Fine China: The Relation of Style and Design to Value
In the antique and auction world, one of the most asked about items has to be if china is valuable. And that is simply because china is “Fine”. China, which is made from hard paste porcelain has been a commodity to the western world for centuries. Originally invented in china during the Han Dynasty, first century A.D, the code to porcelain was not cracked by westerners until the eighteenth century.
In 1710, German alchemist Johann Friedrich Bottger reversed engineered the Chinese “recipe”, introducing domestic European hard paste porcelain to the market for the first time. Bottger went on to become the first director of the Meissen Manufactory near Dresden, Germany. From Germany, hard paste porcelain production spread to France with the founding of the Royal French Porcelain Manufactory in Vincennes, later relocated to Sevres – the place and name everyone knows as the manufacturer of porcelain for royalty. But the question is with all this history, where does that leave us today?
Original Meissen and Sevres hard paste porcelain from the eighteenth century is always going to be collectible and valuable to some extent, but the odds of a Sevres service for twelve being in your grandmother’s china cabinet are highly unlikely. The most common fine china found in homes today is typically American or English by manufacturers such as Haviland, Pickard, and Lenox (American) or Aynsley, Royal Crown Derby, and Wedgwood (English).
There are countless manufacturers, but through experience these are the typical household names in question on a regular basis. The answer is that ninety-nine percent is relatively worthless; you can’t give it away, and the reason is rather simple. How many forty and under couples do you know who use china? And of that small group how many want to decorate with frivolously gilt bordered botanical plates? The answer…not many. So what china is valuable?
The general rule of thumb for china is – less is more – or it needs to be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. China that was senseless and absurdly decorated with highly unusual patterns that were avant-garde for the time it was produced are predictably valuable. For example, a Royal Crown Derby service for twelve in their “Vine” pattern with serving pieces sells between $250 and $400 at auction if you’re lucky. Find that same service for twelve in their “Red Aves” pattern and it will easily achieve $2,500 or more at auction. On the less is more side of things color is key.
China services with a simplistic, mono-color border are timeless in design. In a time where all green, red, or yellow kitchens are a “thing”, simplistic services could not be more popular for the modernist who enjoys the finer side of dining. So, next Christmas or Easter you might want to pay attention as to what you are cutting your ham on, you’d hate to put a scratch on grandma’s thousand-dollar plate.