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10 Valuable Antique China Patterns & Tips to Spot Them

In World
June 10, 2024

Before you drop that china off at the thrift store, take a sec to flip it over and give it a closer look. Knowing how to spot valuable antique china marks and identify the patterns you have can mean the difference between giving away a treasure and understanding when you’ve got something special.

If you’ve inherited or bought some pieces of antique china, it’s handy to know how to learn more about your heirlooms. Often, the piece holds many clues, and understanding how to read these can help you identify the pattern. From that, you can get a sense of your china’s value and history.

Keep an eye out for a few super valuable antique china patterns that you might see in shops (or, if you’re lucky, even at yard sales). These are the ones to watch for, according to the price of a dinner plate at Replacements.com.


Price Per Dinner Plate

Tiffany Cirque Chinois


Bernardaud Chenonceaux Cobalt


Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica


Hermes Le Jardin de Pythagore


Bernardaud Parthenon


Tiffany Holiday


Rosenthal Magic Flute Gold


Spode Stafford White


Miessen Dragon Brown


Haviland Beauvallon


Before you can identify the pattern, you need to figure out what kind of china you have. Because porcelain production originated in China, Europeans and Americans used the term “china” to describe any fine porcelain piece. However, there are actually several different kinds of china, each of which uses a specific production process. Since many manufacturers specialized in a single type of china, this can help narrow down the possibilities for your china pattern.

Three Types of Porcelain

There are three main types of porcelain, all of which are commonly called “china.”

  • Bone chinaBone china originated in England around 1750. There, factories like Spode and Royal Worcester used bone china to make tea sets, vases, dinnerware, and other items. As the name implies, bone china involves the addition of bone ash to a mixture of finely ground stone and clay. The process results in pieces that are incredibly thin and translucent.

  • Hard-paste porcelain – Hard-paste porcelain was the original type produced in China, and it’s a major fixture in antique Chinese art. This type of china originally included a clay called kaolin, as well as ground alabaster. Today, it often includes quartz. The first European factory to produce hard-paste porcelain was Meissen, a German company that began production in 1710.

  • Soft-paste porcelain – European potteries came up with a recipe for porcelain that did not involve kaolin clay from China. Instead, this softer type of china involved local clays, most notably clay from the Limoges region of France and used in Limoges china.

Tips for Determining Type

shelley creamer


Use these tricks to help you figure out what kind of china you have:

  • Hold the china up to the light. According to Noritake, bone china will be way more translucent than other types of porcelain. If you can see a lot of light coming through the piece, you most likely have china with bone ash in it.

  • Examine the color. Noritake also notes that the color of bone china tends to be more ivory than white. If your piece is pure white, it is more likely to be hard or soft porcelain.

  • Listen to the piece. You can tell the difference between hard and soft-paste porcelain by holding the item with your fingertips and lightly tapping the edge with a coin. If it makes a high-pitched tone, it’s more likely to be hard-paste.

balleek backstamp


Most fine china features an identification mark that helps to identify the manufacturer of the piece. Knowing this info is important for identifying the pattern. In many cases, there may be more than one stamp on an item, sometimes indicating where the piece was manufactured and where it was painted and glazed. Additionally, backstamps offer insight into the date of a piece, since most manufacturers changed stamps every few years.

How to Find the Backstamp

In most cases, finding the backstamp is easy. Simply turn the piece over and look on the bottom or back. You’ll usually see symbols and writing, and sometimes, there will be a raised design.

It can help to use a magnifying glass to enlarge the stamp. You can also take a photo and then use your phone or computer to enlarge the image. Hint: add contrast to the picture to make the stamp really stand out if it’s hard to read.

How to Use the Backstamp

Backstamp marked Limoges Elite Works


Once you’ve found the backstamp, use a website with a library of stamps and manufacturers to learn about your piece. The following sites are awesome for this.

  • Kovels – One of the most respected names in antiques, Kovels has a complete library of backstamps. You can search by the shape of the mark, initials in the mark, or words and full names.

  • Gotheborg.com – If you have Chinese porcelain, this is the site to use to find out about your backstamp. It features photographs of the marks and information about the manufacturers.

What if There Isn’t a Backstamp?

While most fine china features identification marks, you may find that some very early pieces do not have backstamps. According to ThePotteries.org, a website by potter and history expert Steve Birks, this was quite common with early bone china. If your piece doesn’t have a backstamp, consider taking it to a professional appraiser to learn more about the pattern.

Once you know the manufacturer and the type of china, you have most of the information you’ll need to find the pattern name or number. However, many manufacturers made dozens, or even hundreds, of different patterns. To save time and avoid having to sift through the entire product catalog for your manufacturer, take note of some of the most important details in your pattern.

Gold Edging

gold edging


Gold, or gilt, edging is one of the first things you’ll notice when you look at some china patterns. Some manufacturers, such as Noritake, are famous for pieces with this luxurious detail. Typically, this beautiful gilt paint is applied to the edges of plates, cups, bowls, and other pieces. Depending on how the piece has been preserved and the age of the item, the gilt edge may be worn or spotted.

Major Color

While many pieces are white or ivory, there are also a number of china patterns that feature a background or much of the decoration in another color. Some shades you may see include black, pink, red, gold, and blue, as with Blue Willow China. Often, the back or underside of these pieces is white.

Other Paint Colors Used

Also note any other significant colors in the design. Does it have a black edge or a decoration of fuchsia flowers? These details will help you figure out the name or number of the pattern.

Specific Motifs

Finally, note any specific images in the pattern. Consider some of the following:

Related: 5 Most Valuable Collector Plates & What Yours Could Be Worth

If you know the manufacturer and type of china and have taken some time to look into the details on your piece, you’re ready to figure out the pattern number or name. While there’s really no china pattern finder that will make it easy to identify your piece, a great place to start is Replacements.com. This site sells replacement pieces for many patterns, and they have an extensive library of patterns with photos. Click on the manufacturer name to see a list of patterns.

You can also look up patterns on manufacturer-specific sites:

  • National Shelley China Club – This is a great place to identify a piece of Shelley china, including the pattern name and the date.

  • Meissen China Patterns – If you have a piece of Meissen china, you can find many of the most popular patterns here.

  • Haviland Online – This site offers photos and tips for identifying Haviland china.

Dating is another pretty important part of identification (and totally a big deal for value, too). In many cases, patterns have been in continuous production for decades or even centuries. This means that you might not be able to narrow down the date range or value for your antique dish or plate simply by identifying its pattern. Instead, you’ll need to use the backstamp to help you. Here’s how:

  1. After you’ve identified your pattern and its manufacturer, visit one of the backstamp identification websites like those listed above.

  2. Use a magnifying glass to really examine the details of the mark and compare it to the stamps used at various points by the manufacturer.

  3. When you find a match, you have a date range for your piece.

Certain china patterns stand the test of time and remain popular with collectors for centuries. According to House Beautiful, the following patterns are especially desirable:

  • Blue Italian – This iconic transferware pattern features scenes of Italy. The detailed images are printed in blue on a white background. This pattern has been in continuous production since 1816.

    Spode Blue Italian


  • Meissen’s Ming Dragon – Since the middle of the 18th century, Meissen has been making this Asian-inspired pattern. It usually features a persimmon-colored Chinese dragon on a white background and has gold edging. Sometimes, the dragon is painted in other colors, such as green.

  • Royal Copenhagen’s Flora Danica – This detailed pattern was based on botanical art from the 1790s. It’s one of the most collectible and costly china patterns in existence.

  • Deruta’s Raffaellesco – Introduced the 1600s, this finely detailed, multi-colored pattern has enjoyed great popularity for centuries. Floral motifs and gold dragons adorn this white porcelain design.

Related: How to Store China to Keep It Safe

Whether you have a popular and valuable antique china pattern or a rare gem from the past that you just love, antique china is a beautiful and valuable part of dining culture. Knowing how to find out your china pattern name or number can give you a sense of your piece’s place in history.

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