Identify Porcelain marks, Pottery marks,
China marks quickly & easily ONLINE!
Fast & Easy visual reference with all Ceramics marks
divided in Shape Categories - see Examples
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"Many thanks for the detailed information regarding our [doll figurine]. You have been just fabulous in your follow-up and attention to this matter." Mary L., Collector
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Includes extra Resources & Links to help you research
Special Dating Systems, including Sevres, Rookwood, Royal Worcester,
Rosenthal, Minton, Wedgwood, Sevres, British Registration Numbers
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Ceramics refers to Porcelain, Pottery, Chinaware, Clayware, Terra Cotta, Earthenware and Stoneware. These are made as composites of earth-like materials and water that are malleable when just mixed and hard after firing in a kiln. Depending on the actual composition of materials and the temperature or duration fired in the kiln, the resulting item can be classified accordingly.
Historically, ceramics first appeared in the form of utilitarian items, such as Jugs, Crocks, and Drinking & Storage Vessels. Nowadays, ceramics in all shapes and styles have become practically ubiquitous and have evolved to be a true art form in their own right, often beyond their intended everyday use. Especially porcelain that allows for very delicate modeling, is the primary material used for Figurines, Vases, Chinaware, Bone China Tableware, Cups & Saucers or Tea-sets and Coffee sets, Wall Plaques, and even Jewelry, that we now collectively call Decorative Arts.
The word “ceramics” is derived from Keramikos, a place near Athens, Greece, where many ancient potters had their workshop because of a nearby river to provide water, plenty of clay in the ground and lush woods to feed their kilns. Today, in addition to traditional Studio Potteries or Porcelain Decorating Workshops, the vast majority of chinaware or porcelain is made at large factories. Most such porcelain or chinaware manufacturers have their own Art Department, where Artists & Modelers conceive, design and create prototypes, which are then re-produced en masse using accurate Molds and fine tooling.
Ceramics marks are also known as backstamps, porcelain markings, pottery signs, artist initials or signatures, maker’s marks, and chinaware logos or trademarks. They are usually placed on the bottom or the back of an item and can be either stamped, impressed or incised, hand-drawn, applied on small medallions, and on a label or sticker.
The tradition of marking porcelain, pottery or chinaware, became most prevalent ca 15thC, first on Italian Majolica or Dutch Delftware and French Faience pottery and as signed by the individual Potter, usually as initials or numbers. Later, around mid-17thC and on true porcelain, ceramics marks were hand-painted in a more precise manner, for example by Meissen, Sevres, Derby, Worcester and other renowned factories. Around early 19thC, most factories used stamped marks (backstamps) or incised symbols, and more recently stickers or labels.
Because porcelain was expensive to produce at first and required skilled artisans to create elaborate forms and fine decorative detailing, most early buyers were nobility and royalty throughout Europe, from England to Germany to Russia. These affluent clients usually took a tour of the factory or met the artisans before buying and would order pieces made exclusively in their taste or as gifts to others of their social class. These factories would then be awarded special privileges as suppliers to the Royal Court and were allowed to place special insignia or marks on their items to indicate so. As costs went down and a relatively affluent middle class sprung up in most industrialized countries ca late 18thC onwards, factories made certain that prospective clients can recognize the maker and buy “on reputation”. In other words, ceramics marks that we now see on antique or modern porcelain, pottery or chinaware have their origins in purely marketing motives on the part of the makers. At the same time, prospective clients sought to profess their refined taste by buying items made by the same makers that the very rich and famous preferred.
Why are Ceramics marks important?
Marks on porcelain & chinaware have now become symbols of quality. As mentioned, it was in the interest of the various Potteries and porcelain factories to have their wares marked so that interested clients know what they buy. Many porcelain marks or logos became the means by which to display their brand and were meant to inspire confidence. So much so this was - and still is - the case that many of the now famous marks used on chinaware or porcelain by reputable companies were widely imitated or copied. Examples include Meissen’s Crossed Swords mark, Sevres’ crossed L’s in the shape of a diamond, Royal Vienna’s “beehive” mark and so on. This practice continues to this day and we now find numerous reproductions of older antique pieces made by manufacturers in Asia that bear imitations of older porcelain marks and, although still of great quality and decorative appeal, they are not antique.
However, for antiques collectors or dealers, ceramics marks are also the primary tell-tale signs to identify the maker and age of a piece. In turn, this information is the main factor in determining the value of an item by comparing similar works by the same maker and of the same age that have sold in the past. In addition to condition and provenance, maker’s marks are undeniably the most important consideration in deciding how much to sell an item, and of course how much to pay when buying.
In this Internet age, when many transactions happen online, most buyers use the name of the maker to search for what they wish to purchase. In the same way, when sellers mention the maker’s name in the title or description of an item, it is more likely to be found and close a sale. It is estimated that eBay and other online sellers achieve at least a 35% increase in sales when using precise information related to the maker and age of an item.
Marks on porcelain, pottery or chinaware are amply documented in several books and websites, like this one. As part of our dedicated services, we take special care to identify and confirm all marks included in our database and have created several easy-to-use visual search methods to help you find the information you need fast and efficiently. Our proprietary NAME SEARCH provides Fact Sheets on the various Potteries or Chinaware & Porcelain manufacturers, even Trading companies and Importers, along with all related marks on a single page. We constantly update our content with more marks and details, which is especially important when trying to decipher whether a particular mark is an authentic antique or a recent reproduction.
Additionally, and unlike books which tend to be specialized or cover only a few countries or periods and styles, we have marks from all western countries, including USA, EUROPE (England & UK, Germany, Bohemia [Austria - Czechoslovakia - Hungary], France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Spain & Portugal), RUSSIA, JAPAN EXPORTERS and so on.
And most importantly, even if you can’t find a mark or have doubts, members of our services can use a special link to send us their questions at absolutely no extra charge. Our specialists will investigate and research the information provided and will respond with a specific and personalized answer within 3 business days (usually much sooner).