Antique English bone china is a valuable and compelling collectible for many collectors and crockery lovers.
The beautiful design, extraordinary translucence, and gorgeous patterns make the antique English bone china a piece of incredible artwork.
It is always a good idea to have a collection of these lovely and incredible pieces as a collection of souvenirs. You can easily find them at different antique stores and shops.
This guide is all about antique English bone china, their value and identification guide, and everything you need to know about these antique bone china.
Table of Contents
What Is Bone China?
Bone china is a type of porcelain made from bone ash, feldspar, kaolin, and other natural materials.
It has been manufacturing some of the finest china products for over 200 years. It is a durable type of porcelain that can withstand the rigors of everyday use.
The material used to make bone china is a type of porcelain known as bone china or bone ware. It creates a beautifully translucent product, ideal for serving dishes to your guests.
These fine pieces of china are opaque and have a smooth surface, yet they are lightweight and durable.
These properties are because of the original ingredient used in manufacturing: bones from cows and horses. The result is splendid china that will have you proudly serving your dishes with pride!
One of the most remarkable features of bone china is its ability to retain moisture without losing shape or cracking.
It can withstand everyday use and is shatterproof, making it ideal for serving water, drinks, and snacks prone to liquid spillages.
Bone china will not stain easily, although it is susceptible to scratches. It is a beautiful product made from bones and other materials, making it an excellent choice for wall decorations or table settings.
Simply put, bone china is just as durable as china itself. Bone china, made of plastics such as polystyrene, has kept up with the times and absorbed new technology.
Its transparency makes it suitable for serving food or drinks at the dinner table. It is also ideal for serving guests water, snacks, and drinks.
The most popular varieties of bone china are the white and grey types. There are also other light tones such as pale pink, pale green, and brown.
You can find these colors on a product called “mixed bone china.” The mixed tones can also be found in other types of bone china, such as blue, purple, cream, gold, and silver.
Brief History Of English Bone China
Historically, bone china is ceramic ware, having been produced for centuries in Europe and Asia.
It is named for its composition of bone ash or other forms of animal and plant materials boiled in water to produce the liquid glaze material, which is then applied to clay forms.
Bone china was famous from the late 17th century until approximately the 20th century when it was superseded by earthenware.
Bone china first appeared from 1706 onwards, when English potter Josiah Spode began producing white and fine stoneware with a delicate blue-green glaze.
In 1813, Spode introduced a new process called underglaze red decoration. It was not until 1818 that Josiah Spode the Younger produced a new type of porcelain made with bone ash and kaolin (1795-1877).
This type of porcelain was first called “bone china” in English after its inventor. It was translucent and therefore required painting with a glaze before the decoration could be fired.
A delicate piece of bone china has been one of the most popular ways to serve and drink tea. The first samples of bone china emerged in China during the Tang Dynasty, but the production dates back to around 2000 BC.
People have used various materials to create this coveted porcelain ware throughout history: pottery (the earliest), clay, alabaster, soapstone, and jade, among others.
The primary material used in modern-day bone china is white or cream-colored porcelain clay, which has been kiln-fired three times at a temperature of about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bone china is famous for its transparency, smoothness, and delicate texture. These qualities make it an excellent choice for intricate designs, images, and decorations.
Bone China Vs. Porcelain
Bone china is pottery made from highly fine-grained clay containing bone ash. The most notable characteristic of the material, which distinguishes it from porcelain, is its high kaolin content in the white body clays.
The decoration is applied by three transfer prints: stencil transfer, drypoint (or scarlet), and copperplate engraving (or blue).
Bone china differs from porcelain because it is thicker, more rigid, and less brittle (less breakable).
Bone China is porcelain with a thin coating of bone ash on it. And this special treatment adds a beautiful pearl luster to the ceramic surface, making it more translucent and protective against breakage than plain porcelain could ever hope to be on its own.
Porcelain does not use bone or bone ash as an ingredient in its mixture recipe.
Chinese used a much higher percentage of kaolin clay in porcelain.
This clay makes it more durable and fire resistant because the under-layer of the ceramic is incredibly dense. Add the incorporation of feldspar and quartz to this formula, which is very hard.
You can see why this would make for solid dishware that you can use in harsh environments like those in the kitchen.
So what sets them apart? They are both strengthened ceramics that use kaolin clay and feldspar as their main ingredients.
But when you look at these two ceramics side-by-side, you’ll notice that Bone China has a beautiful pearl luster and is much more translucent than plain porcelain.
The bone ash undercoat creates a skinny layer of silica between the ceramic surface and the food.
And while this doesn’t make eating off of Bone China unsafe, it certainly gives dishes that come in contact with food a completely different aesthetic.
How Much Is Bone China Worth?
Bone china describes ceramics made from bone ash, feldspar, and kaolin. English potter Josiah Spode invented it in the early 18th century.
Bone china is typically more durable than porcelain because it’s created with a higher percentage of bone ash.
Bone china prices vary depending on the quality of the material used and the size and design of the dish.
The price ranges you’ll see are usually given per ounce but will also depend on where you buy it from — if you purchase a larger dish or one with intricate patterns, it’s likely to be more expensive than dishes with simpler designs.
The average price of bone china is between $2 and $3 per ounce. If you buy it in smaller quantities, where it may be challenging to gauge the weight, the price could fluctuate from around $6 per ounce for plates to $20 for more giant platters.
The cost will also vary depending on where you purchase your bone china. If you purchase from a factory direct, expect to pay less than retail stores and slighting more than auction sites like eBay.
Bone china is expensive because it is made of fine clay that must be heated in a kiln to soften before being molded into the desired dishes.
Is Bone China Worth The Money?
Bone China is the most expensive dishware made from bone. It is usually made of porcelain and used for serving food.
You can find these antique English bone china pieces in art museums, European castles, and some small English stately homes.
The average cost of a Bone China tea cup is $2,000-$5,000. In comparison to other types of fine china like Limoges or Faience, it can be considered on the high end, costing even more than Gold!
For instance, Shelley Lincoln’s teacup was the most valuable bone china piece and was sold at $1,200. Because it was in excellent condition and its pattern designs were rare.
Factors Affecting The Value Of English Bone China
Knowing the value of your piece of English bone china is essential. Some factors affect the value of English bone china and can decide how much is the worth of your English bone china piece.
Only a keen eagle eye can find the original pieces in a world where it is difficult to distinguish between real and fake. It may seem hard or impossible, but you can use some methods to collect authentic and valuable pieces.
So the factors that make English Bone China more valuable than other pieces are;
The aging of bone china pieces is considered one of their primary features in determining their price for resale value.
So, the more your English bone china piece is old, the more valuable it is. More aged pieces are worthy than contemporary vintage pieces of English bone china.
The piece’s value also increases if it is rare in its pattern and design. The fewer the pieces in a particular pattern or design, the more worthy the piece is thought to be.
The condition of the piece of English bone china also affects its value.
If the piece is cracked, chipped, damaged, or stained, it is not as valuable as a brand new piece of vintage English bone china because all these factors decrease its value.
The original craft affects the value of bone china. Hand painting, delicate details, and fine craftsmanship increase the value of a piece.
If your bone china piece is from a reputed brand, it is automatically more valuable than other so-called brands because famous brands don’t compromise on the quality of pieces.
How To Identify Bone China?
Antique bone china is famous among collectors for its durability, beauty, transparency, and whiteness. However, bone china is costly because of its availability and complicated process of manufacture.
So if you have an antique piece of bone china and want to know whether it’s real or you want to buy one, then it’s essential to know some steps that help you to identify the real bone china. After all, you have to pay a hefty amount of money.
So the different methods that help you to distinguish between fake and real bone china are;
1. Look For Back Stamp
If you buy a piece of bone china-like cups and dishes, flip each piece over and look for a back stamp. This stamp has vital information like the pattern’s name, the manufacturer’s name, and the date.
If “Bone China” and “Fine China” are written on the back stamp, this piece of bone china is real.
Always pay attention to the manufacturer of the product. Take a picture of the hallmark and trace it with the other’s hallmark of the pottery. This process will help you to reveal the age of the piece.
2. Examine The Weight Of The Piece
Real bone china’s most prominent characteristic is that it is lightweight yet vital simultaneously. It gives the bone china piece a graceful look.
But it does not mean that the piece is fragile. Manufacturers add bone ash during its making, which makes it less prone to crack, durable, strong, and soft.
Usually, a bone china mug can weigh up to 200 grams.
3. Listen To The Sound It Produces
Pay close attention to the sound a bone china piece makes. For that, firstly, you have to produce the sound. Hold your piece of bone china, knock it on with another piece, and listen to the sound it produces.
Usually, a natural bone china piece will make a long echo, and the sound will feel like a soothing breeze to your ears.
4. Recognize The Patterns
Real bone china has almost three to four numbers, and you can use these numbers to recognize the piece.
Check the year of manufacture and patterns to determine the value of the bone china piece or whether it is genuine. Then compare it with the other pieces accessible on the website.
Look for patterns on the piece, like flower-patterned designs, golden edges, animals, birds, and human postures. These patterns will help you find the manufacturer and the piece’s age.
5. Country Of Origin
The country where bone china originates significantly impacts pricing and value. It is because it has a lasting association with the piece’s design.
The most costly bone china produced in England and the use of the bone ash process also originated there.
Bone china pieces originating from places like China, Europe, and Japan possess culture, history, and symbolism.
6. Pay More
Real bone china is more expensive than many other porcelain products, so if you buy a relatively expensive piece, that is because it is made of genuine bone china.
For Example, A real and relatively common bone china coffee mug costs about $26, while on the other hand, you can buy a porcelain mug nearly at $2.
Due to bone chine durability and weightless features, these pieces are more costly.
The most distinctive feature of real bone china is that it is translucent. To check out the transparency of the piece, hold up the piece straight in the bright light.
If you see your hand through it, it is 100% real bone china.
Famous English Bone China Patterns
Hundreds of famous English bone china patterns are available in the market, which are beautiful and valuable, but only some stand out:
Spode Blue Italian
This beautiful blue and white tableware were launched in 1816. It’s popular even after 200 years due to its elegance and delicacy. The Spode Blue was made in bone china and earthenware.
Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre
Wedgewood manufactured Fairyland Lustre from 1915 to 1930. Their pieces are highly decorated with intricate art. What’s fascinating is its continuity between past and present.
Spode Buttercup pattern was first hand-painted on bone china in 1885. The design is unique, with refreshing colors making your dinner table attractive.
Yellow flowers, green leaves, and a brown rim on a cream color background look impressive.
Wedgewood Wild Strawberry
The iconic wild strawberry pattern is highly collectible. It’s famous across the globe due to its illustrative, unique, and timeless designs.
They feature strawberry leaves and berries, which makes this collection magical and aesthetic.
Antique English Bone China Brands
Numerous well-known bone china manufacturers are famous for their quality products. These manufacturers use their maker’s mark on their pieces; you can find these marks on the back of the piece.
1. Wedgwood Fine Bone China
Wedgwood is one of the most popular bone China manufacturers in the world today. The brand was founded in England in 1759, and its tradition of excellence continues to this day.
For over 200 years, Wedgwood has offered bone china items that are hand-painted with traditional patterns and motifs inspired by ancient Chinese ceramic pieces.
Wedgwood’s products are also highly regarded because they’re made from high-quality materials, including red clay and fine kaolin found only in England.
The brand’s bone china collection includes teapots, plates, mugs, and chandeliers that are exquisite and have a unique, timeless appeal.
2. Royal Crown Derby
Founded in 1750, Royal Crown Derby is the world’s oldest bone china manufacturer. The brand’s Art Deco bone china collection was introduced in the 1980s when it started making items with beautiful designs inspired by traditional Chinese motifs.
Today, these items are still considered favorites among consumers and collectors alike.
Also, the brand’s bone China patterns are well suited for serving teas and coffees and presenting fruit platters or other desserts. You can also use these pieces to decorate your living room table or dining room buffet.
Rosenthal was founded in Germany in 1879 and has grown to become one of the leading brands of bone china. Its bone china products are available with several beautiful motifs hand-painted by expert artisans who care for every detail.
The brand’s items are made from fine materials like red clay from its mines in Germany and the Czech Republic and white kaolin imported from China.
You can use Rosenthal’s bone china for everyday dining or special occasions. You can serve tea, coffee or soups, desserts, and pastries in these pieces.
4. Royal Doulton
Royal Doulton can also be considered one of the oldest bone china manufacturers in the world. The brand was founded in England in 1760, and it’s still considered a favorite today. It has remained faithful to its tradition of producing fine bone china items.
The company’s products are hand-painted and made from fine materials like white clay, red clay, and kaolin.
Traditional Chinese motifs inspire their designs, so you can use them to serve coffee, teas, or other foods. You can also use them as tableware for meals or buffets.
Bone china has been prized for centuries because it is made with the highest quality clay and fired at the lowest temperature, resulting in durable and beautiful dinnerware.
Antique English bone china is a vintage collectible that can add a charm to your kitchen and dining table.
They are durable and unique in their style, making them handy to use in everyday life. It is always fun to use these elegant antique pieces of bone china.
To make a collection of these antique collectibles, add some best bone china pieces like teacups, mixed plates, vases, and all-in-one patterns to give the collection a more vintage touch.
Buy your favorite pieces of antique English bone china and serve coffee soup and other meals in these eye-catchy pieces to your guests and make them feel special!