To comply with United States importation restrictions, products produced in Japan were required to carry the Nippon mark. Products bearing the Nippon mark were generally made during the period from 1891 to 1921. The Nippon mark can be found on later products, but was usually accompanied with the name "Japan." Nippon porcelain, or Noritake as it is commonly called, was manufactured by more than 200 porcelain makers, and its quality was of a high standard, while its price was less expensive than the wares of U.S. and European counterparts.
The exquisite decoration on Nippon porcelain has been coveted for its attention to detail. Popular designs included geisha girls, dragons, flora and fauna, pastoral scenes and cameo reliefs. Gold and silver was often used as an embellishment by the best makers, and this makes it highly collectible.
Porcelain makers used a series of back stamps that the buyer should look for when trying to identify Nippon ware. One company was responsible for producing the most Nippon ware. The company is still in existence and is now called the Noritake Company. In her book titled "Van Patten's ABC's of Collecting Nippon Porcelain," Joan van Patten offers expert advice on recognizing more than 300 of the 359 stamps known to date.
Gold was used profusely in the decoration of high-end Nippon ware and is an excellent sign of quality. However, the gold has transpired to be delicate and poor in durability. It is common to find pieces where most or all of the gold has worn away. Buyers should beware the more recent addition of gold to Nippon ware by unscrupulous dealers.
One of the most collectible styles of Nippon ware is that of the Wedgwood-style Jasper ware decoration. Josiah Wedgwood introduced this style of porcelain decoration in the 1700s, using pale blue and green backgrounds and white relief decorations of classical Roman themes and portrait silhouettes. Nippon copies are most collectible if they feature portraits of historical figures including Madame Lebrun, Queen Louise, Madame Recamier and Countess Anna Potocka.
Like all antique porcelain, examples can sell anywhere between a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. To value Nippon ware, it is necessary to consider a number of factors, and the quality of the decoration, the condition of the piece and its rarity are most important. Collectors should also take into consideration the location of the piece, the sophistication of the prospective buyer and the seller and the number of other interested parties. Any antique is only worth as much as one person is prepared to pay for it.
- "Van Patten's ABC's of Collecting Nippon Porcelain: Identification and Values"; Joan Van Patten; 2005
- International Nippon Collectors Club: Back Stamps
- "The Wonderful World of Nippon Porcelain: 1891-1921"; Kathy Wojciechowski; 1992
Holly Johns attained a graduate degree in communications from Oxford University in 1987, and started writing professionally shortly thereafter. She has more than 20 years of experience in journalism and public and media relations, and has been published widely in publications, including "The Guardian," "The Daily Mail," "U.S. Stars and Stripes," and "Time Out London."