by Dr. Lori Verderame
Josiah Spode (1733-1797) established his pottery company in Stoke-on-Trent in 1770. Spode developed some of the finest quality English bone china in existence and introduced his superior under glaze transferware printing process in order to enhance these bone china pieces in the early 1780s.
Spode was produced in a variety of types, patterns, and styles. Spode is varied. There is traditional bone china, earthenware including pearlware with its distinctive blue glaze and creamware with its typically light beige tone. Spode also produces stoneware pieces including basalt and jasperware (like Wedgwood). Registered Spode marks (and there are several different ones) date back to the early 1780s.
History of Spode
While Staffordshire pottery manufacturers including Spode represented the pinnacle of ceramic production, the blue underglaze transfer decorative process became the gold standard and it was made famous by Spode. The longstanding and highly desirable blue/white Spode dinnerware pieces decorated with engraved images of Italian vista scenes and other popular subjects brought Spode worldwide exposure and fame. Many people associate the Spode name with the famous Blue Willow pattern which was first introduced in the mid 1780s. While other pottery manufacturers tried various recipes for making its ceramic body, Spode stuck to the traditional method of using finely ground bone ash, kaolin, and china stone for its ceramic bodies. Spode, in essence, produced a new type of porcelain called bone china.
Unexpectedly, Josiah Spode died in 1797 and his son, also Josiah II, continued the business and shortly thereafter partnered with William Copeland to form the firm of Copeland Spode.
By 1806, Spode was the largest pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent and had an appointment of the Prince Regent of Wales–a prestigious honor–to produce ceramics for the royals. Spode ceramics were widely collected by wealthy art collectors, arbiters of fine taste, heads of state, celebrities and others who desire high quality dinnerware and decorative objects. Spode pieces and rare pattern and design-books are on display in major museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and Winterthur.
Today, on the market, vintage and antiques Spode pieces attract both new and seasoned collectors alike. From individual plates that can command up $150 each if you have the right plate to coveted antique blue/white sets from the 18th and early 19th Centuries that regularly attract values into the $10,000 to $100,000 range. Again, it will depend on many factors to determine a value in that range. Spode remains a highly attractive and sought after name in the collectibles realm for fine dinnerware.
The Spode and Copeland Spode names were used for centuries to highlight quality items. In 2009, the Portmeirion Group acquired Spode and the firm remains in Stoke-on-Trent.
What to Look For
When collecting antique Spode, look for pieces in good condition; no cracks, chips, glaze slips, or damage.
There are several different Spode and Copeland Spode marks and stamps which relate directly to the date of manufacture. Understandiing pottery marks will help you to select your best pieces.
Spode pieces adorned with the traditional blue/white under glaze transferware printing process are most desirable including the Willow pattern which was introduced in the 1790s and revived in the 1930s.
Spode ceramics, like many valuable Staffordshire pottery pieces, are produced in a variety of body types, styles, patterns, and ceramic formulas. These quality ceramics hold their value well and increase in value with care over time as collectibles.
The Spode Christmas Tree pattern remains one of the most popular collectibles in the Spode line and in the history of the ceramics. Others have tried to replicate its popularity but the quality and the stunning detail of the decoration on each plate remains unmatched to this day.
Collect antique and vintage Spode in complete sets whenever possible. Sets will retain their value and display beautifully over time.
Get an online appraisal of your Spode dinnerware or ceramics from Dr. Lori.