Bottom of pottery figurines

by Dr. Lori Verderame

There are many people who can’t tell when a ceramic was made. It isn’t easy to do. While I have appraised and authenticated pieces of pottery dating as far back as the era of the ancient Egyptians, the classical Greeks, and the Pre-Columbians, knowing how old a piece of pottery is just by looking at it takes lots of expertise and even more practice. Very old pieces are not marked, stamped or numbered like 20th Century pieces. However, there are more contemporary pieces that have lots of identifying information if you know how to tell what that information means. Here are some tips on how to understand pottery marks and how to date a piece of pottery from the 1900s. If your piece can’t be dated using the tips below, it might be from the 1800s. Read my tips on how to date pottery pieces from the 1800s.

What to Look For

Here are some of the key marks to look for on pottery that was made after 1900:

Marks on Figurines

The term “patented” can regularly be found on pottery pieces made after 1900. Brand name ceramics made in the 20th Century like Lladro and Hutschenreuther pieces use the patented marking.

The French word “depose” meaning registered was used on French-made ceramics beginning in the early years of the 1900s. Some pieces of Limoges porcelain have the “depose” mark.

The phrase “made in” followed by the name of a country of origin was introduced and widely used after 1900. For instance, pieces of Van Briggle pottery have a variety of marks.

The phrase “bone china” was found on pottery pieces starting after 1915. So if you see this phrase on a piece of pottery, that piece had to be made after 1915.

Instructional phrases like “detergent proof” or “dishwasher proof” can be found on certain types of ceramics after 1930.

Some pottery was marked with the term “oven proof” which was a mark that was introduced after 1930.

The term “craze proof” which meant that the piece would resist forming that unsightly crackle pattern of damage from temperature and humidity changes. This was used, rarely, after 1930.

Glidden pottery fish

The term “microwave proof” was marked on the underside of certain pieces of pottery following the invention and widespread use of the microwave oven in homes in the late 1960s. While the microwave oven was invented in 1946 with technology derived from World War II, microwave ovens used in consumer kitchens were not widely used until 1967. Thus, the pottery mark “microwave proof” was not found on pottery until after 1967.

The country marks on pottery relate to historic events of the 1900s. For instance, the country name of “West Germany” was marked on pottery beginning after 1945 thus reflecting changes on the geo-political world map after the end of World War II. And, if follows that the country mark of “East Germany” was used from 1949 until 1990.

Other identifying country marks such as “made in Occupied Japan” were used on pottery made during the period of the occupation of Japan after World War II from 1945 to 1952.

Of course, these are not the only clues to dating pottery and you have to remember that people will try to trick you with forged marks. There is much more to it than that but these tips may help you get an idea when your piece was made. Value relates directly to quality, manufacturer, age, market interest and other factors which I can help you determine. Even pieces from the 1900s and early 2000s can be very, very valuable whether they are marked or unmarked. If you didn’t find your clue here, your piece might be from the 1800s. Read my tips to date pieces from the 1800s.

If you don’t know how old your piece is or if your piece has no marks or only has unknown marks or numbers, I can help.

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