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How to Date Antique and Collectible Porcelain

By Ruth Kelly of Amunįtegui Art & Antiques

Updated August 15, 2013
One of the fascinating things about collecting porcelain is getting it home, taking out a magnifying glass and deciphering the marks on its underside. Marks, numbers and letters hold the clue to the date of manufacture, sometimes down to the exact year a piece was made. Some marks can even tell you the name of the artists who modeled and painted a specific porcelain. Following are three examples of how this is done:

Royal Worcester Hadley Vase - 1909, England:
The letter H on the underside of this vase indicates that this is a Hadley design. James Hadley was the principal modeler of Royal Worcester and considered to be the finest ceramic modeler of the 19th century. His softly painted roses later became known as Hadley Roses by Royal Worcester collectors. In 1875 he set up his own modeling studio and Royal Worcester continued to absorb most of his output. In 1905, after Hadley's death, Royal Worcester purchased his factory including the transfer of all its molds, designs and workforce. Production of Hadley's designs continued, with a letter H added to the shape design number. Such is the mark on this vase: an "H" preceding the shape number 212. The hand-written number below the line, 1054, is the color coding. The year of manufacture is determined by the number of dots surrounding the words "Royal Worcester England." Royal Worcester pieces were dated in this way after 1891 and each dot represented an additional year. This vase has 18 dots so it must have been made in 1909 (1891 + 18 = 1909).

Royal Copenhagen Siamese Cat Figurine - 1957, Denmark:
This porcelain Siamese cat has the Royal Copenhagen mark applied since 1923: a Crown and Royal Copenhagen Denmark in green and three blue wave marks (which represent Denmark's three straits). From 1935 on a green dot was placed over or under one of the letters of the factory name. Each time the dot moves right to the next letter it represents an additional year. If you have a Royal Copenhagen porcelain from this period (1935 to 1984) you can easily identify the exact year the piece was made. From 1935 to 1949 the dot appears above one of the letters of Royal Copenhagen. From 1950 to 1984 the dot appears below one of the letters of Royal Denmark Copenhagen. In the case of the Siamese cat figure described above, the dot appears under the letter "N" in Denmark which means that the piece was made in 1957.

Royal Delft (De Porceleyne Fles) Vase - 1968, Holland:
This vase has the factory mark of De Porcelain Fles, the best known and most respected Delft factory in the Netherlands, founded in 1635. It is also known as Royal Delft since 1919, when it received a Royal warrant in appreciation for the quality of its products. This vase bears the makers mark used since 1876: JT (which stands for Joust Theft) with the word Delft underneath; the date code (C.M. which stands for 1968), the artist's initials (N d G which corresponds to Nico de Graf, an artist who has worked at Royal Delft since 1963 until now) and the style number (825). Ironically, it is those pieces that do not say Royal (represented by either the word or a crown) which are authentic Royal Delft. If you have a post 1879 Royal Delft porcelain you can identify its age of manufacture by the letters of the alphabet printed on its underside and the following key: 1879 to 1904: A to Z; 1905 to 1930: AA to AZ; 1931 to 1955: BA to BZ; 1956 to 1980: CA to CZ; 1981 to 2006: DA to DZ.

We invite you to see the porcelains marks described above and much more in our shop: Amunátegui Art & Antiques

The above article is courtesy of Ruth Kelly of Amunátegui Art & Antiques and originally appeared in the Ruby Lane Past Times newsletter.

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