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In Blue and White And In Many Other Colors, The Ginger Jar Is A Timeless Décor Staple

An object lesson on a decorative object that is now ubiquitous to the refined home

Popular again, thanks to designers like Anna Spiro who have shown so much love for them, incorporating them into their richly layered schemes, some would argue that actually, ginger jars have never gone out of style.  In the 60s, McMillen, Inc. designed a whole room with this rotund jar as a motif for Babe Paley’s Bahamas home.  A fan of Chinese antiques, Paley famously told antiques dealer, John Roselli, “You can never be too rich or too thin or have too much blue and white.”

The ginger jar is characterized by its round body, wide shoulders, a small mouth and domed, unornamented lid.  These originated in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-207 BC) in China as storage vessels for a variety of spices, herbs, salt or oil.  This is how it earned its name. 


Although ginger jars are most associated with the colors blue and white, they also come in a variety of styles, such as these:


These are not to be confused with temple jars whose shape is more akin to a fish, and who have lids that are decorated with finials.  It was believed that temple jars were used to host the remains of loved ones.  However, through time, they were also used as vessels to store herbs, spices, oil and salt.

Nowadays, these jars are used as vases by fans of chinoiserie.  Some have even made them into lamps.  Artist Molly Hatch has found inspiration in them, and developed a whole line of homeware, called the Well-Versed Vase, based on the shapes of these Chinese jars, and embellished by her signature hand-drawn lines.


Banner photograph by Paul del Rosario, courtesy of Metro Home and Entertaining Magazine, Vol. 14.4.  

Special thanks to Neil Agonoy.