How to identify Staffordshire pottery

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How to identify Staffordshire pottery
Josiah Wedgwood & Sons developed their hallmark Jasper stoneware with bas-relief decoration in the 18th century. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Staffordshire pottery is a collective term for ceramics and porcelain produced in the Potteries region of the English Midlands. Traditionally, the Potteries centred on the towns of Stoke, Tunstall, Longton, Burslem, Fenton and Hanley. The late 19th century British author Arnold Bennett wrote extensively about life in these “six towns” and their pottery industries. The raw material for pottery - clay - and the energy source for kilns- coal - have been mined in Potteries since the 14th century. By the 17th century, the region was the centre of English pottery manufacture.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Turn the pottery article in question on its base and examine the backstamp. Look up the manufacturer’s mark in a reference book if you are certain of the name. Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, Spode, Twyford, Burleigh and Minton are some of the most famous names.

  2. 2

    Look up the registration number. Pottery companies started this numbering system in 1884 to prevent the copying of their designs. The Public Record Office in Kew, southwest London, holds details of these registrations. Markings such as “Made in England” or “Genuine Staffordshire” indicate a 20th century manufacture. Scratch marks on the back may indicate the removal of a modern manufacturer’s mark to make the article appear antique.

  3. 3

    Recognise the colour on the design. There is a limited range of colours in genuine Staffordshire pottery. These are neither too pale nor too gaudy. Cobalt blue blotches in a lustrous glaze indicate a genuine article. Bright gilt rims on tableware may indicate a fake. Staffordshire potters often painted some pottery using their fingers dipped in paint. Blotchy fingerprints on a picture of an animal usually are a good sign of authenticity.

  4. 4

    Feel the article for weight and texture. If the base or the rim of the article has a chalky feel, it is probably a fake. Excessive weight or lightness indicates that the article could be a fake.

  5. 5

    Check the material of the article in a reference book. Modern manufacturers can make porcelain fakes of a pottery original. There was no mass production of Staffordshire pottery. If a Staffordshire item is offered in identical copies, it is probably a fake.

Tips and warnings

  • No marking on the back of a piece of pottery may indicate that it could be extremely old and valuable rather than a fake.
  • Check the prices of Staffordshire articles from recent sales. Heavy over-pricing or under-pricing may indicate that the article on sale is not genuine.

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