Like a signature of an artist's painting, the backstamp on English china is the symbol of pride in workmanship. The difference is that the stamp is placed on the china before the piece is finished, so that it appears under the glaze. English bone china is revered as among the world's finest. Some porcelain pieces have more than one stamp on the underside, indicating the name of the company who manufactured it and the decorator of the piece. Other markings may indicate the particular location that the piece was manufactured in or the retailer for whom the piece was made.
Look for the word "Doulton" backstamped on the underside of a piece. Royal Doulton has used many stamps in its nearly two-century history, but every piece of Royal Doulton china has the word on it. Also look for the words "Lambeth" and "Watts," which indicate partners of Royal Doulton. In the early 19th century, those words appeared on many pieces of china. "England" began being stamped on each piece as of the late 19th century for export purposes. A Royal Doulton stamp with a line through it indicates that this is a factory second.
Look for the word "Wedgewood" in the backstamp of the piece, as all authentic Wedgewood pieces will have it. Variations of the stamp occurred over time. Look for the oldest stamp mark. It depicts a pottery jug, the name Wedgewood, and after the late 1800s, the words "Made in England" were added.
Notice marks on English china that have been stamped with the Shelley name. Many of the designs of the pieces were submitted to the Patents Office and were given a registered number. The numbers are usually preceded by the letters "Rd" followed by a 4, 5, or 6 digit number. Look for an elaborate "W" for Henry Wileman on china that may have been produced between 1850 through 1910, before Shelley potteries merged with Wileman. All china with the Shelley word backstamped also has the word "England" printed somewhere in its backstamp. Examine the Shelley piece for a circled "2" stamped separately on the underside, indicating a factory second.
Notice the colour of the backstamp. During the first years of production, only cobalt blue and iron red colours could withstand firing heat, so both were popular. Early Royal Worcester backstamps are red. Royal Worcester backstamps have changed slightly throughout the years, but all have a circle with four connected script "W"s inside the circle.