What Are the Ways to Identify Pottery?

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Checking the mark, weight and clay type are some ways to identify pottery. Each piece of pottery has a unique identifier that helps buyers understand its origin.

All pottery offers clues as to its identification. Many pottery items include the manufacturing company or potter’s mark on the bottom. Various websites such as Kovels offer lists of pottery marks through which owners can compare and identify their pottery. Such marks typically come in two forms:

  • Shapes: includes crowns, shields, birds and more
  • Words, letters or initials: includes manufacturing company names or initials or the potter or artist name or initials

The weight of the item also offers clues as to its origins. Many early- to mid-20th century items of American pottery weigh more than items made in other countries during the same period.

Clay type and glaze is another way to identify pottery. Typing pottery involves three areas of classification:

  • Paste: characteristics of the clay from which the item was formed
  • Surface treatment: presence, absence and type of glaze
  • Decoration: methods and types of imagery on the item

In addition to understanding the physical attributes of the pottery item, typing also offers information about when and where the item was made, what the item’s purpose was and the approximate value of the item.