Beautiful Italian porcelain is collected and enjoyed by many because of its eye-catching designs and fine quality. It is also readily available at antique and collectible stores, garage sale, consignment shops, and flea markets. Because of this, it is easy to build a beautiful and diverse collection of the porcelain without knowing much about it. By learning to read the maker's mark on a piece of Italian porcelain, you can identify the china's manufacturer, the history behind it, and its value.
Find the maker's mark. Many pieces of porcelain have the manufacturer's name printed on the bottom. However, many pieces contain marks only. These marks indicate not only the manufacturer but also the date of production. Look on the bottom of your piece of Italian porcelain and become familiar with the marks there.
Head to the library. Your local library, or a well-stocked bookstore, will have books on collecting porcelain. Many of these books contain extensive information on maker's marks. Some guides on European marks include "1100 Marks on Foreign Pottery & Porcelain," by L W Publishing; "Directory of European Porcelain: Marks, Makers, and Factories," by Ludwig Danckert; and "Pottery and Porcelain Marks: European, Oriental and U.S.A. in Chronological Order," by E. G. Perrott.
Search the Internet. Online guides to marks found on pottery and porcelain are readily available. Some examples are Old and Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace Guide to Italian Pottery and Porcelain Marks, which features seventeen pages of marks from Italian manufacturers; Marks4Ceramics; and the International Ceramics Directory.
Consult an expert. Antique store owners who specialize in porcelain can be a tremendous resource for identifying maker's marks. Not only are they personally familiar with a wide variety of manufacturers, they sometimes have their own library of collectors' guides that can be helpful. If you have an extensive collection that you suspect could be valuable, it may be worthwhile to pay an appraiser for information. An expert in porcelain would be able to identify your pieces as well as advise you on the insurance value of your collection. Refer to the International Society of Appraisers or the American Society of Appraisers for qualified professionals.
Hunt for similar pieces. Look at brick-and-mortar antique and collectible stores, as well as online dealers, to find pieces similar to yours. Often, the seller will know the maker of the piece. You will also get a sense of what your piece is worth in the marketplace. Some examples of online sources for Italian porcelain would be the Internet antique store Ruby Lane and the auction site eBay. For both of these, entering the keywords "Italian porcelain" will lead you to the relevant pages.