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How to Identify Antique Vases

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Antique vase collecting is a very rewarding and popular hobby. Whether you collect for your own pleasure or to resell for a profit, the process of collecting will undoubtedly bring you hours of enjoyment. The thrill you get when browsing through the antique store or flea market and spotting what you believe is an antique vase is like no other. Being able to identify and confirm that it is, indeed, an antique is half the fun but you need to arm yourself with the knowledge needed before making a purchase.

Steps to Identifying Antique Vases

Purchase an illustrated antique vase guide at your local bookstore or online. You can also visit your public library for some wonderful antique books but buying one allows you to take it with you. Having the information available to you as you search for treasures is advantageous.

Read the guide and study the pictures thoroughly. There are countless manufacturers of vases, each with their own distinctive attributes, styles, finishes and techniques. Familiarizing yourself with the distinctive styles of the manufacturers you’re interested in as well as their makers mark (the identifying mark that most manufacturers put on the bottom of a piece).

The marks used by porcelain makers will usually display the manufacturer’s name and sometimes the artist’s initials, logo or signature. On many antique pottery pieces only the artist’s identifying mark is present because many antique pottery pieces were one of a kind or produced in very limited quantities.

Study the peculiarities common to pieces manufactured during certain eras. An example would be tiny bubbles that appear in the glass. These bubbles usually indicate that a glass piece is antique because the manufacturing techniques available at the time were not as advanced as modern pieces, so frequently air bubbles were encased in the glass. This bubbling is also an indication that a vase may have been hand blown.

Visit your local antique stores with your illustrated guide and ask the sales associate if they have the type of pieces your interested in. Pick the pieces up and study them carefully, inside and out, comparing them to the illustrations in your book. The sales associates in antique stores are usually avid antique collectors themselves and as such are frequently an invaluable source of additional knowledge and insight.

Once you are confident that you have the knowledge to make a purchase, take your illustrated guide and visit your local flea market or an estate sale. Peruse the offerings and compare the pieces with your guide. If you find a piece that you believe is a genuine antique, then purchase it.


When dealing with sales associates or estate sale personnel, don’t be timid about asking questions. Asking questions can sometimes reveal hidden information that could sway your purchasing decision.


  • Beware of counterfeit merchandise being passed off as authentic antiques. In addition to the illustrated guides, there are countless resources online that offer advice on how to spot a counterfeit.
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