Royal Worcester Porcelain
Royal Worcester Porcelain is a fine porcelain containing little or no clay, made at Worcester, England, since 1751.
Pre 18th century, porcelain manufacture was dominated by China and the Far East. Although attempts had been made in Britain to produce a stable porcelain formula, the results of these experiments yielded wares of inferior quality.
During the mid 1700s, Dr John Wall, a physician, and an apothecary, William Davis, began experimenting with materials and processes. Their aim was to perfect a porcelain recipe in order to produce fine, stable wares. Following their success, the pair secured funding from 13 local business men and opened a factory in Worcester. By 1751 the first Worcester porcelain factory was established.
In 1789, Worcester received a royal warrant. From this point onwards it was known as Royal Worcester.
Meissen porcelain was greatly admired in England during the 1750s. Its fearless, ostentatious designs, and dramatic use of colour, pattern and gilding won Meissen many admirers across the continent. Since Meissen imports and exports were severely restricted, English manufacturers aped Meissen wares.
In manufacturing extremely high quality porcelain wares, Royal Worcester quickly became synonymous with high-end porcelain pieces and successfully produced prestigious items for the upper classes.
Throughout its rich history Royal Worcester has had strong associations with art, artisans and artists.
Often an artist would be employed to hand-decorate the prestigious items that Royal Worcester had created. Today the stunning Painted Fruit collection is hand painted by an artist and etched with gold.
Following the acquisition of Royal Worcester, the Portmeirion Group reports that it is committed to the development of this great British brand building on product ranges old and new.
Worcester is a city in central England. It was well situated for porcelain manufacturer. Easy access to both a lacework of canals and the River Severn enabled raw materials to be transported to the factory, which sits in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral, and wares to be transported out.
Tips for new collectors
Find and read comprehensive reference books which explain and detail the numerous names and Worcester marks.
Consider concentrating your collecting on a specific period of Royal Worcester porcelain, or even on specific artists. Charles Baldwin is known for his birds and swans in flight, the Doughty sisters are famed for their depictions of children and animals, while James Stinton is known for his game birds, for example.
The term “Regency” refers to wares made during the period in which the Worcester name changed frequently.
The term “Royal Worcester” describes porcelain items from approximately 1862 onwards.
As with all popular collecting areas, beware imitations. The formula for early Worcester porcelain was soft-paste. If a piece claims to be early, but is hard-paste porcelain or bone china it's 100% fake. The more you know about your chosen collecting area, the less likely you are to be scammed by rogue traders.
Examine and familiarize yourself with the various the motifs and modes of decoration. Serious collectors can detect various clues as to age an artist from subtle differences in brushstroke decoration alone.
Distinguishing between hard and soft paste
Hard paste china is shinier and glassier in texture than its soft paste counterpart. Edges will appear vitrified, or glassy if fractured.
There are two well known methods to test whether a porcelain item is made from hard or soft paste. Filing into an unglazed and inconspicuous area is one way. If the file easily penetrates the porcelain beneath the glaze it is undoubtedly soft paste, if it leaves little impression, it is hard paste porcelain.
A less obtrusive method, yet one requiring a sensitive ear, involves resting a piece of porcelain on your fingertips and “plinking” its rim or edge with a coin. Hard paste epics tend to utter a shrill, high-pitched note, while soft paste items produce a duller tone.
Over centuries of manufacture, Royal Worcester employed a plethora of patterns across a wide variety of wares. A useful and comprehensive resource in terms of pattern identification can be found here: http://www.egg-coddlers.com/RoyalWorcester/patterns/
Royal Worcester factory marks
The Worcester Royal Porcelain Co. was founded in 1862. Over the interceding decades, factory marking evolved.
The standard printed factory mark features the number 51 in the centre – in reference to 1751, the year Worcester Porcelain was founded by Dr John Wall. This mark appears in a number of colours and on a variety of materials.
Between 1862 and 1875 specific indications of the year of manufacture are rare but may sometimes be found in the form of the last two figures of the date, e.g. 75 for 1875, printed below the standard mark.
From 1867 a letter system was also used to indicate the year of manufacture. From 1876 the crown sits down to fit the circle.
A = 1867
B = 1868
C = 1869
D = 1870
E = 1871
G = 1872
H = 1873
I = 1874
K = 1875
L = 1876
M = 1877
N = 1878
O = 1889
P = 1879
R = 1880
S = 1881
T = 1882
U = 1883
V = 1884
W = 1885
X = 1886
Y = 1887
Z = 1888
From 1891 pieces were coded with a system of dots and/or symbols with the addition of the words ‘ROYAL WORCESTER ENGLAND’.
1891 ‘ROYAL WORCESTER ENGLAND’ added
1892 One dot
1893 Two dots
1894 Three dots
From 1916 a small star or asterisk appears below the mark.
1916 * below the mark
1917 * and one dot
1918 * and two dots
An extra dot was added each year until 1927 when 11 dots are arranged around the standard printed mark.
1928 Oblong shape & the words MADE IN ENGLAND added
1929 Diamond shape & MADE IN ENGLAND
1930 Division mark & MADE IN ENGLAND
1931 Two circles & MADE IN ENGLAND
1932 Three circles & MADE IN ENGLAND
1933 Three circles & 1 dot & MADE IN ENGLAND
1934 Three circles & 2 dots & MADE IN ENGLAND
1935 Three circles & 3 dots & MADE IN ENGLAND
This continued until 1941 when there were 9 dots and the triple circle mark.
Between 1942 and 1948 no date code was used in the mark.
From the mid 1960s, a different format of factory stamp was also adopted for bone china tableware. The date included represents the year the design was introduced, not the date of manufacture. In April 1988, a system of year of manufacture identification, which complemented the system used by Spode was introduced – an M within a diamond was incorporated below the factory mark. In January 1989, new factory stamps were used with an N in a diamond under the mark. Soon afterward, black numbers were introduced to identify the lithographer. These numbers were replaced with grey ones in August to reduce their visual impact. In 1990 all factory stamps reverted to the R in a circle under the mark. A printed grey lithographer identification number (eg.39) was used, plus a suffix to signify the year of manufacture.
A set of Royal Worcester porcelain dinnerware in the Regency pattern sold fro $500 at Clars Auction Gallery in July 2005.
A pair of Chamberlain Royal Worcester Porcelain plates sold for $1,100 at Four Seasons Auction Gallery in August 2005.
A Royal Worcester “Hyperion” porcelain figure sold for $90 at Bunte Auction Services in May 2004.
A large Royal Worcester porcelain tray sold for $40 at Leighton Galleries in May 2011.
A Royal Worcester porcelain “Huntsman and Hound” figural sold for $1,000 at DuMouchelles in June 2010.
A cased, Royal Worcester porcelain demi-tasse set sold for $150 at Weiderseim Ass. in April 2009.
A Royal Worcester porcelain figure of a terrier sold for $140 at DuMouchelles in July 2008.
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