Is That Really Antique Bone China You Are Drinking From? Antique Marks and What They Mean

Do you have rare antique bone china hiding and collecting dust at the back of your cupboards?

Everyone has plates and dishes they have owned forever and only used on occasions like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving – never knowing where they come from – or what they are worth.

Whether it’s tucked away in the attic or at the back of a display cabinet because that’s where your mother always kept it – are you interested in knowing if your plate is worth more than sentimental family value?

Show Me Your Bottom

The decorative side of the plate may be delicately hand painted, heavily detailed in gold and even dated but the very first thing to do is flip your plate over so you can see the bottom.

It was and still is customary for famous makers to stamp their unique symbol or mark on the bottom of their pieces. This symbol presents a date range of when the piece as manufactured and even the factory and location.

What you are interested in is finding a mark. Not grime or a manufacturing fault – no, the mark you are looking for is a stamp, a short hand signature that offers clues as to the maker of the piece.

If you simply see a number often called a ‘registration number’ – this has the same information and easily found in a collector’s reference guide.

It’s vital to date the piece. This depends on the registration mark.

Here is a short list of clues to help you.

  • Antique bone china dating from 1842 to 1883 has a diamond shaped mark with the letters ‘R’ and ‘D’ next to it.
  • Other letters positioned at each corner tell you the day, month, and year of manufacture. Printed marks appear on china made after 1800.
  • Royal arms and the pattern name can appear on British-made pieces after 1810.
  • “Bone China” was not used until after 1844.
  • “Royal” was introduced after 1850.
  • “Limited” or “Ltd.” Came into use after 1861.
  • “Trademark” appeared on items manufactured after 1862.

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

The pattern used on your piece can tell you a lot about it. Countless books in your local library and even on line will list patterns used by famous producers like Belleek, Bow, Wedgwood, Beswick, Bow, Carlton, Chelsea, Sylvac, Claris Cliff, Denby, Derby, Doulton, Spode and Worcester and when they were first used.

If you discover that you have been using antique bone china every day, throwing it about like a cast off, don’t despair.

There is quite a market for used antique bone china and vintage dinnerware

Spode, Wedgewood, Doulton and Worcester are well known, never go out of style and only go up in value. These companies created pieces that today are considered some of the best classic antique bone china that we know so well.

But what about other pieces such as Fiestaware, bright terracotta pottery all the rage around the 1930’s, is hunted down by highly devoted collectors, often used on a daily basis by families and not necessarily on special occasions.

Salemware is very popular with mid-century modern enthusiasts owing to the “atomic age” graphics and original sculptural elements found from the modest salt and pepper shaker to more grand pieces.

These may not fall into the antique bone china category yet but they will before too long.

Go into your kitchen, display cabinet and even your shed or garage because your most inconspicuous objects may be worth untold dollars in today’s competitive collectibles market.

A quick trip to the library or online will keep you well informed, and help you learn about those hidden treasures you’ve been living with all these years.

If you love collecting, buying or selling antiques then you need to build you knowledge about antique bone china because the more you learn – the more you will know exactly what you like and why you enjoy them so much.

There are so many different styles, periods and fashions you can collect. To learn more please visit for more information on the wonderful antique world.