Porcelain antiques are coveted for their beauty, craftsmanship and rich history. At Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, we offer consignment for antique porcelain to help you successfully sell your porcelain items.
History of Antique Porcelain Production
Porcelain is a popular ceramic material. It was first produced in China more than 2,000 years ago, where it was used to make teacups, plates and statues.
Because the clay used to make porcelain was not readily available outside of China at the time, the country closely controlled the porcelain supply to Europe, making it a rare and precious commodity.
It wasn’t until the early 1700s — when Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, a German physicist, and Johann Friedrich Böttger, a German alchemist, created a version of hard-paste porcelain — that it became available in Europe. The King of Poland, August II the Strong, established the first European hard-paste porcelain factory, Meissen, that exclusively produced the formula.
Walther von Tschirnhaus’s and Böttger’s formula remained a closely guarded secret until the publication of the book “L’art de la Porcelaine” in 1772. Soon after that, porcelain factories began popping up all over Europe.
In the centuries since, porcelain has remained a highly desirable material commonly used to create decorative arts such as tableware, tiles and jewelry.
Value of Antique Porcelain
The value of antique porcelain varies significantly based on numerous factors, such as the type of clay used, the country of origin and the manufacturer. The condition of the item is also a major point of consideration — even the smallest cracks can largely diminish the value of your piece.
If you’re thinking about consignment for your antique porcelain, appraisers will look for the following types of damage when they assess its condition:
- Crazing: Crazing refers to fine cracks in the surface layer or glaze. These cracks may occur due to improper storage in places with extreme temperatures, such as an attic or basement. Crazing can diminish the value of an object, but the extent depends on the rarity of the item and the crazing’s severity.
- Base and rim chips: This type of damage is typically the easiest to spot. You can also run your fingers along the edges of the object to feel for chips. Although base chips aren’t as critical as missing rim pieces, they are considered when evaluating antique porcelain.
- Cracks: Cracks in porcelain may be subtle or obvious, depending on how intricate and colorfully decorated the item is. One trick for determining if there are any cracks is to place the item on a flat surface and tap it lightly. If there are no cracks, you should hear a soft ringing noise. If you hear a dull thud, there’s a good chance there’s a crack and the piece should be examined more closely. Shining a light inside a porcelain object such as a vase or pitcher will also reveal the presence of any hairline cracks.
- Repairs: Professional repair can, in some cases, help preserve the value of a piece. However, in most cases, signs of repair reduce an item’s value. Items that have been repaired typically have glue remnants, which a backlight can reveal.
Types of Antique Porcelain
Antique porcelain is classified by the clay used to make it. Because different parts of the world have various types of clay, the differences in porcelain are largely due to geographical factors.
- Hard-paste porcelain: Hard-paste porcelain was developed thousands of years ago by the Chinese using kaolin clay. This clay was fired at high temperatures to create a white, glass-like look. With limited access to this clay, Europeans struggled to replicate it for centuries.
- Soft-paste porcelain: Early iterations of European porcelain developed in France, Italy and England attempted to mimic the translucent appearance of Chinese porcelain by mixing clay with ground glass. However, these formulations could not be successfully fired at the same high temperatures as hard-paste porcelain. Soft-paste versions improved with additions such as quartz and kaolin, but the lower firing temperatures still resulted in surfaces that were more easily stained and scratched. But soft-paste porcelain did allow for a greater range of decorative colors.
- Bone china: In England, experiments with soft-paste porcelain led to the development of bone china, which was made from a formula of kaolin, petunse and bone ash derived from cattle bone. Although bone china is fired at lower temperatures, the presence of the bone ash makes it extremely durable and resistant to scratches and chips. It is also the rarest and most expensive type of porcelain because it is laborious and costly to make.
- Paper porcelain: Potters who work with hard- and soft-paste porcelain sometimes use pulp or cellulose fibers to make wet clay stronger. With this extra strength, potters can create pieces with more delicate shapes and thinner walls with less risk of the clay slumping or cracking.
Although the first European porcelain was made at Meissen, the French quickly followed suit and established hard- and soft-paste porcelain factories. After outgrowing their Vincennes location, a new factory was built on the edges of the village of Sèvres in 1756.
Production at Sèvres quickly became distinguished for unique forms and decorations distinct from its German competitor. Sèvres porcelain became well-known for dining and cooking wares with a striking bleu céleste ground color, which Loius XV ordered an entire service in shortly after its development.
At Sèvres, painters and gilders were allowed to leave their mark on pieces they worked on, making these pieces more easily identifiable.
KPM is a German acronym that translates to the “Royal Porcelain Factory of Berlin.” The company was founded in 1763 by Frederick II of Prussia. He bought it out of bankruptcy when the factory’s “white gold,” or translucent porcelain similar to China’s, caught his eye.
KPM created several distinct styles of porcelain over the centuries:
- Rococo: Ornamental with free-flowing design to match the opulence of the palaces and other extravagant interiors where they were typically found
- Neoclassical: Inspired by classical designs with intricate paintings of landscapes and seascapes
- Art Nouveau: Featured never-before-seen glazes and colors made possible by the technological advancements of the 19th century
- Bauhaus: Distinct for their smooth, polished surfaces with minimal decoration
If you want to sell your KPM porcelain or consign Royal Vienna porcelain, auction houses such as Fontaine’s Auction Gallery can help you realize the item’s full sales potential.
The Amphora factory in the Teplitz region of Bohemia produced distinctive porcelain pottery during the Art Nouveau era. The factory was known for its two-handled, Grecian-style vases that were specifically designed to fit closely together for easy and compact storage and transportation.
Many of these vases featured paintings with nature-inspired motifs and Mucha-esque women. Antique buyers love the beautiful detail and craftsmanship of these vases, making it an ideal choice to consign Amphora Teplitz pieces.
Dresden Porcelain was founded in 1872 in Dresden, Germany. Because several different companies formed under the Dresden Porcelain umbrella, the term is typically used to connote the style of the porcelain pieces the factories produced. This style is often described as Rococo revival, as the pieces feature elaborate designs with common motifs of flowers, foliage, shells and fruits.
Consign Antique Porcelain With Fontaine’s Auction Gallery
If you want to consign your Sèvres or Dresden porcelain, Fontaine’s Auction Gallery specializes in vintage porcelain consignment. We can sell everything from your KPM porcelain to porcelain plaques at auction. Consignors choose to work with us for our global audience and extensive market knowledge, which help them achieve their sales goals.
Contact us about consignment for antique china. We offer free valuations, which you can receive by scheduling an in-person appointment, emailing us information and photos, or submitting our auction estimate form.