Oyster plate

by Dr. Lori Verderame

There are many people who can’t tell when a piece of pottery was made. I appraised a mascara jar that was so old it dated back to the lifetime of the ancient Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, circa 50 BC. Most pottery that is found today does not date back so far. Most of it is from the 1700s to the present. While I can identify an ancient piece and tell you its value, I can help you–via my tips–show you how to spot a valuable ceramic and to identify pottery marks from more recent history.

One of the easiest ways to learn about a piece of pottery is to learn how old it is. The clues to dating a piece of pottery is right under your nose–or at least, under the base of your pottery piece. You have to identify it first before you can determine its value.

What to Look For

Here is a list of some of the common phrases, terms, or words that are often marked or found on pottery. Knowing them can help you pinpoint the date of your piece from the mid 1800s to the end of the 19th Century. I also provide tips for dating pottery pieces from the 20th Century.

The word “copyright” was used on pottery after 1858. If your piece reads “copyright” on the underside of the base, then it had to be made after 1858.

The word “limited” or the abbreviation “ltd.” was used on pottery after 1860.

Oyster plate

For characteristic and highly recognizable pieces of the Dutch pottery called Delft or Delftware in its famous blue/white color scheme, the word “Delft” was marked on pieces only after 1875.

The famous diamond-shaped English registration marks with numbers and letters in the diamond form were used on pottery during the height of the Victorian era, from circa 1842-1883.

The country of origin name found on pieces of pottery such as “Germany” or “England” was introduced on ceramics from circa 1891 to 1921.

The word “Nippon” (a.k.a., Japan) was marked on Japanese wares from 1891 to 1921 in response to the McKinley Tariff Act. Nippon pottery is very popular and collectible.

There are many other clues to identifying your piece of pottery and to dating your piece with or without a mark, phrase, word, or term. Forgeries are very common and it is easy for forgers to fake a pottery mark, so make sure you know if you have the real thing. Marks can be deceiving. Makers’ marks like Staffordshire pottery, Limoges porcelains, Meissen pottery, and others vary widely as do pattern marks, mold stamps, numbers, etc. Remember, even pottery without marks can be very valuable and highly sought after in the market.

Get an online appraisal of your pottery from Dr. Lori.