As I mentioned in my last post, I am certainly no expert in the world of Staffordshire pieces. However, having handled a great many of these collectibles through the years – under the tutelage of many an educated antique dealer – I have come to recognize some of the “key” elements of most authentic Victorian Staffordshire pieces. Now, let me preface this by saying that there ARE exceptions to the rules. So, please, if you have questions about the authenticity of your piece, confirm your suspicions by consulting a reputable dealer who can help you determine if you are correct.
When you are searching for pieces to PURCHASE, the same priority applies…. seek out trustworthy dealers….. And don’t be afraid to ask tons of questions! Be specific, and wait to receive specific responses that will indicate whether or not it is a piece you are interested in purchasing.
The general guidelines below are intended to aid you in your search, but please remember that there are exceptions to many rules. In addition, there are also quite a few other factors that may contribute to determining authenticity, so be willing to hear what a seller has to say before making your final decision about a specific piece. In my research to confirm all of the information in this blog, I actually learned several additional facts that I had never known!
Checklist of major items to look for in authentic Victorian Staffordshire figurines:
1. GOLD. The gold found on authentic pieces will be soft in color, rather than bright and shiny. In addition, it is typical, although not always the case, that the gilt on original Staffordshire pieces may be rubbed off in some places from age. This wear will not typically affect the value of the piece, so do not be turned off by it.
2. WEIGHT. When you hold an older, original Victorian piece in your hands, versus a newer reproduction, you will feel a difference in weight. The older piece will typically feel quite a bit heavier.
3. CRAZING. Staffordshire pieces were dipped in lead glaze, which generally covers the entire figurine, including the base. Since shrinkage is common in lead glaze, it is common to find crazing in original pieces. Crazing does not occur in a uniform pattern, nor does it affect the entire piece in the same way. So, if you see a piece that looks that way, it will typically be a good indication that it is not an original Stafffordshire.
4. COLOR. As you handle more Staffordshire pieces, you will see that there are some colors that are more common than others. That just comes with time and experience. However, there is one thing that you can recognize fairly easily about the coloring on an original figurine. The only colors that will be UNDER the glaze are blue or black. All other enamels will have been painted OVER the glaze, which of course, makes those colors much more prone to wear and flaking. (ADDITIONAL NOTE: The pieces you find with the blue or black under the glaze – with the other colors applied over the glaze – will be slightly newer pieces, since that technique did not come about until later. Older pieces will have ALL of the colors applied over the glaze.)
5. HOLES. When producing these pieces, a small hole was made in the figure to let out the gasses inside. The key word here is “small”. Most of the reproductions will have large, regularly-shaped holes in the bases, rather than the irregular, smaller openings found in original Staffordshires.
6. MARKINGS. As a rule, most of the older, original pieces have NO markings on them at all. However, if a piece does have a marking, it is best to research it for more information. It will often help you date the piece, as well.
7. DIRT. Yes, that’s right, dirt. Through the years, it is often “ground” into many of the older pieces and is tricky to fully remove. Although not all originals have dirt on them, it is often a common indicator of age. However, BEWARE of pieces that appear to have a “uniform” type of dirty appearance. Some reproductions actually have sprayed-on dirt added to them in an attempt to make them appear more authentic. HA! Imagine that… ADDING dirt to something!
Having said ALL of that, here is the bottom line….. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that you should purchase pieces that are beautiful or interesting to you. If you find a “great deal” on an authentic Victorian Staffordshire piece that you do not truly love, its monetary value will likely have very little consequence.
In addition, if you know that the “authenticity” factor is not important to you, but instead, you would rather purchase reproductions at a more budget-friendly value, do it! I sell Staffordshire reproductions at Knotting Hill almost everyday! Actually, they fly off the shelf as quickly as I can order them. Many of my Myrtle Beach interior design customers adore them purely for their aesthetic appeal, and they could not care less about when or where they were manufactured. If that sounds like you, embrace this Kimplistic rule…. BUY WHAT YOU LOVE! If you follow that single guideline, everything else will likely fall into place.
NOW, GO HAVE AN “It’s So Fabulous!” DAY!