The resonating bell-like ring that emerges as you strike a porcelain object is music to ears. Its translucent whiteness is beauty to eyes. Porcelain is beautiful, durable and versatile. From being used as an industrial material to making decorative objects like vases, jewelry boxes and figurines, porcelain enjoys pride of place among collectors of porcelain dolls and porcelain figurines. Is there a difference between Japanese porcelain and Chinese porcelain? If you are new to collecting porcelain dolls, porcelain vases, figurines, read further to know all relevant information.
Porcelain - a ceramic
Ceramic refers to a mixture of clay, earthen elements, powders and water. After shaping the mixture into desired forms or shapes, it is fired at high temperature. The firing in the kiln gives the resultant product its hardness. Thus, the finished product is rigid and is glazed or unglazed depending on the product's intended use.
Earthenware, stoneware and porcelain belong to the family of ceramics. Earthenware and stoneware are made from single natural clay. The clay, when fired at low temperature results in earthenware. If fired at high temperature, the natural clay is transformed into stoneware. Unlike earthenware and stoneware, porcelain though categorized as a ceramic varies in terms of the ingredients used and the process by which it is made.
Kaolin, pure white clay is a significant component of porcelain. And petuntse, a type of feldspar is the other ingredient that goes into the making of porcelain. However, clay can be combined with variable components such as ball-clay, glass, bone ash, steatite, quartz and alabaster. Craftspeople decide on the combination, select varying proportions and create different types of porcelain. After a series of preparatory steps, one of the four forming processes namely, soft plastic forming, stiff plastic forming, pressing, or casting is engaged based on the type of porcelain ware being produced.
The China connection
Porcelain was given due recognition in China at the time of Tang dynasty (618-907). For at least a thousand years, the art of making porcelain was a closely guarded secret and China held global monopoly. Two Germans after years of research got the formula right and a series of events led to large-scale production in the West in 1710.
Exquisitely carved porcelain has occupied a pride of place in European palaces since the 1600s. Once available only to the affluent, porcelain decorated the tables of sovereigns and noblemen, the ones who could afford it. With the winds of change, ceramic items became a commodity of quantity production making it affordable.
Incidentally, the word 'china' is considered synonymous with the most sought after porcelain. And, porcelain is often called china, or chinaware. Also, feldspar, an ingredient for porcelain is found only in China. Perhaps this justifies reason for substitution of names. But, in reality porcelain and chinaware aren't the same and differ a lot.
Porcelain in Japan
The Korean potters are acknowledged as introducers of Porcelain to the Japanese. Called 'iiki' in Japanese, the 17th century marked the advent of Porcelain in Japan. However, the world recognizes Japanese porcelain by the name Imari porcelain. It signifies the name of the Port Imari located in the town of Arita, the heart of the Japanese porcelain industry.
Unlike porcelain that is white in color, Imari porcelain is popular for its striking blue color on a white background. Veteran porcelain collectors regard imari porcelain as highly valuable. Its style and design portrays a cosmopolitan look.
In the 19th century, ceramic was used to make cooking pots, soup bowls and kitchen articles. It was in the 20th century that porcelain gained importance as an elegant and exquisite item of giftware. Porcelain is highly valued for its sheer beauty and strength. Fine crafted porcelain wares are handed down to future generations representing treasured family heirlooms. The 21st century saw an emergence of a new generation of porcelain lovers. To them, porcelain represents value, finest art pieces that bring an air of elegance to grace home and office environment. Capodimonte, Dresden and Lladro collections offer many an exquisite porcelain figurine.
Collectible porcelain dolls
A doll made 25 to 75 years ago qualifies to be termed as a collectible doll. Going by the history of porcelain, the art of making porcelain dolls have existed even during the Victorian era. Hence, porcelain dolls qualify to be termed as collectible doll. As porcelain replicates human characteristics very truly and beautifully, porcelain dolls continue to be the most widely collected dolls. Use these tips while adding or starting porcelain doll collection or buying a gift that will last for many years to come.
- Face decoration important to determine price
- Consider quality of doll
- Look for smooth skin and the lifelike coloring
- Impeccable eye finish
- If open-mouthed doll, teeth must be very much in place
- The face and the fingers must be exquisitely shaped. Porcelain dolls with open hands and fingers separated need finer craftsmanship.
Manufacturers of porcelain dolls look for popular characters to entice the young as well as the young at heart. Keeping pace with the change in tastes and outlook, classic international beauties are dressed to portray respective native icons. Porcelain doll makers always explore better ways to craft exquisite, attractive dolls.
Bisque dolls (unglazed porcelain) are world famous for they project a more realistic skin tone. The advent of bisque dolls can be traced back to the late 1860s. Several French doll firms were involved in the making of bisque dolls. Antique bisque dolls had leather or cloth bodies. Subsequently, they were replaced with composition bodies (a mixture of sawdust, paper, glue, and plaster of paris). It is only since 1980s that bisque dolls have gained popularity as collector dolls.
From ½ an inch up to life-size dolls of five feet tall, only the head of the doll is made of bisque. The bodies are of cloth or composition. Use these tips to check and evaluate if it's authentic.
- No black flecks, pimples or pin-holes
- Check if slightly translucent
- Ensure not too heavy
- Between open and close-mouth bisque head dolls, the later is valuable
- Eyelashes, eyebrows are truly artistic
Exquisite porcelain dolls come draped with sateen embellished with ruffles, lace and faux pearls. They come in sizes ranging from 5 inches to larger dolls which sit or stand, with porcelain head and limbs and soft torsos. Dolls come in various creative groups such as young girls, ethnic figurines, Eskimos, clowns, boy and girl, Holy family and nativity scene.
Porcelain figurines and vases
Just like porcelain dolls, porcelain sculptures or figurines and vases too delight its collectors. Its beauty is truly irresistible. Inspired by the Chinese, porcelain figurines and vases come in infinite styles. A striking display at home or an office, porcelain figurines and vases are also an affordable gift option that suits many styles and tastes.
Chinese or Japanese Porcelain
Are you are keen in collecting porcelain antique collectibles? Do not end up collecting fake antiques. Use these tips to determine and distinguish if authentic Chinese or Japanese porcelain collectible. Initiate the process by checking if it's in fact porcelain. Can you see a shadow of your finger through the porcelain when held up to the light? Is the shadow visible, does it transmit light? Once it is determined that the piece is porcelain, proceed further.
- Get acquainted with respective designs and styles
- Use this as a basis to distinguish
- Turn it over look for a mark as all porcelain antique pieces will have one.