by Dr. Lori Verderame
Josiah Wedgwood established his pottery factory in Burslem, Staffordshire, England in 1759. Over time, his name would be synonymous with some of the highest quality ceramics in history like Royal Doulton, Minton, etc. He experimented with clay in the Staffordshire area where many other pottery firms established Staffordshire pottery as among the best made ceramics in the world.
Josiah Wedgwood was known for his famous clients, innovations in pottery production, and new techniques for ceramic decorating, designing, and patterning. He produced three significant ceramic body types: Queen’s ware in 1762, Black basalt in 1768, and Jasperware in 1774. These three types of ceramics became the focus of Wedgwood’s production in the early decades of his factory’s production.
He met a Liverpool merchant named Thomas Bentley who lent his sales expertise to Wedgwood and they established a partnership as Wedgwood moved his factory into a position of status in terms of Neoclassical ceramic art and design.
Royal Clients and Famous Artists
Wedgwood has been the royals’ choice for ceramics since Queen Charlotte (wife of King George III, 1738-1830) commissioned her first set of Queen’s ware from Wedgwood in 1765. The set the Queen Charlotte commissioned was a cream colored earthenware set which prompted the Queen to deem Josiah Wedgwood “the Potter to her Majesty.” Wedgwood pottery has been produced for Czarina Catherine the Great of Russia, President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States, the Vatican collections, and many other prestigious collections worldwide. Throughout its history, Wedgwood has been associated with major artists of the day including George Stubbs, Beatrix Potter, and Vera Wang. By 1940, Wedgwood’s factory in Barlaston, England produced a significant amount of ceramics for the world’s most distinctive tastemakers.
Among Wedgwood’s most famous ceramics is Jasperware. This highly recognizable unglazed vitreous fine stoneware has classical motifs as applied ornament. Jasperware is made in blue, green, lilac, yellow, black, and white. The Jasperware in the blue color by Wedgwood is so well known that it is often referred to as “Wedgwood blue.”
What to Look For
As with any piece of pottery, condition is paramount. Be sure there are no chips, losses, glaze skips (area where the glaze did not cover the body of the ceramic), hairline cracks, etc. Traditional blue jasperware remains very popular in the marketplace, particularly pieces with classical figures as applied slipware ornament found on the body of the piece. Large scale objects, full dinnerware sets, and pieces with intricate designs or applied slipware relief imagery applied to the body of a ceramic piece are most desirable in the antique and vintage Wedgwood market.
Marks and the Wedgwood Market
Remember, Wedgwood style pieces are not true or authentic pieces of Wedgwood. Understanding pottery marks is important and the longstanding Wedgwood mark, a straightforward embossed mark of the Wedgwood name, is found on the underside of pieces and may be faked to confuse collectors. Just because it says ‘Wedgwood’, it may not be telling you the entire story. There are many attributes of a piece of Wedgwood which aide in assessing its value. Various patterns, historic collections or sets, age of the production of a particular piece which is difficult to recognize without specific expertise, and types of decoration all impact the value of a piece or pieces of Wedgwood. Wedgwood pieces can range in value from a small piece worth several hundreds of dollars to a major work by Wedgwood worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Get an online appraisal of your Wedgwood from Dr. Lori