the marks are important
The object of a ceramic trade mark is to enable at least the retailer
to know the name of the manufacturer of the object, so that re-orders, etc., can be
correctly addressed. In the case of the larger firms the mark also has publicity value and
shows the buyer that the object was made by a long-established firm with a reputation to
uphold; such clear name marks as Minton, Wedgwood, Royal Crown Derby and Royal Worcester
are typical examples. To the collector the mark has greater importance, for not only can
he trace the manufacturer of any marked object, but he can also ascertain the approximate
date of manufacture and in several cases the exact year of production, particularly in the
case of 19th and 20th century wares from the leading firms which employed private dating
systems. With the increasing use of ceramic marks in the 19th century, a large proportion
of European pottery and porcelain can be accurately identified and often dated.
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marks are applied
Ceramic marks are applied in four basic ways: incised, impressed, painted,
Incised into the still soft clay during manufacture, in which case the mark will show a
slight ploughed-up effect and have a free spontaneous appearance.
Impressed into the soft clay during manufacture, many name-marks such as 'Wedgwood' are
produced in this way from metal or clay stamps or seals. These have a neat mechanical
Painted marks, usually name or initial marks, added over the glaze at the time of
ornamentation, as were some stencilled marks.
Printed marks transferred from engraved copper plates at the time of decoration. Most
19th-century marks are printed, often in blue under the glaze when the main design is also
in underglaze blue.
General Rules for dating marks
There are several general rules for dating ceramic marks, attention to which will
avoid several common errors.
Printed marks incorporating the Royal Arms are of 19th or 20th century date.
Printed marks incorporating the name of the pattern are subsequent to 1810.
Marks incorporating the word 'Limited', or the abbreviations 'Ltd', 'Ld', etc., denote a
date after 1861, and most examples are much later.
Incorporation of the words 'Trade Mark' in a mark denotes a date subsequent to the Act of
Inclusion of the word 'Royal' in a firm's title or trade name suggests a date in the
second half of the 19th century, if not a 20th-century dating.
Inclusion of the abbreviation 'R N' (for Registered Number) followed by numerals denotes a
date subsequent to 1883.
Inclusion of the word 'England', 'Germany', 'France', 'Italy' in marks denotes a date
after 1891, although some manufacturers added the word slightly before this date. 'Made in
England', 'Made in Germany' and so on, denotes a 20th-century date.
Use of the words 'Bone China', 'English Bone China', etc., denotes a 20th-century date.
(The above articles are used here by kind permission of the author
Steve Birks, see also www.thepotteries.org)
| Meissen porcelain
The Elbe river north of Dresden is the setting for Meissen, Germany.
Meissen is more than 1000 years old, founded by King Henry I in 929 AD with the castle
"Misni". Meissen is really a fortress town, and several 13th and 14th century
Gothic cathedrals domintate the skyline of the town, along with the Albrechtsburg Castle
which stands at the original site of the Meissen Porcelain Works. From the earliest days
of the China trade, Chinese porcelain had been highly valued by Europeans, and the
expansion of trade in the 17th and 18th centuries brought a greater supply and greater
exposure for Chinese porcelain in Europe. Europeans, however, were also trying to perfect
the technique of making their own hard paste porcelain. Italian and French craftsmen had
replicated porcelain only by creating a soft paste porcelain of white clay and ground
glass, not the white kaolin clay used by the Chinese. Meanwhile, Augustus II (1670-1733)
of Saxony, known as Augustus the Strong, became a patron of the decorative arts and
particularly admired fine Chinese porcelain. He was an avid collector, but he also funded
the research and development to create a local porcelain industry, setting up his ceramic
works in Meissen. One of his chemists, Johann Bottger, discovered the proper Chinese
formula for hard paste porcelain in 1708 while having been mandated by Augustus the
Strong, now the King of Poland, to discover a way to produce gold. In 1710, the necessary
ingredient of kaolin clay to make hard paste porcelain was discovered within his territory
and used at his new factory in Meissen. The local geography of surrounding mountains could
be used to protect the factory and the secrets of porcelain manufacture, and the Elbe
river provided ready and inexpensive transportation for raw materials and finished
product. The Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen as it was known began production in a
broad array of shapes, colors and decoration, and in 1719 Augustus brought to the factory
top painters and sculptures to create revolutionary new designs and colors for the
company. Meissen was unchallenged for supremacy until the mid 1750s by the French royal
factory at Sevres, France. The town of Meissen was renamed in 1776 to be Albrechtsburg
after the castle. In 1861, the factory was moved piece by piece to a new site in the
Triebischtal where it still stands today. Meissen's trademark of crossed swords, derived
from Augustus' coat of arms, is known the world over as a mark of the finest quality and a
great history. The swords are painted on the porcelain body after the first firing but
before the application of glaze, using a special color of cobalt blue and was first
adopted in 1724.
| Worcester porcelain
This company came into being on the dissolution of partnership of the
Kerr & Binns partnership when W.H. Kerr retired. This company (or it products) which
has existed for well over a hundred years, is internationally known as "Royal
The articles of Association for the new firm are dated June 24, 1862. The main
personalities were Richard William Binns, acting as what we would now call the Art
Director, and Edward Phillips, a Staffordshire earthenware manufacturer, in charge of
William Litherland, a Liverpool retailer, was also a shareholder in the new concern.
The Royal Worcester mark basically comprises the Kerr& Binns circular device, inside
which are four cursive "W"s, with a crown added at the top. These marks can
occur impressed or printed over the glaze. On some pieces - presumably Kerr & Binns'
blanks decorated soon after the new company took over in 1862- only the printed crown is
visible, added over circular device. On some small pieces there was only sufficient room
for the printed crown device.
A major amendment was made to the main device in 1891, when the wording " Royal
Worcester, England" was added around the printed device: this continued into the
present century, with various additions.
A new system of factory year-making was commenced in 1892, when a dot over the 'd' of
'England', and each year a further dot was added to the marks until in 1915 there was a
total of twenty-four dots.
| Minton porcelain
Thomas Minton founded his factory in 1793/6 in Stoke-upon-Trent.
Minton was Spode's nearest rival.
He was famous for Minton ware - a cream-coloured and blue-printed earthenware majolica,
bone china, and Parian porcelain; his factory was outstanding in the Victorian period for
its "art" porcelains. He also popularized the famous so-called Willow pattern.
Herbert Minton, 17931858, succeeded his father as head of the firm, and to him was
due its development and reputation. He enlisted the services of artists and skilled
The first products of the Minton factory were blue transfer-printed wares, but in 1798
bone china (porcelain containing bone ash) was introduced, with considerable success.
Until 1836, when Thomas Minton died and his son Herbert took over the business, the
factory's staple products consisted of useful and unpretentious tablewares in painted or
printed earthenware or bone china, following the typical shapes and decorative patterns of
the period; figures and ornamental porcelains were made increasingly from the 1820s.
In the 1820s he started production of bone china; this early Minton is regarded as
comparable to French Sèvres, by which it was greatly influenced.
Minton's was the only English china factory of the 19th century to employ a Sèvres
process called pâte-sur-pâte (ie: painted decoration in white clay slip instead of
enamel before glazing).
Minton also produced Parian figures.
The Minton factory was the most popular supply source in the 19th century of dinnerware
made to order for embassies and for heads of state and the factory is still producing to
the present day as part of the Royal Doulton Group.
| Limoges porcelain
Limoges porcelain has been made in Limoges, France since the
mid-nineteenth century. Fine porcelains were made by many factories including Haviland,
Ahrenfeldt, Guerin, Pouyat, Elite, and others.
Porcelain was first discovered by the Chinese over a thousand years ago. Now made of pure
white clay as the primary substance, the Chinese first used sandstone and stoneware. One
of the first Europeans to see porcelain was Marco Polo during his travels to the far east,
naming it to reflect the characteristics of a very white and translucent shell. Vasco De
Gama brought the first porcelain back to Europe in the 1400s, and trade soon sprang up
under the vast network of the East India Company. Louis XIV of France had an insatiable
demand for porcelain, and much was imported from China but at a very high price. The
Chinese had kept the manufacturing process for porcelain secret to maintain their trade
position and its lofty price, but now the French went about discovering the secrets in all
earnest. The earliest deposits of the mineral required to make porcelain were discovered
near Meissen, Germany during the seventeenth century.
Kaolin was discovered in France about 1768, close to Limoges, and gave rise to the Limoges
porcelain industry. Underground deposits around Limoges also included metals which had
been used to provide metallic oxides for coloring enamel and Faience since the Middle
Ages. In 1771, Faience manufacturing was converted into porcelain manufacturing, and the
first hard paste porcelain was made in the Limoges region. This first factory established
about 1774 became a subsidiary of the royal factory in Sevres in 1784. Following the
French Revolution, this governmental influence once again gave way to private interests,
and by the early 1800s Limoges was making the finest, purest white porcelain in the world.
By the 1830s, there were at least 35 porcelain factories operating in the Limoges region.
The latter half of the century was the period of greatest growth and recognition for
Limoges porcelain, repeatedly recognized for its quality and innovation in the universal
expositions now being organized in various parts of the world. The finest artists migrated
to Limoges to practice their art on the fine white porcelain now being produced to
international acclaim. Limoges transitioned almost seamlessly from the art nouveau period
into art deco in the 1920s, and many fine works continue to be produced to this day.