Since its’ founding in 1759, the English manufacturer Wedgwood has made everything from china, vases, cigar holders, crocks, jewelry, basins, and more. Materials used range from earthenware, basalt, china, majolica, and lusterware. Due to the high quality and great variety, Wedgwood items have become highly collectible across the world.
The founder of the company, which is still in production today, was Josiah Wedgwood.
Collecting Wedgwood Jasperware
One of the most well-known pieces of Wedgwood is known as jasperware. If you know what a cameo looks like, it is similar in appearance yet is larger and made into china, jewelry, and more. It is made from a mixture of stoneware clays and barium sulfate which is fired and made into any color.
The oldest jasper items are by far the most collectible of all Wedgwood products. Pieces made in the 18th century and early 19th century is the most valuable. They are very, very rare, but have known to show up in estates everywhere. Most people do not realize their value and these items are overlooked.
Wedgwood marked their items on the bottom and changed them from time to time. That is good news for a collector.
Knowing a Wedgwood mark identifies its age and helps to estimate its value. Early ones just had the name Wedgwood but later ones included symbols.
If you are interested in learning the ages or symbols, there are various places online or in books that show them.
Wedgwood also made some limited edition pieces that of course are rare and valuable. Some limited pieces were made for queens and special occasions.
Others are limited as they did not sell well and were discontinued early.
For instance, terra-cotta-colored jasper items were produced from 1957-59. They did not sell well and were tried again in 1971. Both times, sales faltered and the items were discontinued.
Crimson and dark olive green jasper were made from1910-1928 and discontinued as the colors bled. Blue is the most common color of jasperware.
Collecting Wedgwood Queens Ware
Queens’s ware made from1858-1875 is also very rare. It was made for British nobility including Queen Charlotte. Each was hand-painted and embossed. It took a long time in the making.
Some other rare pieces include fine bone china pieces called Fairyland luster, as well as odd pieces such as bookends and knobs.
Collecting Wedgwood Black Basalt
Another major innovation by Wedgwood was Black Basalt. It was developed in 1768 and was fine black porcelain. It was smooth and had a purplish shine to its black finish.
Although Wedgwood still exists it did recently merge with fine crystal maker Waterford. Other items made by Wedgwood include Christmas ornaments, annual plates, commemorative items, tourist trinkets, figurines, pitchers, art pieces and the list can go on and on.
If you check out such places as eBay or Yahoo! you may find some Wedgwood selling for thousands of dollars. One seller recently asked $7,500 for an Antique French Gilt Bronze, Marble & Wedgwood Clock. A large Wedgwood dipped vase was at a $6,500 price tag.
A fairyland luster bowl was also for sale at $4,300. All are quite rare.
There are a variety of books available for reading to learn more about Wedgwood. I recommend the book by Michael Herman – Wedgwood Jasper: Classics, Rarities, and Oddities or the Wedgwood: A Story of Creation and Innovation by Gaye Blake-Roberts and Alice Rawsthorn
BRIEF HISTORY OF JOSIAH WEDGWOOD
Josiah Wedgwood was born on July 12, 1730. He was the twelfth son of a potter, Thomas Wedgwood.
Raised by a mother who wanted her children to have a good education, Josiah walked 7 miles to school from ages 6-9.
Josiah wanted to provide for his family when his father died in 1739. So at the age of 9, he quit school to become an apprentice to his older brother Thomas.
At the age of 12, Josiah was struck with smallpox. He was confined to a bed for months. He took this time to study and experiment. After his recovery, he was left with a weak knee. This left him unable to operate a traditional potter’s wheel. So, he decided to become skilled at modeling pottery.
In his early 20’s, he met English potter Thomas Whieldon. Together the two practiced pottery using a variety of glazes, forms, and colors. On May 1, 1759, he began the company, Wedgwood.
In January 1764, Josiah married Sarah Wedgwood, a distant cousin. He had 8 children and was the grandfather of Charles Darwin. He died on January 3, 1975.