In this post, we will tackle the question of, Is my china hand painted? This is a key item in determining value, especially if the design is complex. So how do we tell? This may seem like an easy question, but it can be tricky.
First, a little bit of history. All porcelain and china was hand painted to start with – a very time consuming process. Early in the 1820s, a process was developed in Staffordshire England, the great porcelain and pottery up of England, that was called transferware. This involved making a print from a copper plate and taking this print and applying it to the pottery or porcelain. By the 1850s, this process had been refined to such a level, that you really could not tell the difference in most cases. By the late 1800s most countries had migrated to this form of decoration. This lowered costs tremendously. However, most companies did keep developing some patterns with hand painting or finishing off transferware patterns with hand painted accents and touch up to keep the level of quality. This was very common in France where many of the Limoges manufactures did not adopt transferware decoration as soon as others.
To the naked eye, you cannot always tell the difference between hand painted and transferware. In some cases, you can see brush strokes in the decoration. You may need a loupe or magnifying glass to look at the decoration. If you see pixelation or small dots, or if all the edges are uniform, then it is a transferware decoration. An example from Japan with a Rococo Design from a Cabinet Plate is shown left. It is still beautiful, and with many good producers of porcelain, they put extensive work into the design to make ti as realistic as possible.
High quality hand painting, like art, can be deceiving, as it can look like a photograph. Here is a fine example from the turn of century. You can check other more detailed photos at our shop for this item from Antique Hadley Worcestor Hand Painted Rose Vase. One of the close ups of the painting still looks like a photograph, which just shows the talent of the artist.
In the next article we will discuss condition,
For all of the articles in this series, What is my china worth?, check out the links below.
Part 1 – What is my China worth – Introduction
Part 2 – What is my china worth – How old is it?
Part 3 – What is my china worth – Is it hand painted?
Part 4 – What is my china worth – Condition
Part 5 – What is my china worth – Pattern and decoration