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The Legend of Bohemian Glass:
A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe

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This book offers a comprehensive overview of the history and traditions of Czech art glass. Divided into 12 chapters, the book details the evolution and development of glassmaking as an art form from the earliest times, when the first glass beads appeared in central Europe, to the present.
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Bohemian Tango Cordial Set

It All Begins with a Mark
by Bob Brooke


An experienced collector of pottery can tell a lot about a piece’s origin by reading the manufacturers' marks on the bottom of each piece. These marks tell the pottery's name, its location, its company symbol, and often the pattern name or the name given to the body shape of the piece.

But there may also be other, less obvious, marks that indicate the method of production or factory flaws that show the level of quality control used by the firm. Collectors familiar with these signs can quickly distinguish between factory flaws and more serious indicators of damage and wear inflicted upon that same piece once it has left the factory. Knowing the difference allows the experienced collector to purchase pottery with confidence.

While most manufacturer’s marks, which may he printed, incised, impressed, stamped, or applied as paper labels, usually contain the pottery’s name, initials, symbol and location---or some combination of these—some are rather sparse and may only contain a letter within a geometric shape or a crest.

In the case of the larger firms, a pottery mark also has publicity value and shows the buyer that a long-established company with a reputation to uphold has made a piece. Such clear name marks include Wedgwood, Minton, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Doulton, and Royal Worcester in Britain and Bennington, McCoy, and Hull in the U.S.

Though these marks are one of the best and easiest ways to identify ceramics, the shear number of them makes it impossible to know every mark. Additionally, many small firms either saw no reason to use marks or sometimes used marks that haven’t been identified because of the short life span and limited production of the company.

To the collector a pottery mark can also identify the manufacturer and help establish the approximate date of manufacture and in several cases the exact year of production, particularly in the case of 19th and 20th century wares from the leading firms which employed private dating systems. With the increasing use of ceramic marks in the 19th century, a large proportion of English and American pottery and porcelain can be accurately identified and often dated.

Pottery’s added marks to their wares in several ways. Potters could incise them into the soft clay before the piece air dried, in which the mark will show a slight ploughed-up effect. Potters often do this to handmade pieces. Some manufacturers of quantity pieces, such as Wedgwood, impressed a mark into the soft clay using a metal or clay stamp or seal.

Many pottery manufacturers used painted marks—usually containing their name or initial—added over the glaze at the time of decoration. Some used stencils.

Lastly, most 19th-century pottery makers used printed marks transferred from engraved copper plates at the time of decoration, often in blue under the glaze when the main design is also underglaze blue.

Pottery marks weren’t always universally used. In 1890, President William McKinley introduced the McKinley Tariff Act that imposed tariffs on many imports, including pottery, so that American manufacturers could more easily sell their products. The Act required that all such imports show the name of country of manufacture, such as “England,” “Germany,” “Nippon,” or “France.” In 1921, an amendment to the Act required that the phrase “Made in” precede the country of origin, such as “Made in England” or “Made in Japan.” However, some foreign companies began using the phrase as early as 1898. This is a great way for collectors to date foreign-made pieces.

Beginning pottery collectors often miss marks or flaws from manufacturing and instead focus only on the maker’s mark. These marks give clues to the quality of the ceramic bodies each maker used. Potteries used different firing techniques for different grades of ceramics and the distinctive marks each technique left behind, once known, help to establish the quality of a piece.

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