How to Buy Royal Worcester Ornaments on eBay

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How to Buy Royal Worcester Ornaments on eBay

Royal Worcester porcelain is one of the oldest continuously produced porcelain brands in the UK, and the company was an important pioneer in the history of British porcelain. They have been, and remain, the makers of tableware for royalty, but nowadays they are best known for making ornaments . Their offerings include clever naturalistic figurines and beautifully painted vases often featuring botanical or pastoral themes or birds. Their still-lifes of fruit are works of art in themselves, often appearing quite real, almost as though the excellently made ceramic underneath were beside the point.

Some ornaments are sold unpainted, with just a plain white finish, and they possess all the life-like detail one could wish. Not surprisingly, these ornaments are popular, and eBay offers a simple and affordable way to get into collecting. The point of an ornament is enjoyment, and so the buyer can simply look for something enjoyable and buy it. But in order to properly assess the value of a piece, and in order to properly care for it once it has been purchased, the buyer needs a bit of background on Royal Worcester porcelain.

About Royal Worcester Pottery

Buying Royal Worcester ornaments is easier if the buyer has a solid understanding of the brand. This includes the history of the company and the types of objects it has made over the years. A brief note about the types of porcelain the brand has used should also help the eBay buyer.

A Note About Porcelain

Worcester pottery began with the invention of a new type of porcelain, so to understand the history of the company it is important to know something about porcelain. There are two main types: hard-paste porcelain, which was developed in China and is sometimes called fine china; and soft-paste, which was developed in Europe in imitation of fine china. Hard-paste porcelain contains kaolin, a type of white clay. Soft-paste porcelain can contain any of several ingredients instead of kaolin, which European potters initially either did not know about or could not find. Hard-paste and the several types of soft-paste are similar, but recognisably different materials. Early Worcester porcelain is a very high-quality soft-paste, but the brand has since switched to hard-paste porcelain.

The History of Worcester Porcelain

Worcester has been associated with high-end ceramics for a very long time, although the name, manufacturing process, and the ownership of the brand have changed many times. The earliest version of the brand, the Worcester Tonquin Manufacture, was founded in Worcester in 1751, making the brand one of the two oldest in the UK. Worcester used a unique soft-paste porcelain recipe that included soapstone and was both more heat-resistant and better able to take glaze than the other English porcelains of the time. The company focused on making high-end tableware that was then beautifully painted by outside artists.

The company received its first Royal Warrant from King George III, in 1789, but did not adopt the name, Royal Worcester Pottery Company, until 1862. Over the years, many of their designs were based closely on styles developed in other countries, such as China, France, and Japan, but Worcester always put its own original touch on the designs. The paintwork on the pieces was as remarkable as the porcelain itself. In the early 20th century, Royal Worcester became well known for its figurines, particularly its naturalistic figurines of horses, birds, and women. In more recent decades, the Royal Worcester brand has been acquired by a series of other companies. The original Worcester location has closed, but the brand still exists.

Royal Worcester Porcelain Products

Over the years, Royal Worcester has gone through many different designs and many different designers, but the brand has had a fairly consistent style. Designs tend to be romantic and decorative, even for the most practical pieces. Colours tend to be soft but very rich, and painted designs and figurines alike are naturalistic, detailed, and full of lifelike charm. Ornaments have been part of the Royal Worcester offering almost since the beginning, although the focus was on high-end tableware. While Royal Worcester still produces tableware, they are now principally known for decorative items, such as figurines, vases, and pin dishes.

Collecting Royal Worcester Ornaments

Although Royal Worcester has only focused on producing ornaments in the latter part of its history, given the age of the brand, recent is a relative term. Some ornaments are antiques, meaning that their value for collectors may be very high and their history may be unclear. Unless an ornament was made recently, an eBay seller is not likely to have been the ornament's first owner, and may not know its correct history. While the first consideration when buying a decorative of object is simply whether the buyer likes the piece, the secondary considerations are all the same as for any other collectable porcelain: is the piece labelled and priced correctly; is the piece pristine or has it been damaged at some point; and is the buyer prepared to care for it correctly?

Identifying Genuine Worcester Porcelain on eBay

Given the complex history of Royal Worcester, there is no one way to tell for sure that a given piece is genuine. Instead, serious collectors should focus on a particular period within the brand's history and learn the identifying marks and characteristics particular to that era. Bear in mind that many pieces are mislabelled as early Worcester porcelain not out of any intent to defraud but simply because the same painters worked for several different companies, resulting in a similar look. Of course, with modern ornaments identification is both easier and less important, because the buyer may still have documentation of the original purchase and the seller may care more about the beauty of the piece than its status as a collectable.

Of course, buying online through eBay does make it impossible to examine a piece personally before buying. Instead, ask the seller to make the inspection by asking detailed questions. With the obvious exception of hanging ornaments, pieces have maker's marks on the bottom. Ask for a clear photograph of the maker's mark. Sellers do not mind this type of questioning as long as it is tactful and friendly in tone.

Looking for the Proper Marks

One way to check for authenticity is to look for maker's marks, which most pieces have. For much of its history, Royal Worcester has included a date code of some type, and the mark itself has changed several times, so if the mark does not match the time period when a particular line of ornaments was made, that is a red flag. Early Worcester pieces sometimes used a crescent mark, but no year was noted until 1862. Then, a mark involving a circle surrounding a crescent and the number 51 and with a crown over the circle was adopted. The colour and some of the details of this mark have changed several times, but only the accompanying number code has changed radically.

Year

Date Code

1862 to 1877

Either the last two numbers of the year, or capital letters in sequence.

1877 to 1890

The sequence of capital letters continued, except F, J, and Q were not used and O came after Z.

1890

Lowercase a.

1891

No date code.

1892 to 1903

Increasing numbers of dots to the right and left of the crown.

1904 to 1915

Increasing numbers of dots on either side of the circle.

1916 to 1927

Either a continuation of the older dot system or an asterisk and increasing numbers of dots.

1928 to 1930

A different shape or symbol each year.

1931 to 1932

Two or three linked circles.

1933 to 1941

Three linked circles plus increasing numbers of dots.

1942 to 1963

Several dating systems or none used; inconsistent.

1964 on

No date code used for year of manufacture, but date indicated for year the piece was designed.

This table shows how the maker's marks have changed over the years. The range of years a given system was used is shown. This information provides a sample of the kind of detail an expert would want to learn.

Seeking Quality when Buying Royal Worcester Ornaments on eBay

The value of a porcelain ornament depends in part on its condition, and of course porcelain can break. It can also be repaired, and depending on the type of repair work used, the damage could be entirely invisible or it could be fairly easy to spot. There is nothing wrong with buying a piece that has been repaired; the point of an ornament is to look beautiful, and many repaired pieces still do. The only issue is that the price of the piece should fairly reflect its condition.

Evaluating the Condition of Royal Worcester Ornaments

Buyers interested in the resale value of a collectable piece should also be aware that ornaments in pristine condition sell for more than those that have been repaired, even if the repair was excellently and invisibly made. It is always wise to ask about the condition of a piece, if the seller does not volunteer the information. If the seller is not the original owner, he or she might not know that the piece has been repaired, and might even be unaware of very minor unrepaired damage, such as a thin crack or a small chip. This is another circumstance where asking a lot of questions, tactfully and respectfully, can stand in for doing a personal inspection. If the seller is unsure of the condition of the piece, ask him or her to examine the ornament carefully in bright sunlight, looking for any irregularities in the way the surface reflects light and feeling for any irregularity in surface texture.

Repairing Royal Worcester Ornaments

Repair work often involves the use of an acrylic coating meant to mimic the original glaze. The acrylic may cover only the repaired portion, or it may coat the entire surface, in which case there is no irregularity. Acrylic coatings do sometimes contain just visible dust particles glued into the material, whereas true glazes do not. In the case of very rare antique ornaments that may be worth a large amount of money if pristine, ask the seller to guarantee the condition of the piece so that if an X-ray reveals hidden cracks or repairs the piece can be returned.

Caring for Porcelain

Once a piece has been bought through eBay, of course, the buyer's task is to make sure it stays in good condition. Dust regularly, using something light and soft; a soft-bristled paint brush does a good job of getting dust out of the crevices of figurines, but a toothbrush could cause scratches. To wash an ornament, use warm water and a gentle soap, and, if necessary, scrub gently using a wash cloth. Do not use chemical cleansers unless specifically marked for porcelain, and be sure to put a towel down on the bottom of the sink to prevent scratches and to protect against damage if a piece is dropped by mistake. Lay the pieces on a towel to dry, for the same reason.

Some vases and decorative bowls , cups, and the like are dishwasher-safe, if they are of modern make and include no gold leaf. Royal Worcester porcelain has always been heat-tolerant, but antiques and figurines of any age should be washed only by hand, just to be safe. If a piece does break, it should be professionally repaired. Choose between museum-quality repair, which simply stabilises the piece so it can be displayed, and complete restoration, which can include replacing missing portions with new material.

Buying Royal Worcester Ornaments on eBay

The buyer may also appreciate some guidance on how to find ornaments on eBay and how to get through the buying process smoothly. Buying Royal Worcester ornaments on eBay is simple due to the straightforward search system of the website. You can start your search on the eBay home page.

Finding Royal Worcester Ornaments on eBay

To browse through the options, type something like 'Royal Worcester figurines' into the search box and browse the results. To go right to something specific, the Advanced Search feature is a great choice. Specify the types of ornaments you are looking for and use the provided categories to refine your search.

Buying Royal Worcester Ornaments on eBay with Confidence

Buying collector's items online depends upon communicating well with the seller. Use the contact link on the seller's profile page. Also use the profile page to look up the seller's return policy and feedback score. And, in view of how delicate porcelain is, it is a good idea to ask the seller to insure shipping.

Conclusion

Buying porcelain ornaments on eBay can get complex. Serious collectors may learn how to recognise many specific product lines, the maker's marks and year codes used during the time of their manufacture, and the names and distinctive styles of the designers and painters. This kind of expertise certainly makes it easier to spot rare finds and recognise good deals. Deep knowledge of a particular style also helps a buyer appreciate the finer points of an ornament, enabling him or her to put the piece in context, appreciate how it was made, and also to notice rare and delightful details. However, one need not be an expert to buy and display a beautiful cup or pin tray. It is necessary to know what a piece should be worth and how to care for it. But all a buyer really has to do in order to buy Royal Worcester ornaments on eBay is to enjoy beautiful porcelain

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