How to Identify Old German Porcelain

Written by loi diaz
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How to Identify Old German Porcelain
Old German porcelain can include dolls, steins and cups and saucers. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Old German porcelain is particularly popular among collectors in such forms as steins (beer mugs with covered lids), porcelain dolls and figurines, cup-and-saucer sets, plates, bowls and snuffboxes. Groupings of a collection of old German porcelain elevate an elegant room to a private art gallery, particularly if they are valuable pieces. They are a natural complement to any of the traditional European-design styles like Baroque, Old World and Gothic. Their histories make for great conversation pieces. Porcelain's translucence, delicacy and artistry enhance the stately grace of any formal room. Old German porcelain is, indeed, well worth the investment in time, money and effort.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Lamp with strong lighting
  • Magnifying glass
  • Camera
  • Notebook

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Identify the object as porcelain. It should have a very smooth, glassy feel. Hold it against the light to see if it glows gently, showing off its translucent quality. Look for a delicate and fragile-looking form and shape with details that are finely executed. For example, grey eyes are more valuable in dolls than blue and brown eyes.

    How to Identify Old German Porcelain
    Doll with exquisitely detailed violin. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Take note of its manufacturer's markings usually found at the base of the porcelain piece. Dolls may have markings on other body parts as a doll might only have a porcelain head and arms. Some famous brands include Meissen, Dresden, Hutschenreuther, Unterweissbach, Rosenthal, Hummel and Ruscha.

    How to Identify Old German Porcelain
    Dolls might only have a porcelain head and arms. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Consider its shape. Unusual shapes became particularly dominant in German porcelain after World War II.

  4. 4

    Research online and in the library to confirm the authenticity of the manufacturer's markings.

    How to Identify Old German Porcelain
    Markings and trademarks usually can be found at the base of your piece. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  5. 5

    Document your German porcelain's authenticity by consulting reliable sources and experts at museums and universities.

    How to Identify Old German Porcelain
    Use bubble wrap when transporting your porcelain. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Tips and warnings

  • Backlighting and lights inside your display cabinet are great ways to show off your antique German porcelain's translucence. This also works for pieces placed beside a lamp or candles.
  • Bone china becomes even more translucent over time.
  • Insure your valuable old German porcelain pieces and include them in your will.
  • Beware of forgeries. Authenticity alone can determine price. Manufacturers' markings can evolve, making identifying genuine markings even trickier. Consult an expert, if needed.
  • Produce only a photo of your old German porcelain for any initial consultations. It might prove too valuable to take an original piece to an appraiser.
  • Keep valuable old German porcelain out of reach of children.
  • Handle with care. Chipped pieces reduce your antique's value. Abrasions reduce translucence and the smooth, glassy texture of your porcelain.

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