Buying antique pottery and ceramics can be a risky process. It’s all too easy to get home and find that you’ve missed a hairline crack, a restored handle or one of the hundreds of other faults that might
While there is nothing wrong with choosing to buy ceramics in less than perfect condition, I am sure that you, like I do, prefer to know about it beforehand and make sure the price paid reflects the condition.
Poor saleroom and fair lighting, inaccurate descriptions and even unscrupulous dealers can all combine to make buying safely harder than it should be.
To help you avoid these pitfalls, we’ve put together a guide to checking ceramics – from identity and authenticity through to checking for damage, restoration and wear.
We’ve divided this guide into two parts:
Part 1 – Checking the authenticity and identity of a piece
1. What is it?
Sounds obvious, but is the piece you are looking at what it’s being sold as?
Check that the shape, pattern and pottery markings are all consistent with each other and with the piece itself. Mis-described and incorrectly marked (when manufactured) pieces aren’t unknown, although
they are uncommon.
Don’t be afraid to dig out a pattern guide or reference book to check a pattern or shape number – no one remembers them all!
Once you are happy with the authenticity of the piece, check it is complete.
Should it have a lid, frog (for flowers), detachable handle (e.g. biscuit barrels) or perhaps an accompanying spoon, knife or box?
It’s a case of caveat emptor, I’m afraid – you need to think about what you’re seeing and ask any questions before you buy. Any reputable dealer should be happy (and able) to explain why something is the way
2. Have The Years Left Their Mark?
It should always be apparent if a piece has some “age” or not. Even if it is in immaculate condition and has been stored away from bright light, dust and dirt, it should still feel old.
This is a hard one to describe – but if unsure look for small details:
- Do the pottery markings look old?
- Is the base a little worn/dirty where it has stood on different surfaces?
- Is there any crazing?
- Is there any dirt, discolouration or wear? Look in nooks and crannies or where lids, etc. fit on the main body
If you’ve been through each of the checks I’ve descrbed, you should now have a fairly good idea of the identity and authenticity of your piece – and you will probably already have noticed any obvious damage
or restoration to it.
To learn more about how to spot and understand damage, wear and restoration, check out Part 2 of this post by clicking on the link below:
Part 2 – Inspecting a piece for faults, damage, wear and restoration