A guide to buying vintage china

Posted by Rebecca Bullock on

I know lots of you lovely readers adore fine vintage china. So do I! I've been caught out in the past when I've purchased an item, only to be dissatisfied upon its arrival or when I've got it home. It really pays to have a few simple tips on hand when you're considering a purchase.

Buying from a shop, brocante, flea market or antiques fair

Make sure you have the china in a good light. Don't be afraid of picking it up to inspect it. Check every piece for damage.

  1. Ping it! Rest each piece on the palm of your hand with your hand flat. With the other hand, gently flick the rim of the teacup, sugar bowl, saucer or plate. Generally, intact pieces make a lovely ringing sound. Pieces that have damage usual make a duller sound.
  2. Run your fingers round the rims of the pieces, checking for nibbles, chips and cracks. I've often only noticed a flaw because I felt it, rather than saw it.
  3. Check that there have been no repairs to the handles of teacups, teapots, coffee pots and milk jugs. These items can still 'ring' even following a repair.
  4. Hold the items up to the light and inspect the glaze for knife marks, crazing and other damage. It is possible for vendors to hide such damage by bleaching before they sell it. Run your fingers across the glaze to check for smoothness.
  5. Check the back stamp. This not only tells you the maker, but often whether it is first quality or a second. It can give you ideas of the items age, pattern and other important information.

Buying from an online seller

Generally china listed for sale online will fall into one of four categories - it is important to know what you can expect for each one.

  1. Pristine condition - this means the item is perfect and has no flaws. It should be in the condition it left the factory. This term is generally not used in reference to items that are seconds.
  2. Excellent condition - the items should have only minimal wear and tear and should be exempt from chips, cracks and crazing. The gilding should be free from wear or have only a tiny amount of wear.
  3. Very good condition - items described as very good should be free from chips, cracks and crazing but may have a little wear to the gilding and/or present knife marks in the glaze of the plate.
  4. Good condition - there may be some defects to the items - these would be clearly visible upon inspection. These defects should be minor.

If an item for sale online does not explicitly state its condition, it really pays to ask. Refer to pictures, enlarging where possible, to see the product clearly. Request more pictures if necessary!

Finally, remember to buy what you like! While these hints and tips might help us to buy carefully, in the end the only thing that matters is this - if you love it, buy it!

Here's some stunning images that I've found over on Pinterest - see my albums of vintage china for more inspiration and backlinks to other wonderful pages.




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