How to Identify Majolica

Written by james clark
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Majolica is a type of pottery made popular in England in the 19th century, in recognition of pottery made in Italy during the Renaissance. The term is now used to describe ceramic pottery with characteristically moulded surfaces and some type of glazed pattern overlay, done in tin or lead. The name majolica refers to Majorca, the island in Spain from which it was exported into Italy. Majolica can be found in the form of plates, vases, teacups, saucers, figurines, teapots and statues large and small. They range in price from a few dollars to several thousand, depending on the collectable nature of the piece and the condition.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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    How to Identify Majolica

  1. 1

    There is a lot of fake majolica in existence. It is fine to buy fake majolica for decorative purposes, but the key is to never overpay for any piece. Only pay a price you are happy with, whether the item is genuine majolica or not.

  2. 2

    Since genuine majolica dates to the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, it is so rare as to be unavailable for purchase. The 19th century pottery created in England is now considered authentic majolica, and the "fake" majolica consists of cheaper pieces mass produced in countries like China. Authentic 19th century majolica has subtle colours and original patterns and is hand glazed. Inauthentic majolica uses gaudy, bright colours, and the same pattern is often repeated over and over again. (This is a clear sign of mass production.) The first step in collecting majolica is to know the difference between the gaudy, mass-produced pieces made in China and the authentic 19th century Victorian England pieces,which are handmade.

  3. 3

    If you're happy with your piece aesthetically then it doesn't matter if it is from the 19th or the 21st century, but the price of the piece should always reflect the value. An authentic majolica piece will be worth more and is therefore priced higher. A collector should be able to distinguish the difference between an antique and a modern piece and should never be fooled into overpaying for something of substantially less value.

  4. 4

    There are many books available to help you decipher the difference between authentic majolica and the machine-made modern stuff. One of the reference standards is Warman's Majolica: Identification and Price Guide, which covers the field comprehensively, including antiques and rare pieces. Another great title to peruse is Majolica: A Complete History and Illustrated Survey by Marilyn Karmason.

Tips and warnings

  • Spend time looking through antique pottery books at your local bookseller, and look at various pieces for sale online and on auction sites to compare with the pieces you are interested in buying.
  • Be sure to note the condition of the piece you are interested in purchasing. Condition is the number-one factor in determining value. Look closely to ensure there have not been any cracks or chips, repainting or glazing. If there has been a repair, be sure to factor that into the value so that you are given a fair price for your piece.
  • Books on majolica are available for online, but before you shell out the cash, see if your local library has a title or two.

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