- How can you tell if a Chinese vase is antique?
- How do you identify Chinese porcelain marks?
- How do I know if my porcelain is valuable?
- How to identify unmarked Chinese porcelain?
The question above are by far the most common questions I receive week in and week out. Hopefully this guide below will help answer some of your questions regarding Chinese antique porcelain.
The Chinese ceramic industry has drastically changed over the last hundred years. In the modern era, Chinese potters accept influence from a range of different cultures and nations. This makes antique Chinese porcelain a source of fascination.
Identifying Chinese porcelain is a very specialist skill set. Multiple factors must be reviewed with an expert eye. These begin with the shape of the item and conclude with the mark. Any collector of Chinese porcelain will leave the latter for last.
- Shape of the item
- Colour palette
- Decorative style
- Base and foot of the item
- Glazed finish
- Signs of ageing
- Any marks on the item
These tests will confirm the item is a genuine Chinese antique, and during which era it was made.
Item Shape – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
Chinese porcelain is believed to have originated during the Song dynasty (960–1279). Initially, only particular shapes were used for porcelain kitchenware and tableware. There may have been some very minor alterations from one dynasty to the next, but overall the shapes were borderline identical.
This is one of the major factors that determines Chinese porcelain. Put simply, these ceramics had a single use. While something used as a decoration, such as a vase, may have some minor embellishments, anything else will involve a utilitarian design.
This means that an expert will assess the shape of a porcelain object first. If it does not meet certain criteria, it will be dismissed on sight as not being a genuine Chinese antique. Some curves and angles are immediate red flags to an expert, as these shapes were not used in China during the dynasties.
Colours Used – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
If the porcelain’s shape passes the sight test, the next assessment is the colour palette used. Very particular colours and pigmentation’s were available during the production of Chinese antiques. If these pigmentation’s do not match up with design, the item will be dismissed. It is not a genuine Chinese antique.
Most ancient Chinese porcelain features blue decoration on a white base. There are many shades of blue, though. China imported different dyes at different times and had varying access to domestic shades.
An expert will be able to check the colours used on a piece of porcelain, and pair them up to the shape. This will help decide if the porcelain could have been constructed during a particular dynasty.
Decoration and Design – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
After confirming the colour is legitimate, the next step is reviewing the design on the porcelain. The decorative style used will identify the era in which the piece was constructed. Different dynasties held different standards as to what was deemed acceptable or not. The style of painting can also be assigned to a particular era.
Foot and Base – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
To an expert, peering at the bottom of porcelain is hugely relevant. This helps identify age and time that the porcelain was produced. Improvements were made over time, as the march of progress became inevitable. An expert will notice particular features that suggest an era-specific technique was used – or not. This is key to confirming authenticity.
Further reading: The Vermeer files
Glaze – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
All Chinese porcelain features a glaze. This will be pivotal to understanding the age of the item. The glaze may have been subjected to natural elements. These include the air, soil or water. The technique used for glazing also points to different time periods.
Further reading: The Vermeer files
Clay – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
Porcelain is form of clay. The technique to mixing and creating clay peaked during the 18th Century. After this period, quality started to slide. Porcelain created during the 18th Century, in particular, should not show any signs of defects.
Signs of Ageing – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
If the porcelain has passed all tests thus far, it will be reviewed for relevant signs of ageing. This will, again, revolve around identifying the technique used to create the item. A prime example is signs of kiln firing. This can be essential to confirming the period in which a piece of porcelain was constructed.
Further reading: Fake Chinese porcelain guide
Marks on the Porcelain – Antique Chinese Pottery And Porcelain Identification
The final assessment is locating marks on the porcelain. Experts in Chinese antiques understand what different marks represent – including the era they denote. These marks must match up to all previous qualities to determine to item as genuine Chinese porcelain.
Chinese Antique Valuations And Appraisals
Do you own a piece of Chinese porcelain or an oriental work of art that you would like to know more about, such as age, history and value?
Then you should really consider using our Chinese Antique Valuation Service as the last thing you want to do is risk under selling the piece due to lack of knowledge or ill gotten advice.