Your Guide to Identifying Pottery and Porcelain Marks
In many ways, every piece of pottery or porcelain is unique. The items could be made by the same artist or company but will still have their own individuality. "The quality of a piece and its composition are the main ways that collectors identify the creator of a work of pottery or porcelain," explains Stuart Slavid, senior vice president of European Decorative Arts and Silver for Skinner Inc, an auction house for fine art and antiques. "The mark is secondary and generally confirmation."
The marks often depend on the country of origin, as well as the time period. "Marks can also date the piece," Slavid says. Wedgwood, for example, has been around since the late 1700s and the brand marks have undergone variations over the centuries. So, brand marks go a long way in identifying the creator and the era in which the piece was made.
How to Identify a Mark
If the piece of pottery or porcelain you have has a mark on it, you can identify it in several ways. Slavid recommends that you head to the library and look for books on the mark. "But you do need to know the country of origin," he says. "A book on English china marks won't help you find anything about a German pottery mark." But what if you have no idea where the work came from? You might have to do some extra digging so that you know where to start with your search.
You can hire a specialist to help you identify the mark. Specialists are available at auction houses or through appraisal services. If one is nearby, you can set up an appointment to bring the piece with you for an in-person assessment. But some places will accept an online consultation if you send in clear digital photographs of the pottery and its mark. Do your research on any company or specialist that you want to work with. The specialist will be able to identify a piece of pottery by its materials and design, as well as evaluate the mark to get an idea of where it came from, who made it, and when it was made.
Another option is to search online for similar marks. While this may not always produce an accurate identification of your pottery, you can use it as a starting point for further research into the mark on your pottery or porcelain piece. Online sources don't always have all of the information you need for identification, or their resources only date so far back. This is where books about pottery marks will come in handy. If you found a copy of China Marks and Pottery Marks by Gilman Collamore & Co (circa 1900), for example, you would have access to first-hand sources of many marks that would otherwise be lost to time. Here, a sampling of common marks in pottery:
This English brand featured a crown and "ADAMS" written in all capitals within a circle that contained more information about the company. Adams pottery was actually a collection that came from three different relatives, all named William Adams, whose production dates often overlapped.
The marks for Wedgwood depend on when it was made. Early marks from the 1700s just featured the potter's name (sometimes in his own handwriting), while later marks were more elaborate with images like a woman's head or a ceramic vase. Some items have a special three-letter code that identifies the year, and pieces after 1891 may also have the word "ENGLAND" impressed into the pottery.
B & H Limoges
This delicate porcelain is made from elements only found in Limoges, France. The Limoges Gout de Ville mark features two circles with a crown and the word "Limoges" in the center. The words "Gout de Ville" are in the outer circle. The Limoges Meissna Mark has the words "Meissna Limoges France V-10" in pretty golden script.
This American-made pottery had its start in the early 1900s in Buffalo, New York. The American Bison is prominent in the mark throughout its various renditions by the brand. It later came to be called Buffalo China and was acquired by Oneida before the brand was shuttered in 2013.