A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Friday, November 2, 2012

Majolica Pottery Marks: Wedgwood

As we recently posted, Minton majolica used a complex series if marks including a date code symbol to mark its earthenware. However it was not the only pottery to date code its majolica.

Wedgwood, which began potting majolica in 1861, used a simple letter system to mark its earthenware and pearlware. Like Minton, Wedgwood was quite fastidious about marking their wares. It's not common to find a piece of Wedgwood majolica that does not have at least an impressed WEDGWOOD mark impressed into the body of the piece. The entire word may not be visible but enough should be there to make out.  If the word WEDGWOOD is not visible the three letter date coding system should be visible. The three letter impressed mark that accompanies the Wedgwood mark tells the story of where and when the piece was made. Let us explain.

From 1860 to 1907 the first letter indicated the month of production. January, February, April, September, October, November and December are always show by their first letter. June is always T and August is always W. In 1860-1863 March is M, May is Y and July is V. In 1864 March becomes R, May is M and July is L. In 1871 Wedgwood adopted pattern numbers with the code letter prefixes.
From 1907 to 1924 the month letter was replaced with the number 3 to indicate the year cycle the piece was made in. From 1925 to 1930 the 3 was replaced with a 4.

The second letter indicates the potter who made the piece.

The third letter indicates the year of production. This system consisted of three cycles. Wedgwood began the date code system in 1860 with the letter O. It then progressed through Z for 1871. The second cycle begins in 1872 with A and progresses through Z with 1897 and the third cycle begins with 1898 and concludes with the letter F for 1929. From this point on the company just used the numerical date. The word ENGLAND was added to the piece between 1890 and 1909. This was replaced with MADE IN ENGLAND after 1910, the year that general majolica manufacture ceased at Wedgwood.

Wedgwood continued making green majolica on and off through the remainder of the 20th Century and even made a limited line of full color pieces in the Strawberry & Grape pattern right after WWII. These pieces are all marked with MADE IN ENGLAND. The later green wares also have the ink Wedgwood mark.


Let me show an example:

Here is the front of a Wedgwood platter.


Here is how it is marked on the reverse.


The first letter T on this platter indicates that the piece was potted in June. The last letter G indicates that the piece was made in 1878 or 1904. The word ENGLAND does not appear on the piece so 1904 can be discounted, hence we can be certain that this particular platter was made in June of 1878.
In addition to this date code we can see a faint English registration mark on the left which is too difficult to read in this example. If it were readable it would also give us the exact day the design was registered by Wedgwood.

Unfortunately it's necessary to note that a monkey wrench can be thrown into this entire process because there were occasions when the first letter and second letter were switched so that the month letter was the second one. The only way to be absolutely positive that the month is correct is by having either the first or second letter be a letter that was not used during the corresponding year. 
This can get awfully confusing but when you're dealing with a process that was in place for 51 years you're bound to find such variations.

Another mark that can be found on the reverse of some pieces of Wedgwood majolica is a four number serial number. Prefaced by either a K or an M, this mark references the Wedgwood pattern books which indicate the exact shape of that particular piece. These marks can also assist in dating a piece because designs can be dated as well. (A list of the Wedgwood pattern shapes can be found in the appendix of Victoria Bergensen's wonderful book Majolica: British, Continental and American Wares, 1851-1915.
Let's say the imprinted year date code is a P. This letter can stand for 1861, 1887 or 1913. There is no ENGLAND impressed on the piece so we can discount 1913 as a possible year of production. That leaves us with the possible dates of 1861 and 1887 as year of manufacture. The pattern shape number is M3020. If we check the Bergensen book, we can see that patterns with numbers above 3000 were not introduced until after 1881. That discounts the possibility that 1861 is the year of production for this piece leaving us with the remaining year 1887.


This particular number was found on the reverse of a plate designated in the pattern books as Fruit dessert plate–the plate below.


So as you can see, this is a relatively useful little system that can tell you quite a bit more about your Wedgwood piece than you imagined.

When it comes to identifying a piece of Wedgwood majolica I should also say something about the way Wedgwood majolica is glazed on the underside. The underside of most pieces of Wedgwood will be glazed in one of three ways: mottled in a tortoiseshell manner in brown, yellow and green; mottled in a tortoiseshell manner in brown, yellow and blue; covered in a clear ivory or white glaze; or a combination of mottled and white like that shown below.


The only exceptions you will find is in very small pieces which could be glazed the same color as the obverse, or monochromatic pieces like the sold green pieces.

One of these treatments in combination to the marks I mentioned earlier will assist in identifying a piece of Wedgwood majolica.

35 comments:

  1. I have a small Barlaston majolica leaf with the code 2 F 56 and underneath GG B. However, it also has a faint Made in England stamped on it which kind of messes things up a bit! Any ideas?

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    1. It sounds like a piece of 20th Century Wedgwood Etruria & Barlaston. These were made throughout the last century so they're actually quite common. They have limited value.

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  2. I have a set of 6 cabbage leaf plates. But they are unlike anything I can find on the internet. They are white with blue cabbage lines and rim. Also, there is no 3 digit date code. Only one digit which simply is "O". Has a "Wedgwood' impressed in the clay but no trace of "England". Missing the 3 digit code could mean theyre fake, but I got them from an estate sale of a $10million home in Bel-Air and they had other high quality Majolica there so I just dont know. Here is a link of what they look like: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vtg-Wedgwood-Majolica-Pottery-Rare-Blue-White-Cabbage-Leaf-Scalloped-Plates-/321619521533?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ae2046ffd

    Any help would be fantastic.
    -Johnathon

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    1. First off your plates are very pretty but we do not believe they are majolica. They appear to be earthenware with cobalt decoration in the style of flow blue. This form of decoration was popular in the Nineteenth century. That date would coincide with the impressed Wedgwood mark which was used during that period. The three digit coding system was put into effect in 1860. Your plates may predate that system but there is no way to know for sure. The lack of a mark indicating country of origin would also imply that they are from the Nineteenth century.

      This pattern belongs to a group of patterns classified by Wedgwood as Leafage. We have written about these patterns in this blog:
      http://etruscanmajolica.blogspot.com/2012/11/wedgwood-leaf-ware.html
      They are very popular and have been in almost continuos production since they were first introduced by Wedgwood during the late 1700's.

      This particular pattern we have also written about before:
      http://etruscanmajolica.blogspot.com/2012/12/majolica-spotlight-wedgwoods-leaf.html
      It was produced in a variety of different bodies and decorative variations including a variation in glass.

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  3. Jimbo,
    Thank you for your reply. It was very informative. I particularly liked the first blog about the leafage, worthy of "their day in the sun" indeed. Those were extremely beautiful examples.

    Its also nice to be somewhat validated that the plates might very well be authentic even without the 3 digit date mark. Do you have any recommendations as to what I should do with these plates? Should I attempt to put these in an auction house? Or should I just throw them up as a fixed price on ebay?

    Id also like to express with great sincerity the educational service you provide. Right now, Im just a young seller working on building my business to take care of my family. But, the plan is to build to a point and return to the circle of good nature I have benefited from and do my part to expand the availability of information for these true treasures.

    Again, thank you so much
    -Johnathon

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    1. I can't really give you advise about selling because it's been many years since I've been active as a seller. EBay today is very different from the EBay that that I used to sell on.

      What I can tell you is that anytime you place something into auction you're taking a gamble. If that kind of gamble is your cup of tea then go right ahead. Your gamble could prove a huge success or a huge failure.

      If you don't sell actively through a shop or show, you may want to consider selling through consignment. You have more control over your final price but you really need to have patience. It is a far slower turnaround then some of the other methods.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words. I have removed your reply to protect your email address. When posted on a public blog like this an email address is vulnerable to every spam distributor on the planet. Once that happens It becomes useless.

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  5. We recently inherited some Wedgwood. One piece is this thatched hut cheese keeper
    https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A25qXGF1pavIs
    Do you think we need to have work done on the repairs if we decide to sell it?
    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Gregg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your cheese keeper is not Wedgwood. It is by George Jones. Whether you have it repaired or not is really dependent on the venue you choose to sell it in. If you are looking to sell it retail I would say yes, you should have it repaired. If you are looking to sell it at auction or to a dealer I would say that repair is not necessary. Having a repair done is generally going to add to a piece's value but the time and cost involved may be more than you care to invest in it.

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    2. That would explain my futile search for the wedgwood mark. Thank you very much for identifying it for me and the advice. Your website is great. Are your books available on line?

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    3. Thank you. My books are available from most online book sellers. There is a link to Amazon on the right side of the blog.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Also, who would you recommend for the repair work? Do you do repairs?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. There are good restorers in just about every city. You should find one convenient to you. We have done posts about several restorers here on this blog. I'm sure that any of them would be happy to give you an estimate if you were to contact them.

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  8. Jimbo,
    love the blog. Lots of great information and has widened by eyes with respect to majolica.
    I have a majolica teacup made by Wedgwood with the incised mark and date code of 1882 that has a design that I could use some help with. It has elements of the oyster and shell design but it not the same. Hope you can point me in the right direction.
    thanks
    Martin
    http://community.ebay.com/t5/Collectibles-Art/Wedgwood-Majolica-pattern-help/m-p/23982903

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your cup and saucer are part of Wedgwood's "Ocean" pattern. This is a teacup. They are glazed in the Argenta colorways, Argenta was a special line of Wedgwood majolica that was marketed when the bolder majolica colors fell out of favor. You can read more about Argenta here: http://etruscanmajolica.blogspot.com/2010/06/wedgwood-argenta.html . For more about Wedgwood's "Ocean" go here: http://etruscanmajolica.blogspot.com/2011/01/wedgwood-ocean.html

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    2. Jimbo - thanks for pointing me in the right direction

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  9. Hi,

    I realy apricate your blog, it's a realy very good work out, thanks for every word.

    I wonder, is it essential to have a Englis registration mark on Wedgwood? If it is so, the absance of that mark means item is fake? Also I want to ask, I've read somthing that implies that Wedgwood has manufactured Majolica until 1940, is it true? I saw items like 1952 (if you scroll down, you'll see one pair green leaf)

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/WEDGWOOD-ENGLISH-MAJOLICA-LEAF-PIN-TRINKET-DISH-X-2-/361371213651?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2047675.l2557&nma=true&si=cwjllc1Njut3zCG%252FFQjTr6aTW2w%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc

    And this item has an "GG 2" mark, is there any information about this letters which I've seen a lot in diffrent Wedgwood works like "C" "GR" "M"

    Thank you very much

    Baykar

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To answer your first question, no, the English registration mark is not always present on Wedgwood majolica. It is only present on registered designs of which there were only a handful.

      Wedgwood stopped making full color majolica in the 1890's. They did resurrect a line of full color majolica for a limited time after WWII in the late 40s. These will always have the words "Made In England" on the reverse to differentiate them from Victorian majolica.

      They also produced a line of solid green majolica sporadically from the 1920s up until recently. The small leaves you directed me to are from this latter production.

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  10. Thanks a lot for information, and I'm sorry for my broken English. As I asked, do you know the meaning of that strange marks like "GG2" "C" "M" I see this marks nearly every Wedgwood.

    Regards

    Baykar

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    Replies
    1. The marks you speak of can refer to a number of different things. After 1909 the first letter in the three letter dating system was replaced by a number like 3 or 4 to indicate a production cycle. After 1935 a two digit number was used to indicate a year. Individual marks can also indicate a specific factory location, a decorator, number in a series or a size code. With the exception of the numbering and dating codes indicated in the article they are generally considered for factory use only and irrelevant to the collector.

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  11. Hi Jimbo,
    Fantastic and informative page here.

    My Uncle has an old Wedgwood serving plate and is curious to its age. It's shape is square with much softer edges in the corners.

    The stamp is WEDGWOOD (written exactly like that and nothing else...no England) with following other marks - a heavy pressed 'P' and then a 'W' and then 'BTS'
    I'm guessing this is either 1864 or 1890 according to the 'BTS' mark.
    P = Pearl White Identifier
    W - not sure

    Also, a 4 digit serial number is present on the corner and hand painted Y2940. There is a 1 under this serial number also.

    Any ideas, Thanks Kevin

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    Replies
    1. I need a little more information before I can help you. The "Y" in a serial code is indicative of bone china but bone china did not have a three letter dating system, only earthenware did. Is it possible that the "Y" is a "K"? "K" is the prefix for majolica which did have the three letter dating code system. In the majolica pattern books the number K2940 is for the "Gipsy (sic) Strawberry set". That would date the plate to June 1890.

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    2. Hi Jim,
      Thanks for the reply. No Strawberry pattern on this, more of a brown color flower. The number is defiantly a Y. Trying to figure out how to post pictures here. Is an email possible?

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    3. I'm sorry, I don't have email here.

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  12. Interesting articles. I am old also and agree with you that ebay is a "different place" today. I collect (and sell-now infrequent) primarily porcelains, but have a few majolica pieces as well and have always been of the opinion/thought that the word really applies to the high gloss tin glaze as well as decorative effects.
    I cam upon this site while looking further into the word "etruria" and since I am here I may as well tell all that it was used on pottery in the U.S. as well.
    It appears on ware made at the Etruria pottery on Clinton & Ott St. in Trenton, N.J. under both Ott & Brewer and the next owner Charles Howell Cook, usually with the word Mellor on Cook's items. It also appears on early Harker from E.Liverpool, Ohio. All of the Trenton items are stamped and the Ohio pieces mold impressed.
    While doing some of recent research I have come across what appears to be questionable majolica items from the Mayer Arsenal pottery and the Franklin/Eureka pottery in Trenton. The Arsenal did make majolica but there is nothing to indicate that it was made at Eureka other than a book author. I feel that it's questionable as there is a great deal being offered for sale on many sites and the quality seems a bit muted when compared to the Pa. Etruscan of the time frame. I also note that the Etruscan ware, like Wedgwood, is all marked while that being attributed to Arsenal and Eureka is not. Eureka is a very small operation on Meade & Prince St. with only one kiln and having so much survive from the 1880's, in good condition?
    Collectors be wary.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. We are in total agreement that collectors should approach every piece with a certain degree of skepticism considering the availability of reproductions, especially of the Arsenal Pottery wares. We do wish to point out however that there are some very fine marked pieces of Eureka available. They are not common but they do exist. Years ago we sold a fabulous marked pitcher to the Brooklyn Museum who maintain a small collection of American majolica.

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  13. hi i bought a green plater today
    it has green leaf design all around the sides with a flower in the center
    the center is darker green than the rest
    it has wedgewood stamped on the back plus made in england and the the serial b129
    would you be able to tell me anything about it
    thanks damien

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    1. This is the platter that accompanies the Wedgwood sunflower series. It can be found both with and without a foot. It was in production for quite a long time, from the late Nineteenth Century well into the first part of the Twentierh Century. Anything marked Made in England was made during the Twentieth Century.

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  14. thanks jumbo
    would it have any value
    i bought it for 5 pound and put on ebay auction for 10 pound
    what do you think

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  15. Hi Jim,

    Great article. Really helpful. I recently purchased a very large collection of Wedgwood Patrician with a variety of markings on each piece. It seemed that it was collected over time to make the collection quite large.

    I can easily identify some of the pieces as they are dated with the 58 or 59 year, but the two I have questions are is one that has "MADE IN ENGLAND" "4KD" I'm guessing this is somewhere betters 1925-1930? Also, "ENGLAND" "2L80" this one I can't figure out... Any help would be great. I am not planning on selling, but would love the history of dates to be able to pass along to my own future generations.

    Thanks,
    Kailey

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    1. Dinnerware like Patrician used a different series of marks than Pearlware and majolica earthenware. The piece marked MADE IN ENGLAND was made sometime after 1910. Pieces marked ENGLAND were made between 1890 and 1909. The 2L80 may relate to a shape number.

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  16. Thank you for all the great one information here. I volunteer for a non-profit organization and we recently had a set of Wedgwood plates donated to sell. We are trying to determine age, pattern and value. I can't find this pattern anywhere. Embossed with 4kd and Made in England. Design is a Chinese woman under a tree with a desk or makeup table. Very colorful oriental design. Rim is shaped like fans. Any ideas or direction appreciated. Thank you!

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