As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, November, 2005  

Chinese export blue and white Canton platter. Mid-19th century. Courtesy-James Julia Auctions, Fairfield, ME

You’ve seen it hundreds of times at antique shows and shops, and may even collect it. But, perhaps what you don’t know is that blue and white, and other colors of Chinese export porcelain has never stopped being reproduced, since it was first made in the 16th century. By the late 18th century to around 1835 huge dinner services were literally mass produced. Of course, over the years, many pieces were broken. Now, when even a simple blue and white platter, labeled “19th century” comes to auction it can sell for $2,000 or more.

Several years ago a sunken vessel , loaded with export porcelain , was salvaged, and came to market, stimulating interest, and raising prices.

Some of the most interesting pieces were made for the East Indian and Turkish markets. Among the earliest known examples are a blue and white wine bottle made for the Turkish mjarket(1510-30) and a Chinese Imari teabowl and saucer(1690-1715). Chinese Export porcelain is a hard paste porcelain that was made and decorated in China, not only for various markets, including America, Sweden and Japan, but private individuals. Known as “Armorial”, many of these pieces had the owner’s coat-of-arms, when done for royalty.

Madame de Pompadour had a dinner service made in a combination of colors and a floral spray.

The most popular was the Canton style with Chinese subjects in blue and white. For years it was mislabeled as “Oriental Lowestoft.” Legend was that the porcelain was fired in China, but painted in Lowestoft, England. To this day people who collected in the 1930s and 40s still refer to Canton pieces as “Lowestoft.” If you see any books on Chinese porcelain, printed from the 20s to the 40s, you’ll find that description. Isn’t it interesting what a few decades of serious research can do?

CLUES: You have a lot to learn before either spending too much, or over pricing pieces you may have inherited. Familiarize yourself with the weight, colors and many categories of Chinese Exports. Auction catalogs, found in library references are a good source. The authentic 18th and early 19th century pieces will have a fine, bell-like ring when twanged. They are rather heavy and some collectors say they are cold to the touch. Be suspicious if you are offered what appears to be a Chinese Export piece with a square, pseudo-Chinese mark in red, with a running “S” beside it. Or, a single, wiggly mark that isn’t Chinese or anything at all. This was the way French copies, Emille Samson marked his fakes. True Chinese Export piece never had any factory or other marks on the back.

Of course, you could collect Samson pieces. They keep going up in value. In the 18th century the Chinese copied the Japanese Imari colors of iron-red, blue, gold and brown. Since neither Japanese Imari and Chinese Imari had no signatures they can be confusing. However, the subjects used for the Chinese Imari were not stylized patterns but Western subjects.

Adding to the confusion are the Chinese export figures done in the late 18th to early 19th century. Animals and people closely resemble English figures of the period . But, without maker’s marks.

A wide variety of objects from wall sconces to decorative panels, all with European subjects were made.

If you plan to sell inherited pieces, spend the money to hire an appraiser specializing in Chinese export. When buying, ask the seller lots of questions. Better yet study the many reference books. Ask the auction house how they know the pieces are what they say. Nobody is an expert on everything.

If you have any questions, you can Email us at antshoppe@aol.com

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