Diamond Club

Click to play our newest game, solitaire!

Spade Heart

How to Identify a Set Mark on China Plates

19th century Staffordshire plate
Chris Elwell istockphoto

One can stumble upon china plates on antique store outings, flea markets, estate sales or by rummaging through grandma's attic. Learn to spot the origin of a piece of china by recognizing set marks on the back of the plate and distinct patterns on the front. Discern manufacturer's markings from symbols, names, letters or numbers. For emerging collectors, learn how to distinguish originals from reproductions and match patterns and set marks on china plates.

Go to the library or bookstore and locate a reference book on porcelain and pottery marks (see the Tips section for examples). Research the manufacturer and markings on the china plates you have or wish to collect. Find old manufacturer catalogs online on sites such as zimbio.com. Join a collector's club. See References to find pottery and china collector's clubs and receive informative journals and newsletters on china dinnerware manufacturers. Participate in chat forums to share and gather feedback.

Immerse yourself in the history of manufacturers such as Tressemann & Vogt and Coiffe-Limoges from France, or Crown Potteries Company and Royal China Company, both from the United States. Know identifying terminology in or surrounding set marks, such as the Limoge star design or the Japanese cherry blossom with Japanese characters inside. The stamp of the marker is found on the bottom center of china plates. The mark might be prominent or faint and represented as a name, symbol, letter or number.

Distinguish Doulton & Company by an oval impressed mark with the word "DOULTON." Underneath it should be the incorporation date and city of production. Royal Doulton's mark might have a lion in profile with a crown below. Underneath, written in a circular format, are the words "Royal Doulton England." Go to replacements.com to find a match to a pattern for verifications. An example is Winter Festival, recognized by "maroon and green panels, topiary and yellow trim."

Note Crown Staffordshire China Company, Ltd., by a standard printed trademark. On top is the month of production. Below in a curve are the words in caps "FINE BONE CHINA." Underneath is "CROWN," with a crown image and the established date of the manufacture. Lastly are the words "ENGLAND, STAFFORDSHIRE." Another example of identification is Blue Willow pattern, which retains a "willow design, smooth edge and gold trim."

Characterize china from Limoges, France. Read "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Limoges," by Mary Frank Gaston. Many manufacturers produced "white wares," which were "blanks," or undecorated pieces, that were sent abroad to be hand painted by artists or left white. Guerin-Pouyat-Elite pieces are marked with the painter's initials as well as the maker's mark. Some plates have two back stamps, red over-glaze with "ELITE WORKS" over arms and "LIMOGES, FRANCE"; green under-glaze mark with "ELITE,L, FRANCE."

Identify Haviland china patterns by using an identifying sourcebook of patterns. With more than 60,000 patterns, the collector Arlene Schleiger developed a number system called Schleiger. Using the Schleiger system, a collector can match correlating numbers to identify a piece. An example is mark C4. Similar to a fraction, "CFH" is written above "GDM," with "France" written below. With the accumulative information, a date and pattern is established. Go to havilandonline.com for further research.

Determine Ohio manufacturer Royal China Company, best known for the blue and white Currier and Ives dinnerware. Each piece of this dinnerware has its own image. All Royal China Company dinnerware has a clear, outer glaze coating. Note that not all Currier and Ives dinnerware has back-markings. Numbers on the back indicate years of production and letters indicate the month. Join currierandivesdinnerware.com to receive a newsletter, share information with other collectors or buy and sell exclusively to members.

Recognize Noritake, hand-painted china from Japan. The back-stamp represents "the high spirits of the pioneers of the ages and symbolize vital strength of Japanese pottery." One marking is an M in a green-wreathed circle. M stood for "Morimura." Early china dinnerware features "Hand Painted Nippon," which simply means "Japan." Go to gotheborg.com, a collector's page for Chinese and Japanese porcelain for pictorials of back-markings.


Some reference books that will help you: "The Pocketbook of Porcelain and Pottery Marks" by Peter Darty; "Kovels' New Dictionary of Marks 1850 to Present" by Ralph and Terry Kovel; "A Manual of Marks on Pottery and Porcelain" by William Harcourt Hooper; "Pictorial Guide to Pottery & Porcelain Marks" by Chad Lange; "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Limoges" by Mary Frank Gaston Look closely for chips, cracks, discoloration and replacement parts attached to an original piece. Match two parts of a set to compare identifying markings.


  • Beware of reproductions. Only purchase china from reputable dealers.
Our Passtimes