Bone China is a form of porcelain developed in 18th century England.
Bone china was first developed by a painter in 1749, called Thomas Frye. His use of bone ash in soft paste-porcelain is the first recorded use of bone ash in bone china. The recipe for bone china was later further developed and perfected by Josiah Spode, probably the most pre-eminent figure in the history of bone china.
The fine porcelain product is produced from bone, ash and minerals and its high strength allows it to be produced as the thinnest, most refined and most durable porcelain ever made. The production process of bone china does however require more care than other types of porcelain, thus the expense of bone china is due to its production process and its expensive raw materials.
English bone china is highly collectable, most pieces are usually passed down through generations and collectors are always on the look out for pieces to add to their collections.
Bone china is easily identified by the translucent appearance the pieces have when held up to the light. The bone ash is responsible for this translucency and thus makes it distinguishable from other types of fine porcelain and ceramics.
Most collections consist of tea sets, coffee pots, thimbles, and figurines.
New fine bone china is being produced and new pieces can be seen as an investment, although most collectors look for rare and older pieces of bone china.
Be on the look out for pieces produced by antique bone china manufacturers like Adderly, Beswick, Spode, Wedgwood, Royal Albert and Rockingham. When buying bone china you need to look at the marking under the items, this will inform you on how, when and by whom the pieces were made. Remember that older pieces especially hand painted items are much more valuable, but be aware of forgeries. Rare pieces of bone china like early Wedgwood & Co. are often imitated.
It is also important to identify any and all defects on any new piece you would like to acquire. Defects like cracks, chips, missing pieces, peeling paint and stains can dramatically reduce the value of any piece. Bone china can often be restored by a professional depending on the extent of the damage, although the restoration process can often be more expensive than the original piece. Make sure the piece is worth the effort and investment of restoration before purchasing a faulty piece.
Collectors often find their treasure at local flea markets, garage and boot sales and antique fairs. Most auction houses have sections specialising in bone china sales. Auction houses like Skinner, Strauss & Co, DuMauchelles and Bonhams are places you would want to keep an eye on. Online merchant and auctioneers are also plentyfull, website like Bid or Buy, and E-bay have great selections of bone china and other collectable items.
Notable Auction Sales
In July 2006 Skinner auction house sold ten Wedgwood bone china coffee pots for $300 and that same year Skinner also sold two Wedgwood bone china tea sets with trays for $325. Livingston’s Auction sold a Devenport bone china Pitcher for $110 in that same year.
In 2010 110 pieces of Marlow bone china with a “Minton” pattern sold for $325 from Morton Kuehnert Auctioneers & Appraisers, and in January 2011 Estate Galleries sold a pair of Coalport bone china pitcher with a willow pattern for $300. Royal Doulton bone china figurines are also very popular at auctions, in 2005 a Royal Doulton figurine called ‘Deidre’ sold for 260 from Gorringes, Lewe, England.