So you've inherited a crate full of Grandma Victoria's dinnerware, but you haven't a clue whether it's Wedgewood or Spode, Royal Doulton or Beleek. Time to put on your detective cap and do a little investigating. Happily, there are plenty of resources to guide your efforts and you might find---at the end of your journey---that you're in possession of heirloom treasures that will not only fill your breakfront with lovely antiques but leave behind your own legacy for your children.
Things You'll Need
- China samples
- Textbook on English china
- Certified appraiser
- Internet connection
- Plane tickets
Turn over samples of the china to see if there's a back stamp fired into one of the cups, plates or serving dishes in the collection. Match up the remainder of the pieces, and you'll be able to identify your entire collection. Nail down the country of origin even if the brand name of the china is missing by locating any of these identifiers: Made in England, Made in Ireland, Made in the U.K. or Made in Great Britain (GB).
Locate a comprehensive book on the history of English china or a coffee-table style book devoted to showcasing a variety of early English dinnerware patterns and styles. Browse the pages to match up colors, designs and patterns. Identify the exact pattern or find a similar one that closely approximates the rim or plate design to obtain clues to the original manufacturer.
Check out the colors and unique features of the high-profile china companies in the British Isles to help solve your mystery. Suspect Wedgewood if plates, cups and serving pieces are colored the brand's trademark blue (called jasper stone or jasperware) or if there are blue or white bas-relief patterns on jasperware backgrounds.
Identify Beleek by its gold and green patterns reflective of this award-winning Irish design studio. Research other distinguishing clues to help with your mission.
Consult with a china pattern authority. Find a local expert in your area and visit their shop with photographs or samples of the china. Visit the Appraisers Association of America to find an authorized and certified local dealer. Prepare for the appraisal by photographing samples of your china from all angles. Expect to pay a fee for the appraisal from companies like Old China Patterns Limited.
Verify your china's country of origin by seeking out replacement pieces to make sure your dinnerware is from England. Search websites of businesses devoted to filling in china libraries for collectors who have broken or lost pieces, like Replacements, Ltd.
Head for England at the first opportunity. You won't find a better way to track down the origin of your china pattern than by heading to the motherland. Bring plenty of photos of the pieces shot from a variety of angles to help with your search. Tour antique shops throughout the U.K. to learn more about your inherited collection than you might have had you just sat home with a book and a cup of tea.
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