How to Identify Imari Porcelain

By Mary Strain ; Updated April 12, 2017
It can be difficult to distinguish genuine Imari from the many imitations.

Imari porcelain, also known as Arita ware, was first produced in the 1600s in the Japanese town of Arita. Imari is the name of the port city from which the porcelain was first exported to the West. Imari is highly collectible and comes in many forms besides plates, such as cups, bowls, vases and figures. There are several ways to identify Imari porcelain; however, if in doubt, seek expert authentication.

Research Japanese porcelain marks, whether online or by purchasing a book. Imari porcelain marks are, of course, in Japanese, though marks dating from genuine 20th-century pieces also bear English marks. Early Imari plates often bear characteristic signatures. For example, pieces from the 17th to mid-19th centuries often bear Japanese characters such as "Fuku," which means "happiness," or "Fuki Choshun," which means "good fortune and long life," according to the Gotheborg website. However, the presence of such a mark isn't infallible proof that the piece is genuine.

Study examples of Imari porcelain. The earliest Imari porcelains are blue and white and generally simpler in design than later pieces. However, Imari soon evolved to include rich ornamentation in jewel-like cobalt blues, bright reds, greens and golds. Imari porcelain often features intricate designs of animals, flowers, patterns or symbolic objects.

Examine the piece for signs of age. General signs of age in a piece of porcelain include tiny, cracklike marks called crackling, deterioration or scratching of the glaze, and faded or discolored design. Glaze contractions, or what looks like tiny holes or dents in the porcelain, and rust spots can also be signs of age, according to Collecting Antique Chinese Porcelain website. However, be aware that many of these signs can be faked by a skillful forger. The only definitive way to identify antique Imari porcelain is to obtain an expert authentication.

About the Author

Mary Strain's first byline appeared in "Scholastic Scope Magazine" in 1978. She has written continually since then and has been a professional editor since 1994. Her work has appeared in "Seventeen Magazine," "The War Cry," "Young Salvationist," "Fireside Companion," "Leaders for Today" and "Creation Illustrated." She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.