How to Check Ceramics for Damage, Restoration & Wear (Part 1)

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

Part 2 – Inspecting a piece for faults, damage, wear and restoration

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
it is.

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

137 thoughts on “How to Check Ceramics for Damage, Restoration & Wear (Part 1)

  1. denise baker

    i have a tea set or it could be a coffee set not sure its marked on the bottom as follows,
    teapot has crown devon fieldings england a 145 b,there are 4 tiny cups and saucers marked same but
    a165 and sugar bowl again devon fieldings england a163,they are a cream colour with yellow flowers green leaves and a bit of black around the top of teapot cups ect; can anyone explain the markings
    on the bottom ie, a165, to me and how i could find a vaule for this set.

  2. Diane Behr de Rosnay

    Hi, I’m responding to Peter Button’s comment posted in September 2008.
    I have the exact same shell-shaped vase given to me by my mother about 40-odd years ago. Although I will not sell it, I would also like to know more about it & the value, so if you have found out anything at all, I’d love to hear all about it…

  3. Diane Behr de Rosnay

    Hi again, I also have a white urn vase, 61/2 inches tall, with markings underneath – “Made in England” & what appears to be the word “URN”.I cannot make out what is stamped before the word “urn”, therefore I suppose it would be difficult to put a value on it. Any ideas who the maker could be & value?

  4. trish long

    hi i have a badly glazed earhenware pot that has markings on the bottom which are three lines.i have seen the markings somewhere before but can not find out any information about it.please could anyone enlighten me,thankyou.

  5. anita adams

    one bowl (pedestal) crown ford 9310 marking black with floral rim.19cm dia. 9 cm height
    one crown ducal bowl AF A J 1142 markings. black outer glazing 25 cm dia. 6 cm height lotus flower design on inturned rim colours of blue, red and yellow. internal colour is blue. Would appreciate any comment on these two items.

  6. Diane Behr de Rosnay

    I have 5 very old blue & white Willow Pattern dinner plates with “Japan” written in blue on the back of each. Would appreciate any info regarding these plates & possible value. Many thanks, Diane

  7. Ishtar Scott

    hi i have a nearly full dinner set in a pale green colour which has the poole england stamp (1959 to early 60s on it and i was wondering how much it would feach there are about maybe 5 pieces missing

  8. Marlene Hennessee

    I have a biscuit jar, Crown Devon, Stoke on Trent, England. The Number on it is 763, is this a pattern number? If so, where can I find patterns to match code. This jar is lidded with a finial and inside the lid is stamped E.P.N.S. The design is purple and ivory flowers. Any info appreciated. Thanks,

  9. Penny

    Hi I have a very old set of dishes. I think it is year 1925
    Crown Ducal ware England U.S.A. Pat. 72944 Reg. No. 732597
    I have many pieces inthe set of 8 plus serving dishes and they are a numbered set.
    no cracks or stainsd very good condition. Any idea what they could be worth?
    I could send pictures

  10. Shelagh

    I have a large dish marked royal Doulton Flambe. It is not the usual flambe colouring .It is black and gold with purple flowers. Any ideas?

  11. Faye Allen

    I have an old tea set with 12 cups/saucers, 12 small plates and 2 cake/sandwich larger plates, a sugar bowl and a milk jug. It is plain white and hand painted navy blue with gold gilt around the edges. It was left to me by my great Aunt and apparantely the tea set was her mothers. The pottery mark is a crown with a square set on one of its corner (rather like a kite) with the initial P B L Co anticlockwise. It has “England” written underneath. I have looked at the mark for Plant Bros in Staffordshire but the mark on my tea set is not set in a staffordshire knot and the crown is not winged. So I wonder whether you can give me any idea which pottery produced my tea set?

  12. LaToya Horner

    I havea a Fadsfodrs Bone China Fenton made in England teacup with the number 8553/52 on it how do find out if this teacup is worth any money?

  13. Francis Sweeney

    Does anyone have any information on Flesh Pots heads/ busts of ” Bing Crosby”. It is a large characature head model of the film star. I believe that it was a design by James Kent and made at his Foley factory in Stoke on Trent. This is as far as I have got. Any help will be gratefully received.

  14. Russell Harrison

    i have a small pottery figure of a Hippo playing a french horn. Signed by S Bartley. Does anyone know of this name or make. I think its quite old but i cant find anything about it. Its painted glazed and fired. Any ideas ??

  15. nicola graves

    hi i have an arklow fine china tea service with sugar bowl and milk jug in a blu and pink flower on a white base do you know if this is of any value? thanks

  16. dennis hayes

    I have a pitcher that is royal doulton and is the pickwick papers by charles dickens reg.number 817035 can you telll me anything about it? also has 8163 caston bottom and has a storyon the bottom

  17. christina heit

    Hi my name is christina heit, I have a bowl from England with gold inlay flowers on the inside black back ground in good condition, on the bottom in gold i belive it is in gold as well with the name (H. Aynsley& CO England)do you know anything about it????

  18. Peter Marshall


    I have a Sylvac Peter Rabbit, which is in very good condition but instead of a blue jacket it has a yellow one. The piece is stamped on the front “PETER RABBIT” and on the base it is marked SylvaC made in England but this is hand written beneath the glaze. Can anyone confirm that this is an actual Sylvac and if so why the yellow jacket.

    Many thanks

  19. Anne Heslop

    Hello, I have bought a Beswick Cow and Apple double dish on ebay it is in perfect condition and complete with the knife, it is stamped on the bottom BESWICK WARE MADE IN ENGLAND and the number 592 imbossed. could you tell me if there is any value in it please?

  20. tony meredith

    i have a f.r gray and sons 6 inch plate with 3 donkeys on the front signed by mike cooper also a 3 stemmed vase gold rims then a flowing green glaze into a brown base stamped germany 563/20 anyone give me a little insite please

  21. teresa

    hi there, i have a large white urn shaped vase, i have had it for 16years,it is stamped with a poole pottery mark undernesth but no other markings,i cannot find any information on it at all, does anyone have any ideas?

  22. Jess

    I have inherited a 12 setting dinner service in cream with gold patterns,with tureens and gravy boat,the markings are Crescent Ivory, with the initials JG & sons. I can find no record anywhere. Does this have any value, please?

  23. s. watson

    I have bee left an article. Dont know what category but I would say it is a wall hanging of a Jester. Aprox 5.5 inches tall and 5inches wide. Mainly face colour of pink/beige with hat of green and orange. Mark on back says Beswick Ware made in england number 7197 in black. There are two holes for wire to hang.Very feint crazing shows on pink part of face otherwise good condition and very attractive. I remember it being at home for years! Also found a Beswick Goldcrest 2415. In perfect condition.

  24. Gloria Harbridge

    I have inherited what I think is a meat platter. approx 15.5 x 12.5 inches. blue and white pattern. flowers at the 4 points with other design between the flowers and around the outer edge of the inside bottom of the platter. On the back- kneeling potter at work. kneeling on oblong box with 1790 printed in it. below this – K & Co B Late Mayer. Above the potter the word ” Marlborough”. from what I can work out on the net it may be around the 1850’s and Marlborough is the design name. I have not been able to track one down the same.

  25. julie griffiths

    I inherited a a pair of vase cant make out the markings looks like HJ England with Kings crest red letter A and 951 on both, one has a painting of 2 milk maids with sheep in the field, the other is two maids sat under a tree. Under ideas please.
    Many Thanks Julie

  26. MARY JJ

    Hello there, I have been searching the web for another piece of pottery in the same design as a piece I inherited to see if it is worth very much or nothing at all. I have established that it is CROWN DEVON FIELDINGS, I think it is called a CHARGER PLATE, although I thought it was called a wall plate, it has 3 holes formed on the back for wiring or stringing. It measure 12″ diameter, and the decoration is very art deco, A castle appears from behind bushes with a blue cloud behind the castle and the foreground is lots of flowers and leaves, the base colour is cream/beige and the castle is ochre leaves & flowers in green, ochre, dark blue, light blue & mauve. Would be very grateful if anyone knows anything about this pattern/design. Thank you Mary JJ

  27. MARY JJ

    Sorry forgot to say the backstamp is in black with a crown at the top with CROWN DEVON, fieldings, made in england, then P ? Applied for. also in black is a marking M 441 & a swiggle, and pressed into the glaze is a numer but cannot make that out except the middle one of 3 is 0 , I also forgot to say it has a green band around the edge of the plate, thanks Mary jj

  28. martin stubbs

    Hi i have a plate with K@Co B Which was made at i think Dale Hall works it has above The Nude potter the name Cromer There is no England mark or Ltd but it has a 4 digit pattern code 1446 and a letter N plus a Number 18. The plate is oblong in shape with blue and red flowers with gold colour middles to them ,could you please help me to find out how old it is and the value if any .thanks Martin ps sorry forgot to add late mayers losol ware.

  29. lee

    hi i have a gold coloured oval shaped bowl with 2 handles. it has a stand attached to bottom and crenellated edge on top. it is marked on base with made in england a crown and crown devon with 3 gold dots in a triangular shape could you help identify please

  30. karan sheahan

    I have a blue willow pattern teas set with no makers marks, some pieces have different shaped gold dot markings. The china is translucent but not highly so and there is some definate rough textures or blips to touch. The set comes with a small jug but a very large sugar bowl… Thanks for your help

  31. june mcdowall

    i have a large black and white jug approx 10.5 inches tall, handle, flared base,glazed and decorated with small apples [possibly a cider jug?]
    Marked : ‘Stella’ Oetzmann & Co Hampstead Rd London. From the registration it appears to be 15th Sept 1880.
    Thanking you for any information/help with this item

  32. Mrs Kelly Windibank

    Hi There

    I recently brought a item that i would say was a vase and wanted to know what it might be worth,
    it is approx 7 inches high and it starts off with a very dark red colour and works it way up to the top to a brighter red. the top of the vase is about 3 1/2 inches wide, and it shape sort of balloons out in the middle.
    underneath is the Ducal Ware stamp with the number 235 on it, overall looks in very good condition for what i think was made in the 1940’s
    Hope you can help me
    with regards
    kelly windibank

  33. Mrs barbara Barnes

    I have a royal lancastrian vase in a jade colour approx 12 inches tall with a rose emblem on the base with, Royal Lancastrian underneath with hand made in englang. It also has a mark that looks like a letter j offset with a number three behind it.

    I am curious as to its age and identity can you please help

    Best regards, barbara barnes

  34. Clive Henning

    I have a jar (biscuit?) that I would appreciate any details on. It is Carlton Ware,(Stoke on Trent) Reg. No: 290283 Pattern No: 1668.

  35. Alex Barrownman

    Hi I have a carmel & white Crown Devon vase with a gold crest & the following ID on the base A1459/14 Gold M46 YT with a red H can you advise me of approx value Thanks .

  36. J. Kavanagh

    Can anyone please help !!!!
    I’m new to china/pottery collecting and am confused by the fact that lots of items don’t have any makers marks at all, some have only a line or ‘squiggle’ on the bottom. Is there a ‘rule of thumb’ to be guided by when buying unmarked items ?? Maybe someone can recommend an appropriate book or website for me to read.
    Thanks in anticipation !!!!

  37. S. Edwards

    I have a pitcher and bowl with this mark on bottom. Ducal Crown Ware and also A.G.R. &Co Ltd, England . Is this an antique or reproduction?

  38. mary godman

    I have a tea set marked TF&S Ltd. Imperial yellow. #661 made in England. It base colour is cream and ridged. the cups have triangle handles the inner rim is gold yellow and orange, same on bottom outer rim. The same colours on rims of other pieces. any information would be much appreciated.

  39. V MILLER

    I have a small china tray about 8 inches x 3 with 3 race horses PICTURED,.
    Trimmed with gold round edge.
    I have had this tray since it of any value.


  40. M. McMinn

    Hi I have a very old set of dishes.
    Crown Ducal ware England U.S.A. Pat. 72944 Reg. No. 732597
    I have a set of 12 square plates & 12 saucers & 6 cups.
    can you give me information as to the year it was made, the name of the pattern and possible worth? also, if possible where i might find more of these pieces?
    thank you
    M. McMinn

  41. esteban hernandez

    I picked up small piece pottery has the square stamp with all the names purple flowers and pasley decor 31\2 ” ht. 41/2″ wide red clay bottom white paint approx value?

  42. L.Stone

    I have a Beswick ware jug/pitcher. It has the Beswick ware mark on the base plus a marking 261-1, plus what looks like a small red number 4.
    It is turquoise blue at the base up to a pale turquoise/sandy coloured top as if the colour has run from the bottom to the top. It has gold sort of splashes on it too. The handle is like a rounded 3 with an extra loop under the 3. Could you please give me some indication of what it may be worth. Thank you. L.Stone

  43. L.Poole

    hi all, wondering if I can get any expert help? total amateur here 🙂 I have a very small beige handpainted bowl with handpainted blue exotic bird on either side signed M.H. with a little circle, both hand-excised on the bottom, shows age-crazing, would love to know who its by and so on? best wishes

  44. L.Poole

    I have another item, a turquoise highly glazed squarish vase with bamboo imprint design, on bottom is impressed Made In England, no.14. and a little simple fish symbol, any ideas what company this is by and era? thanks again 🙂

  45. P Hillis

    I have inherited two musical jugs, one I have already found but the other has the words to “Killarney” on the back with “the irish jaunting car” on the front. There appears to be no symbol anywhere. Can someone tell me how old and a value. In very good condition, no chips or cracks.

  46. m.olson

    Hi I found a pig cup with 2 circles on the bottom with lines at the bottom he is cream coloured and i am interested to know where he is from he is in good shape, would he be old? He does look older thanks

  47. GLENYS


  48. joanna rose

    i have piece of maling pottery springtime pattern but its hoctaganal bowl about 13 cm in diameter but i cannot find nothing about it on net any where can any 1 help me please the serial number is 6536 or 6526 i cannot quite make it out

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