interaction. Many were painted, with some designs featuring gilding.
Production of Victorian fairings was dominated by Conta and Boehme, a German company based in Poessneck, in the porcelain-manufacturing region of Thuringia, Germany. The factory was founded in 1790 and was known as Portafabrik Conta & Böhme from 1814 (German spelling), closing in 1937. The designs can be dated according to the presence or absence of the Conta and Boehme makers’ mark, as well as mold numbers on the base.
They have become sought-after collectors items.
This artefact was recovered from the wreck of the Loch Ard, an iron clipper which was wrecked on Mutton Bird Island in 1878 while travelling from Gravesend, England to Melbourne. It had a large and varied cargo which included Victorian fairings. This is a detail of a Victorian fairing retrieved from the wreck. Unlike many of the more valuable pieces in collections today, this example does not feature additional painting.