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Identifying British Ceramics

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Whether you are a collector or just interested in learning more about British ceramics, there are some basic tips and techniques that can help you identify your treasures.

Check for a maker’s mark

The first thing to look for when identifying British ceramics is a maker’s mark. This is a stamp or signature on the bottom of the piece that indicates who made it. Maker’s marks can vary in style and size, but they are usually quite easy to spot. Some popular maker’s marks include Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Spode.

Look at the style and design

Another way to identify British ceramics is to look at the style and design of the piece. Different ceramics styles were popular during different time periods, so this can help you narrow down when a piece was made.

Examples: British blue and white ceramics rose to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries, angular Art Deco ceramics typify the 1920s and 30s, and chunky brightly coloured stoneware was popular in the mid 20th century.

Examine the glaze or finish

The glaze or finish on a piece can also help you identify it. Glazes can be glossy or matte, and they can come in a range of colours. Some ceramics makers used specific glazes or finishes that were typical in their work, so this can be a useful clue.

Example: Josiah Wedgwood developed a distinctive unglazed matte biscuit finish that is still used today called jasperware.

Check for specific shapes and colours

Certain ceramicists or factories were known for creating specific shapes, styles and colours. By familiarising yourself with the stylistic elements of different makers, you can begin to identify pieces more easily.

Examples: Clarice Cliff was known for her brightly coloured Art Deco ceramics, while Bernard Leach was known for his Japanese-inspired pottery.

Consider the age of the piece

Finally, it is important to consider the age of the item when trying to identify it. Some ceramics makers have been around for centuries, while others are relatively new. If you are unsure of the age of a piece, you can look for clues such as the style, the maker’s mark employed, and the condition of the ceramics. Older pieces may have signs of wear and tear or may have been repaired over the years.

Examples: Ceramic factories changed the designs of their maker’s marks over time. Historic repairs were made using metal staples not glue.

By familiarising yourself with maker’s marks, styles, glazes, and shapes, you can begin to identify pieces more easily. It may seem like a daunting task but, with a little practice, you may even be able to spot a valuable British ceramic piece that has been overlooked by others.


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