Pottery Mark Identification
If you are interested in antiques and/or aspire to buy original pottery products, you need to have a careful look at the characteristic features of pottery marks that evolved in the UK. The task is not a piece of cake. Seriously, you may get baffled when it comes to pottery mark identification UK. Fakers are all around.
Originality is obscure. Yet, pottery marks mean more than what they are although not so easily identified.
Identification of Pottery marks is, at times exasperating since fake reproductions of the marks are often misleadingly similar to the original ones.
It is common practice that the marks reflect the origin of the company through an incision into the clay, stamping, printing, painting, inscribing impressions, etc.
The use of unique symbols, letters, and numbers meaningfully mark the name of the company and the country or region of origin.
People who develop an interest in collecting pottery can find themselves in a fix to identify a piece of pottery or whether it is original or a faked reproduction.
Thanks to the advent of technology, particularly graphic designing, it has become quite easier to copy any hallmark or logo of the company and post it as original on a product.
Even an expert eye can be eluded because the reproductions are so artistically designed that they look authentic. Despite such forgeries, however, hallmarks provide a significant way forward for pottery identification.
Product manufacturers, through the marks, carry and show the legacy of the historical context with significant people, prominent places/regions, and popular events.
Moreover, there has always been a trend that manufacturers either adopted signs from other sources or borrowed from copywriters of different periods. The careful overview of the marks shows that they sometimes inscribe some patterns, their company or the potter’s name.
Pottery Marks UK
When it comes to the UK, it covers manufacturers’ choice of marks from 1100 A.D to date. From the Middle Ages to the mid of nineteenth century the marks normally embedded the regions where the manufacturers based their companies for instance Derby, Newcastle, etc.
There have been pieces of evidence that some other symbols like arrows were used during the middle-ages.
UK pottery marks have a lot to owe to East Liverpool, the ceramic center, best known as the “Crockery City” and undoubtedly, the largest producer of dinnerware, white wares, and toilet-wares for the last couple of centuries and has been the greatest challenge to American producers since locals could not easily be convinced to prefer anything over Liverpool wares.
Anyway, for pottery mark identification in the UK, one needs to understand how these marks are applied to products.
The incision has been a common and old way of pottery marks. It needed to be dealt with in a sophisticated way as a little flaw or change of hand would result in something different or maybe unrecognizable. This is one of the reasons that incised marks vary considerably as shown below:
While impressing into the soft clay, the marks had neat mechanical appearances however, if the clay shrank the marks might get changed or demolished.
Painting, like incision, also needs marks to be carefully and delicately brushed over to maintain the finishing of the mark.
Printing is also a craft handled carefully as it is transferred from engraved copper tablets and if not dealt properly then sometimes gets blurred due to fire-work or use of enamels.
Pottery Mark Identification UK
A collector is required to be acquainted with the swiftest technique to ascertain a piece of pottery or porcelain through its mark as real, but sometimes it’s unpredictable because marks are often fake and altered. Pottery marks sometimes can seem like a huge subject to deal with.
Those interested in buying or selling antiques need to research real from fake. There are various ways to do so. If you are among the ones who deal with are want to deal with antiques bearing pottery marks require to understand the symbols, numbers, and letters used over time.
During the late nineteenth century, symbols such as eagle, unicorn, and lion have been traditionally used in the UK, sometimes in combination with a coat of arms, and sometimes a shield or a heraldic escutcheon.
The inception of “trade-mark” 1875 onwards marks the date of implementation British Merchandise Marks Act to U.S base wares with the prime purpose of protecting British trademarks from any misuse or forgery.
How to identify pottery in the UK?
There are common marks in British Pottery that may help one in identification. Here is an overview:
Use of the Royal coat of arms
The factories holding the Royal Warrant can only legitimately use the Royal Arms. A Royal Warrant is awarded to a company or a factory that wins a royal trust for consecutive five years of supply.
It has been reported that some factories/warehouses use The Royal Arms who are not the Warrant holders by imitating the Arms or by designing some similar motifs within their marks. These factories, however, are the ones that are said to have some sense of value and importance.
From the 1880s to 1910s the pottery marks had been very simple only using the name of the potters in shape or the script (normally in block letters. However, they have been quite elaborate, decorative, and sophisticated in their shapes and designs.
From the 1910s to date, the pottery marks can be considered highly stylized or very plain to ensure the straightforward design of the potter’s initials. These days pottery marks are less decorative and lack artistic sophistication and embellishment compared to classic antiques.
What can help you in your Research
Most UK pottery, in general, can be identified through back stamps. There are some forgeries found in Wedgwood pieces bearing the marks of Dresden and Chelsea but one must remember that most of the manufacturers have changed their marks over the years.
Nonetheless, the identification of genuine marks may prove intriguing if you are not well informed. Be alert that Staffordshire pottery bears the marks and dates on the underside of pottery. Wedgwood pottery has been available since 1759 and recently, potters started selling it online as well.
There are several online sources available these days to ascertain the originality of pottery. Quite a good number of books are available online. Here are the suggestions for a good read to get yourself equipped with identification marks for UK pottery:
Great Books of UK Pottery Marks
Handbook Of Marks On Pottery & Porcelain
Burton, William; Hobson, R. L.Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1909
The book covers a wide range of pottery mark identification of Western porcelain including Europe and the US on the one hand and Eastern marks including Chinese and Japanese marks on the other.
It includes a couple of interesting chapters on British pottery and one on porcelain. British Pottery and Modern British Marks are two highly informative chapters included in the book.
Encyclopedia of British pottery and porcelain marks (1991)by Geoffrey A. Godden
The encyclopedia covers a detailed overview of the historical evolution of pottery marks to date. Moreover, it updates its readers on how to ascertain the originality of the marks. It particularly takes into account the modern trends in pottery marks.
Encyclopedia of Marks on American, English, and European Earthenware, Ironstone, Stoneware (1780-1980): Makers, Marks, and Patterns in Blue and White, … Ironstone (A Schiffer Book for Collectors) (1999)
by Arnold A. Kowalski
The encyclopedia covers a wide range of topics on pottery marks in the western world. It has informative content on British Pottery with thousands of marks about British pottery.