Colonists coveted Chinese porcelain


The mysterious Far East held great fascination for the early Americans. Ocean trade led to the development of U.S. importers, who quickly looked to the Orient for items of interest for the new Colonists.

Chinese potters began to export porcelain to Europe and America early in the 1700s. Early porcelain shipped to Europe was better in quality than the material intended for America during the last quarter of that century.

This lesser quality however did not discourage American importers, and certainly is overlooked by collectors today.

Smart marketing. The market during the late 1700s was quite satisfied with this firm, sturdy porcelain, which was often decorated with motifs symbolizing America’s newly created nation – eagles, flags and cities of patriotic significance.

These patriotic symbols commanded a higher price compared to the same quality porcelain without decoration.

After 1830, Chinese porcelain demand declined sharply, possibly because it ceased to illustrate the popular patriotic motifs – and at that time, the familiar blue and white willow pattern became fashionable.

For upper class. These ornate porcelain wares were marketed to and purchased by the more affluent clientele. (Today, these collectible pieces are still beyond the labor class’ wallet and are readily found in well-to-do citizens’ china display cases.)

To satisfy the market for porcelain wares bearing coats of arms, China import dealers offered service pieces with blank coat of arms illustrated. This could render a tinge of prestige to common folks.

Sought-after. During the active American import era from the 1780s until approximately 1820, a renown English importer was one of the most important dealers.

Some knowledgeable collectors today are quite avid purchasers of this dealer’s imported wares. The ware is known by outstanding geometric patterns of round medallions enhanced by brilliant blue, green and orange glaze.

A few illustrate eagles; these are the most sought after.

State seals. A more select porcelain ware for collectors are the pieces bearing state seals, especially early American states, i.e. New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Chinese porcelain manufacturers did not limit their wares to tableware. They produced garden seats, figurines, lamp bases, tureens of unusual shapes, candle holders and other accessories.

Handle with care. Use caution if you’re using late export ware as table service. It’s usable, however pieces with even fine, hairline cracks will be further damaged if you use hot water in dish washing.

Chips, of course, are another damage, but are not effected by hot water.

Do not use harsh soap or scrub with a pad of any type. Always store with a satisfactory liner, such as a paper plate.


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