19th Century, Blue and White

Blue and White Query

Name: Linda
Message: I have recently purchased a very old dish, that I think may be ironstone, and bears only a very faint impression on the back. Can you help identify it from the attached please?

At first glance it appears to be similar to the Davenport Marks such as this http://www.thepotteries.org/mark/d/davenport2.jpg  but the style and quality of the ceramics doesn’t gel.

I have tried enhancing the details of the mark, but it is not very clear – it could be an Omega symbol

But I think it is more likely that the mark is a letter G – in which case it is not a factory mark at all, but a size / pattern mark.

As this is clearly a ceramic piece made from a mould and the mark is raised, so was incised or stamped into the mould before the liquid ceramic clay was poured in – this is the most likely explanation.

Sadly, that doesn’t help with identifying the maker – but, the lack of other marks does help with the dating. I would put it as early nineteenth century – it isn’t ironstone as the paste is too soft. The dark colour and the simplicity of the design is interesting. Although the manner of the application of the transfer suggests that it did not come from one of the major manufacturers.

17th Century, 18th Century, China, Imari

English, Japanese and Chinese Imari

When the Ming dynasty fell in the late 17th Century, the Dutch East India Company needed to find alternative sources for importing Porcelain in bulk to meet the increasing demand in the West. Japanese porcelain, shipped from the port of Imari, was cheap bright and colourful –  in contrast to the plain blue and white from China – Imari’s most noticeable export was blue and white underglaze, embellished with gold and iron red decoration. The port name, Imari, is now synonymous with this type of decoration (some Arita ware looks similar but does not include the underglaze blue). Below, this good example of 18th Century Japanese Imari is typically distinguished by the dullness of the gold embellishment, the deep dark Indigo Blue that borders on black (frequently applied with a thick brush)  and the dull orangey-red thickly (and, again, often crudely applied) surface glazed colouring under the gold.


When the regular Trade routes to China were reopened, although the return of the familiar blue and white was welcomed, upmarket Chinese exporters found major demand from Japan and the West for the new and colourful red, gold and blue ware. So ‘Chinese Imari’ began to compete in the market.

Most early Chinese Imari style patterns tended to anonymous flowers, pots and random “anonymous” patterns  – typically ‘Chinese Imari’ is distinctive for its delicacy – the porcelain is thin and fine – almost brittle.

This small chinese teabowl and saucer dates from around 1740.


The underglaze blue on chinese pieces tend to be noticeably “inkier’ verging on a dark Royal Blue with indigo overtones. Elements of the underglaze blue often include fine lines and detail, with ink washes (and ink puddles) bulking out the designs. The iron-red is rich, strong and usually finely applied. The gold is a soft honey colour and is delicately applied rarely over-running the outlines of the red areas. Only the best Japanese Imari is ever likely to be confused with Chinese Imari as most Chinese ware has a distinctive delicacy that most Japanese export Imari seems to lack.

Like the Japanese designs, the bulk of patterns tend to focus on flowers, leaves and abstract patterns. The bright colours aged well and a hundred years later, the burgeoning English Porcelain manufacturers used the bright bold flower and abstract patterns, that typify Imari ware, in their own products. English Imari ware has been produced continuously, since it was first introduced  – some patterns have also stayed, broadly the same for nearly 200 years.





Some Imari patterns do buck the trend, however, and an excellent and rare example of this, is this early 18th Century Chinese Imari plate.

The design is clearly a rendering of the Great Wall of China it shows the towers, crenellated walls and zigzags. This makes it a very early “souvenir”. The inclusion of trees painted in the Japanese style, suggests that it was intended for the Japanese market or to compete directly with it.


For comparison – below is a photo of the wall at Badaling, showing the key features on the plate.

Badaling_China_Great-Wall-of-China-04Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / , via Wikimedia Commons



18th Century, 19th Century, Coalport, England, Staffordshire


Modern pieces of Coalport are clearly marked. What is less well known is that the Factory also used marks that imitated other factories, particularly in the early 19th Century. Coalport also absorbed other factories and incorporated their marks in its own – including the crescent moon used on Salopian ware by Caughley and the S and N of Swansea and Natgarw

coalport_marks coalport_marks2

18th Century, England, English, Rich Colours, Spode


Spode reputedly bought William Turners Stoneware patent some time during the second decade of the Nineteenth Century, with items classed as stoneware appearing from around 1815. Experimentation with Felspar and other additions to the formula saw a patent for “New Stone” filed around 1821, with pieces primarily featuring oriental style designs appearing by the following year. When Copeland Garrett took over the factory in 1833, the mark was retained. Pieces of this style and with comparatively early pattern numbers like the one illustrated below fall into the early and original Spode New Stone era and this plate dates from around 1822-1825

Spode Stone China CIMG2053


18th Century, Blue and White, Germany

Limbach 1788-1800

Limbach Thurungia, Germany. Late Eighteenth century. Typical hand drawn clover mark used after 1788. The factory closed in the middle of the 19th Century. This teabowl pattern is not unique to the factory – but the quick strokes and confident decoration is. They specialised in quickly produced, simple wares.

limbach base

The teabowl’s large size fits with it being late eighteenth century. As the tax on tea was lifted and tea became cheaper to import – Tea drinking  vessels (which had been small to savour and not waste an expensive and precious commodity) became larger and larger – just as tea caddies went from incorporating locks – to simple lidded boxes and jars. Limbach factories using this mark included:- Greiner (1778-),  Groszbretenbach (1788-), Kloster-Veilsdorf (1797-) and, according to Cushion, it may also have been used by Ilmenau 1786-1792.

19th Century, France, Rich Colours

Lerosey – Rue de la Paix

Paris Porcelain – Numerous porceleain manufacturers and decorating studios flourished in Paris from the mid eighteenth century until nearly the end of the nineteenth. Competition was tough and the decorating quality was very high, so it was not unusual for the bases of the porcelain to have considerable detail  – right down to the address from which more could be purchased!


This example is by M Lerosey who founded this porcelain decorating studio at 11 Rue de la Paix around 1880. Dating between 1880 and 1890, this mark not only shows his name, but also his address at 11 Rue de la Paix. Several Rue de la Paix manufacturers have been identified – Lerosey, himself had several studios along the road – going back over 60 years to around 1820 when he worked with J Rihouet. As one of the earliest studios in the road this one is actually simply known as Rue de la Paix – Lerosey’s earlier mark only differs from the 11 Rue de la Paix example by the number – 7 Rue de la Paix. The following two pictures give an idea of the overall quality of the pieces produced by Lerosey.

french2 french3

For interest – another studio along the road was 18 Rue de la Paix,  founded in 1818 by Ferdinand Brunin – who signed his work Ferdind Brunin, rue de la Paix no. 18

19th Century, 20th Century, Blue and White, Denmark

Dating Royal Copenhagen


Royal Copenhagen has used the three wavy water lines to identify their porcelain since it started in 1775 – Early pieces frequently include a dot in front of the waves. The mark was not very consistently drawn, often with quite flat waves that look quite rushed- presumably each workman had their own slight variant until about 1820.

Hand drawn lines usually indicate manufacture before 1885. The example to the left is pre 1840.

Between 1885 and 1890 the lines are more uniform – either done with a three nib pen or as a print.

From 1889 a circle was added over the lines – inside which was a crown between the curved words Royal Copenhagen.

From c. 1890, export ware featured a small crown over tiny waves over the word Denmark (spelled in English) in a circle over three larger waves. The circle was dropped from non export marks.

Between 1894 and 1897 a variation of the export mark was used  without the circle and the tiny waves, however these are easy to spot as this is the only period in which DANMARK, the Danish word for Denmark, was used.

In 1897 until 1922 the words Royal Copenhagen replaced the circle. Separated with two dots (one each side of the word Royal) the words sit above the three wavy lines.

1923 had two variant marks  – one an ornate crown over waves with no text, the other the crown that was used in the post 1923 mark, but over the word Denmark, over the waves.

The printed mark in the bottom picture has been in use with subtle variations since 1923 the principle difference between this and the pre 1923 mark is the combination of  the factory name and the country of origin – again spelled in the English way as Denmark.  All Royal Copenhagen marks that include text are printed in capitals in a non-serif font.

Dating indicators were first added to the Royal Copenhagen mark in 1935. There were two types  – Lines were used underglaze and dots used overglaze, they are quite distinctive and easy to see.

DSC00608Underglaze Line

Look for a line under or over the letters  (note from 1985 the line covers two letters).

Line over the top of the letter – ROYAL COPENHAGEN –   R = 1935, O=1936, Y=1937 etc through to N=1949

Line under the letter – ROYAL DENMARK COPENHA – R=1950, O=1951 Y= 1952 etc through to A=1967

From 1968 to 1974 the mark stayed under the G

From 1975 until 1979 the line moved to the E

From 1980 until 1984 the line moved to the N

From 1985 to 1991 the mark covers both the and the O

From 1992 to 1999 the mark covers the and the A

From 2000 to 2004 the mark covers the A and the L

Overglaze Dot

As before look for a Dot above or below the letters – to make life complicated the years run from the end of the word to the front and the words are repeated… so…

Dot under the letter – KRAMNED –   K=1935, R=1936, A=1937 through to D=1941

Dot over the letter – KRAMNED –   K=1942, R=1943, A=1944 through to D=1948

Dot under the letter – NEGAHNEPOC –   N=1949, E=1950, G=1951 through to C=1958

Dot over the letter – NEGAHNEPOC –   N=1959, E=1960, G=1961 through to C=1968

Dot over the letter – ROYAL –   L=1969 to 1973, A=1974 to 1978, Y=1979 to 1983, O=1984 – 1988, R=1993

So the modern sugar bowl in the picture dates from between 1969 and 1973.

NB There is a separate code for the crown and Denmark mark (that excludes the factory name) which will be covered in another article.

About the site, The Basics

Identifying Age and Makers – The Basics

In this Category will be posted the basic clues to identifying a piece’s age, country of origin and maker/manufacturer. I am sure that, as the site develops, there will be many pieces incuded where the manufacturer’s name is written on the bottom – but what is not always clear is the age of the piece…

Most people will recognise that:-

1) when a piece is clearly marked in English with its country of origin then it was almost certainly made after 1891. The word “England” on its own suggests that the piece was marked after the 1891 McKinley Tariff Act (a few pieces were marked in anticipation of trade restrictions – but almost all are post 1880)

2) Pieces marked with “Made in England” tend to indicate that they were made after the First World War.

3) “Registered Numbers” (Reg, Reg’d) appear in the mid to late 1880s.

4) “Trade Mark” and “Ltd” appear most commonly on china made after 1860

5) The word “Royal” on a piece suggests that it is likely to be Victorian, as does the diamond registration mark.

6) Royal Coats of Arms are occasionally late Georgian but, more commonly, Victorian.

but what about the pieces with registration marks? Are you comfortable about reading these? If the piece is only marked with a squiggle or a crown – or only a few numbers – are you confident that you know the manufacturer?  Articles added over the next few weeks will start to answer some of these questions…

16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, Blue and White, China

Chinese Reign Marks

Collecting old chinese pottery and porcelain is not as expensive as some might have you believe. For example in Spain there is a love of Blue and White that spans generations and cultures. You can find pieces in most places that you look and many will be chinese. However, whilst very old and splendid pieces might horribly expensive, small pieces can still be bought with a limited budget – if you have the enthusiasm to look.

The two rules to remember are

1) Having a mark on the bottom, like the reign marks in the picture for this article,  does not mean that it really dates from that period.

2) Having no mark at all does not mean that it is valueless, just that the piece did not need to be stamped to sell – so was probably not intended for export.

So what does the reign mark on Chinese porcelain mean?


Yes it can mean that the piece is of the period. As you get more familiar with handling pieces (which you can do in antique fairs and shops – where they will be dated for you) you will find that there are other indicators, texture, technique, composition, colour and style that help to date each piece.

In most instances where you see a reign mark outside a museum though, it is because Chinese potters and the porcelain Studios adopted the styles of earlier generations and, if they felt the piece passed muster, would honour the memory of past masters by dedicating their piece to that period. It wasn’t originally done with the intent to defraud (tho’ it is now). It was done to say that the pot, vase, bowl, teaset was an homage to earlier artisans and the creator was proud to stand his work next to pieces of that period. A ‘don’t go old, go bold’ gauntlet to traditionalists. So many marks indicating a period before 1722 will be “apocryphal”.

Halfway through the reign of the Emperor K’ang Hsi (various spellings) he declared an abhorance of the idea that anything not intended for his and palace use should bear his mark. So it was banned with serious life threatening punishments for any infringement. Only royal porcelain was permitted to use the mark. So, after he died, everyone did it – therefore most marked K’ang Hsi pieces aren’t from the period unless they date from the beginning of his reign. Yung Cheng pieces tend to be genuine and although the post 1795 period was prolific in using older marks (including Ch’ien Lung to appeal to Western Markets), anything carrying a post 1795 reign mark is generally what it says it is – ‘Made in China’ pieces are post 1891 – and Republic – post revolution.

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