Kovels: Antiques and collecting


Talk about May flowers! The bright colors of the tulips on this charger could rival the real ones growing outside. And to think they’re over 300 years old!

The charger was made in England in about 1690. Even with a few signs of wear, its age, craftsmanship and design brought its price to an impressive $3,997 at Brunk Auctions. It is a type of tin-glazed earthenware pottery called delft or delftware.

The name “delft” may conjure up images of blue-and-white Dutch scenes, and it comes from a city in Holland that produced that type of pottery. Dutch immigrants brought the technique to England in the late 16th century, and London became a center for making delftware. Designs were often inspired by Chinese porcelain, and, although blue-and-white delftware was popular, potters experimented with different colors.

This charger uses yellow, green and ochre as well as blue. Multicolor designs are often called “polychrome.” Delftware lost popularity in the 18th century as Europeans began making their own porcelain, but, in the 1800s, ceramics decorated with designs inspired by old delft became popular again in Holland, especially with tourists. They are still popular gifts and souvenirs, although they are often imported. Watch out for pieces labeled “Delft”; they were made in the 20th or 21st century.

Q: I have a print that has been in my family for at least 100 years. I have no idea if it is worth anything or just sentimental. I’ve researched the artist and found some information. Do you know how I can tell if this is an original or a print?

A: Check your print for an artist’s signature and edition number that are written in pencil, not printed on. Sometimes it takes an art expert to determine if a print is original. You may want to contact an art museum in your area or the art department of a college or university for assistance.

Q: I have a very unusual Chinese dragon plate. It has a red stamp on the back “SYDNEY CHINA MADE.” It is matte brown with a highly colored dragon in relief dot form. There is a woven bamboo protective edge all around it. I would like to know more about it.

A: A closer look at the mark on your plate shows two circles of text: an outer circle that reads “SYDNEY CHINA,” and an inner circle with the word “MADE” and a few marks and legible letters, including a “J” and an “N.” We think the mark is partially worn away and the inner circle says “Made in Japan.” This would date it to either between 1921 and 1945 or after 1952. Japanese ceramics made from about 1945-1952 are usually marked “Occupied Japan.” Pieces from 1891-1921 are marked “Nippon,” which is the Japanese name for Japan, and earlier ceramics are usually marked with Japanese characters. We have seen a similar woven edge on other plates made in 20th-century Japan. The decoration style, with a dark matte background and highly colored figures, is sometimes called Satsuma, after a province in Japan that has made pottery since the 17th century. Collectors often use “Satsuma” to refer to a type of Japanese porcelain with a creamy crackled glaze, which was first made in the mid-19th century, but early Satsuma pottery was made from brown clay with dark glaze and colorful figures. Both styles have been reproduced. The relief dots are a form of decoration called Japanese Coralene, where small dots of enamel are layered to make raised beads. So, your plate was probably made in Japan by a company called “Sydney China.” Confusing, right? That’s often the case with ceramic company names: Collectors must watch out for when “China” means the country or the material. And some companies use the confusion to their advantage!

TIP: Modern bleach can damage 18th-century and some 19th-century dishes. To clean old dishes, try hydrogen peroxide or bicarbonate of soda. Each removes a different type of stain.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers’ questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.


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