Understanding Pottery Marks
Watch Dr. Lori show you secrets to read all pottery marks. Example marks include Belleek, Wedgwood, Blue Ridge, Noritake, Lenox, and Goebel.
by Dr. Lori Verderame
There is a lot to know when it comes to the markings on pieces of pottery. There are as many pottery marks (Royal Doulton green mark shown below) as there are pottery figurines, pottery styles, pottery makers and manufacturers, pottery designers, pottery artisans, etc. There are marks that indicate a specific mold called a mold number. These numbers often look like dates such as 1953 or 1789. It is rare that a piece of pottery will have a date stamped or embossed into its base. If a number looks like a date or a year, it is most likely a mold number. The mold number lets the maker know which mold to use to replicate the form of that figurine, vessel, or piece.
Colors of pottery marks may help you to date your piece. Pottery marks may be used by a firm to indicate a quality standard. Hypothetically a firm may use a red mark to note the pieces made with their highest quality clay, a green mark to note pieces made with the lowest quality clay. The color of pottery marks may also demonstrate the years when a firm made particular objects. For instance, Belleek used black and green marks over the years. Lenox used black and gold marks. Some firms use blue, green, and magenta colored marks.
Variations of marks
Many manufacturers change their marks over time. For instance, the Goebel factory has at least 11 different pottery marks chronicling their history over the centuries. Pottery makers will change their marks to note an historic event such as a relocation of the factory or a milestone anniversary.
If you notice the name of a country like “Japan” or “USA” marked on the underside of a base on a piece of pottery, that mark tells the end user or collector where the piece was made. You can see an example of this as I talk about shaving mugs and their use and value. This is in keeping with import/export rules.
Once you understand how to read the language of pottery marks, you will be able to identify and evaluate the pieces in your collection.
Get an online appraisal of your pottery piece from Dr. Lori.