Our Curatorial Staff agree, Franklin's Tea Set (FI Catalog # 4001) is a favorite, not only for its beauty, but for its story.
This porcelain tea set includes six cups and saucers, which fit perfectly into the velvet lined sections of a wooden box. Hand-painted gilded leaves and flower clusters circle the pottery, and the handles of the cups resemble two curved stems with leaves.
Though their design is lovely, the fact that these cups and saucers were given to Franklin by a love interest makes them even more appealing. During Franklin’s time abroad in France from late 1776 to1785 he stayed in Passy, a town west of Paris. His neighbor and widow of philosopher Claude Helvétius, Anne-Catherine de Ligniville, hosted parties at her home which were attended by famous artists, politicians, and scientists, including Franklin. Smitten with Madam Helvétius’ intellect and accomplishments, Franklin, who was also widowed, coyly proposed marriage to her in a poem*. In the poem, Franklin describes being transported to the afterlife where he learns that her late husband and his late wife, Deborah, have married. He argues that it would be perfect revenge on their previous partners if Madam Helvétius tied the knot with him on earth. She refused his proposal, but gifted him with this tea set.
*Refers to the Second Version of “The Elysian Fields” Printed by Benjamin Franklin, Passy  Yale University Library.