Pottery marks were introduced to help the retailer know whose product they were selling. In the case of larger manufacturers, the mark was a way to show the consumer that the piece was produced by a reputable firm. To the modern collector, the marks are a way to determine the date of manufacture and the relative value of particular pieces.
The great European porcelain makers such as Meissen and Sevres marked their work beginning from about 1710. These marks are characterized by hand-painted initials or symbols. The marks of works by Meissen feature the crossed swords that form part of the coat of arms of Saxony. Pieces by Sevres feature a Latinized double "L," inspired by his patron, Louis XV of France.
Bow China Works produced pottery between 1747 and 1776. The incised markings include a circle with a downward pointing arrow, an anchor, a dagger and a crescent moon shape. The Bristol pottery workshop was founded by William Cookworthy in 1770 and produced until 1781. Painted marks include a simple "X" a "B" or "B6" and two crossed swords. The Chelsea porcelain works of London operated between 1745 and 1784. Early works featured incised triangles, some with "Chelsea" written below them. Later marks were raised and shaped like anchors. In 1769, William Duesbury purchased the factory, and the marks were changed to incorporate the letter "D."
British Royal Arms
Pottery bearing the mark of the British Royal Arms indicates that it was created since the 19th century. The presence of the word "Royal" indicates the piece was made after the mid-19th century. Pieces marked with the "Made in England" stamp were produced in the 20th century following the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890. Similarly, pottery bearing the words "bone china" would also have been produced in the 20th century.
U.S. potters were slower in beginning to mark their work than their British counterparts. Lennox, Haviland, Franciscan and Gorham are all renowned manufacturers with marked works. Pieces made by Lennox between 1906 and 1930 feature a green wreath. After 1931 they feature a gold wreath and the "Made in the USA" stamp.