How to Tell Porcelain Figurines From Ceramic

Written by loi diaz
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How to Tell Porcelain Figurines From Ceramic
Ceramic figurines are generally sturdier and thicker than porcelain ones. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Differentiating porcelain figurines from ceramic ones involves the use of your senses; you only need to look, listen and feel. For aspiring collectors, there are experts with whom you can confer for documented authenticity, dollar value and history of your piece. Regardless, porcelain figurines add elegance and ambience to your room's decor, while ceramic figurines add whimsy and a modern, youthful touch. Build a dimension of nostalgia in your room through inherited porcelain figurines and transform any space into your very own.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Ceramic figurines
  • Porcelain figurines
  • Mild soap
  • Water
  • Soft cloth
  • Lamp
  • Magnifying glass (optional)

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  1. 1

    Ensure that the figurines you want to analyse are clean. Use only mild soap and water, and never scrub vigorously as this prevents scratching. Drip dry or buff dry with a soft cloth.

  2. 2

    Put each figurine against a strong white light (lamp or sunlight). Slowly pass your finger between the light and your figurine. If your figurine is made from true porcelain, your finger will create a hazy shadow behind it. With ceramic figurines, on the other hand, there will not be a shadow at all. Translucence is a key characteristic of true porcelain, particularly in bone china porcelain.

  3. 3

    Pass your finger over the figurine's surfaces. True porcelain will have a very smooth, glassy feel. Ceramic might have imperceptible bumps that your touch can distinguish better than your sight.

    How to Tell Porcelain Figurines From Ceramic
    Real porcelain has a very smooth, glassy feel. (Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  4. 4

    Tap your fingernail very lightly over the figurine's edge. True porcelain will have a musical pitch to it, much like a tiny bell. For first-timers, compare the sound of true porcelain with that of ceramic (a mug, for example); the difference in pitch is quite distinct.

    How to Tell Porcelain Figurines From Ceramic
    Porcelain and ceramic markings are usually found at the base. ( Images)
  5. 5

    Check for markings of your figurine's maker (name, year, company). Use a magnifying glass, if needed. Famous porcelain manufacturers, marks and time periods include Limoges, Sevre, Meissen, Lennox, Dresden, Lladro, Qing or Ming Dynasties, Nippon, Japan and Noritake.

Tips and warnings

  • Do a quick visual assessment. Ceramics are generally thicker and sturdier-looking than the thin, fragile look of porcelain.
  • Authenticate your collectable porcelain, if you wish, through experts at universities and museums in your area. Learn the story details behind your particular porcelain piece to add to its interest and value, whether you are selling it or passing it down the generations.
  • Display your porcelain figurine in a good, strong light to bring out its gentle glow of translucence.
  • Cracklings are a good clue of age in porcelain and can be an asset for porcelain collectors, but are not good characteristics at all in ceramic figurines.
  • Watch out for fakes. However, even a fake from your grandmother's era can still be enjoyed as a family heirloom.

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