Today, porcelain is a common product but the good quality collectible items from the famous manufactories or made by artists are still quite expensive. The most valuable are in the antique porcelain pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries, made for royal courts. 2016 marks one of the records for antique porcelain to be sold. A Chinese imperial yangcai revolving phoenix vase from the 18th century sold for a staggering US$41.6m at an auction in Beijing. But it is not only ancient ceramics that holds the value. If you own a studio made ceramics designed by modern or contemporary artist or a bowl, figurine, pot or other dish of a exquisite quality, you can be sure that it will be worth quite a lot. Complete tea or dinner services by famous manufacturers like Meissen, Sèvres or designers such as Marimekko are also sought by collectors and can hold high values during auctions.
Today the ceramic items are widely available, no matter if it is a rustic bowl made of terracotta or a porcelain dinner service. The value of the ceramic items depends on their origin, age, maker or a brand and quality. Ancient ceramics, for example Greek pottery, Italian renaissance majolica platters, English bone china plates or imperial Chinese porcelain cups with blue and white decorations can be worth thousands of dollars and sell for many more during the right auction. There is quite a market for collectible American Arts and Crafts Pottery or from such makers as Arequipa Art Pottery, or Susan Frackelton Art Pottery. European art nouveau artists also rediscovered and experimented with ceramics during the early 20th century, creating very interesting nature inspired vases and other dishes. Tterracotta plates or sculptures designed by Pablo Picasso or Juan Miró are highly collectible. Single plate from early editions made by Picasso in collaboration with Madoura pottery studio can be with as much as over US$60 000.
One of the biggest areas of ceramics are porcelain dolls. They became popular already during the 18th century and became popular children's toys. Soon they also became quite popular with the collectors, who were looking for the models in intricate costumes and realistically looking hair. Especially the dolls produced before 1930 are quite valuable and the quality dolls made and marked by German manufacturers such as Meissen or KPM Berlin are very popular during auctions. The most expensive porcelain doll ever sold was a porcelain bisque doll (non-glazed surface) made in 1916 by by French sculptor Albert Marque for the Parisian couturier Jeanne Margaine-LaCroix. It was purchased by a private collector for $300,000 in 2014.
If you'd like to get a ceramics and porcelain appraisal from our online specialist, simply upload a photograph and tell us any other details you know about the item. Commonly utilised to create functional objects for daily use, the category of ceramics and porcelain can include bowls, plates, teapots, kitchenware sets, vases, and figurines. Whether it’s your grandmother’s bone china tea set or an earthenware pot that you found at a car boot sale, our expert will provide you with a description of your item, including his views on origin, date, and value.
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The term ceramic covers a vast range of wares made of various types of clayes, including porcelain, earthenware, soft paste, pottery, terracotta, stoneware, bone china, majolica and Delftware. While many of those wares were produced by humans already as early as 28000 BC in various civilizations, some of them were invented much later.
While it is thought that porcelain was first invented in China during the reign of the Tang dynasty (618–907), the new discoveries suggest that it was already produced in Japan several hundreds years earlier. Porcelain is made of a special type of clay, so called kaolin, which gives the porcelain a lustrous milky appearance and translucency when looked at under the light. Although so fragile, kaolin clay is extremely strong, as its structure is much less porous than other clays after firing in the kiln.
For centuries, and especially in the West, asian porcelain was thought to be such a luxurious product it was often referred to as “white gold”, and often it was much more expensive than the precious metal itself. For China and Japan, porcelain trade with the West was one of the most prosperous, and over the years the Asian porcelain manufacturers were offering the porcelain products made especially for the western market. The technology of producing porcelain was held top secret.
Porcelain was finally discovered in Europe about 1707 at the Meissen factory in Saxony by a German alchemists Johann Friedrich Böttger and Ehrenfried Walter von Tschirnhaus and since then the recipe spread to other manufactories like Sèvres, Limoges and Du Paquier in France, Doccia in Italy or Nympenburg in Germany.
After having worked for Phillips for many years, our ceramics and porcelain expert joined Sotheby’s where he valued ceramics and glass from numerous famous collections and country houses. Active in London and in the regions, he is still involved in major appraisals in England and on the continent. His passion for the ceramics subject has made him one of the most knowledgeable and focused experts within this field.