How to Identify a Maker’s Mark and Their History |EASTER TABLE IDEAS

Mar 29, 2024 | On Design, On Homemaking, Paris, Parisienne Farmgirl Entertains, Parisienne Farmhouse Design, Parisienne Farmhouse Design (TM), The Parisienne Farmhouse | 2 comments

What is it about dishes? That need to know how to identify a maker’s mark, that need to have MORE…Some of us have it. The addiction. You’ve heard us say it in our own personal confession:

“I need new dishes like I need a hole in the head.”

Well, I’m here to tell you the struggle is real. God grant me the serenity to accept things that I can not change. I love dishes. And beauty being in the eye of the teacup holder, when a set strikes my fancy, I have to have it.

One of the first things I do after falling in love with the front pattern is flip the plate over to discover the maker’s mark on the back. That little stamp makes me just as happy as the gold leaf or hand-painted flowers. So much can be learned by that little symbol of pride. That stamp that says, “We made this.” In my recent Youtube video I promised you I would nerd out and share the history behind the dishes featured on my Easter table so here goes. But first –

What is a Maker’s Mark?

Ah, mes chères amis, let’s talk about these darling maker’s marks on our beloved china pieces! Picture yourself sipping a café au lait from a delicate teacup adorned with the most charming little symbol or signature on the bottom.

These maker’s marks, they’re like little love notes from the artisans who crafted these treasures. You’ll find them nestled on the underside of your favorite plates, cups, and saucers, each one telling a unique story of craftsmanship and tradition. Some faded, some clear, but always with a story to tell.

Imagine uncovering a piece of Limoges porcelain with its elegant maker’s mark or spotting the iconic Wedgwood stamp on a beloved teapot. These marks, they’re like secret codes that connect us to the artisans and manufacturers who pour their hearts into creating these timeless pieces.

When I first began to dress the table I chose a small plate to sit atop the larger ones. Imagine my delight at the thrift shop when I flipped that one over and saw the words “Tiffany & Co”. I looked around, guarding my newfound treasure. Move over Holly Golightly, these ones are mine!

Vintage Tiffany & Co dishes
how to identify a maker's mark

Ah me, There once was a world where Minton and Tiffany & Co. joined forces to create some seriously fabulous dishes! Picture this: It’s the mid-1800s, and across the pond, Minton, the English pottery maestros, are wowing everyone with their bone china brilliance. Meanwhile, in the bustling streets of New York City, Tiffany & Co. is making waves in the luxury goods scene with their sparkly jewels and elegant silverware. You’re getting Far and Away vibes, aren’t you? Now, what happens when you combine the English craftsmanship of Minton with the American elegance of Tiffany & Co.? Magique, that’s what! These two powerhouses teamed up to bring the finest tableware to the elite on both sides of the Atlantic. Think custom-designed dinner sets fit for kings and queens, with intricate patterns and hand-painted details that make every meal feel like a royal banquet.

From fancy plates to delicate vases, Minton supplied Tiffany & Co. with all sorts of ceramic wonders, adding a touch of class to dinner tables everywhere. Their collaboration wasn’t just about making pretty things – it was about creating a legacy of luxury that still shines bright today.

Before I laid those little plates down, I started with the most beautiful creamy white plate with delicate gold detail. I recently found a set of 12 of these – OH TO HAVE THE ENTIRE SET. Nonetheless, 12 pristine dishes that are over 100 years old are quite a treasure. Shall we flip them over to see the back?

how to identify a maker's mark

The stamp on the back tells me they were made by Royal Dalton between 1901-1922.

Yummy.

In 1901, the company introduced a new Doulton mark with the lion, crown, and ‘intersecting D motif that you see here. The new mark and use of the name ‘Royal Doulton’ as opposed to ‘Doulton’ celebrate the grant of the Royal Warrant to Doulton by King Edward VII in 1901. This mark was used in various forms into the 1990s, but the style of this mark tells me this pattern dates from 1901 to 1922 and was made exclusively for Marshall Field’s.
I’m always nostalgic for the world of Marshall Field’s. I once scored a giiiiiiiiiiant hooked rug with the original Marshall Fields label still sewn on, and my vintage plaid flannel bathrobe has the same tag. I remember going to the flagship as a child and teenager. That classy green bag was always a sign of quality for me. I even registered at Marshall Fields as a young bride, (when all my friends were registering at Khols). Lucky for this dish addict this iconic Chicago department store, collaborated with Royal Doulton in creating exquisite dishes and tableware.

A bit more about Marshall Field’s, I thought you’d never ask – it’s not just a store, it’s a legend! Founded in 1852 by Potter Palmer, Marshall Field’s quickly became a retail powerhouse, known for its luxury goods, impeccable service, and iconic flagship store on State Street (where my memories are held) at Watertower in Chicago. It was a shopping destination where elegance and sophistication reigned supreme, drawing in crowds of locals and visitors alike. Oh! Remember those Cinderella windows every year at Christmas time??? That was pure magic! (Also, the location of that hilarious scene with the underwear from Christmas vacation:)

doorways of chicago
This amazing photograph was taken by my uncle. He is a professional photographer and gives detailed architectural tours of Chicago.
You can find this photograph for sale and more information here: https://doorwaysofchicago.com/product/marshall-field-clock/ and mom, if you’re reading this, put my name on that ornament. LOL

Now, let’s talk about Royal Doulton. This British ceramics company has been crafting fine china and porcelain since the early 19th century, earning a reputation for its timeless designs and impeccable quality. From elegant tea sets to elaborate dinnerware, Royal Doulton’s creations adorned tables in homes and palaces around the world.

So now, just like the collaboration between Tiffany and Minton, we’re blessed with the prestige of Marshall Field’s with the craftsmanship of Royal Doulton! Marshall Field’s partnered with Royal Doulton to offer its discerning customers the finest in tableware and dining accessories. Whether you were hosting a lavish dinner party or simply enjoying a cup of tea at home, Marshall Field’s had you covered with Royal Doulton’s exquisite creations.

From classic patterns to modern designs, the collaboration between Marshall Field’s and Royal Doulton brought a touch of elegance and sophistication to dining tables across Chicago and beyond. It was a partnership rooted in tradition and luxury, reflecting the timeless charm of Marshall Field’s and the impeccable craftsmanship of Royal Doulton.

Though Marshall Field’s may be a nostalgic memory for many (I was loyal and would never shop at Macy’s or whatever other stores took its place), its legacy lives on through the cherished moments shared around tables set with Royal Doulton dishes like mine will be this Easter. Another reason it’s so great to know how to identify a maker’s mark.

Finally, I swapped out two of my plates for these incredible hand-painted plates with their exquisite lattice detail. And they featured another fascinating maker’s mark full of history. The tiny giveaway on the bottom of plates marked “Germany” is that that one word means your plate dates from PRE Berlin wall or post. This is the same for old maps and globes. Clues like Germany or countries that have changed, such as Czechoslovakia (which was dissolved in 1992.)

how to identify a maker's mark

Not only does this plate say “Germany” but it also has the unique “US ZONE” mark.

After World War II, Germany found itself split into different zones of occupation, kind of like a giant puzzle divided among the Allies. One of these zones was controlled by the United States, hence the “US Zone” label you might find on certain items, like this beautiful Bavarian china plate.

Now, picture this: it’s the late 1940s to early 1950s, and Germany is picking up the pieces after the war. In this time of rebuilding and reconstruction, folks are still making beautiful things, including these gorgeous Bavarian china plates. The “US Zone” marking on the bottom tells us that these plates were crafted in the area under the watchful eye of the United States military administration. These plates aren’t just pretty pieces for my collection – they’re little time capsules from a significant period in history. They capture the spirit of resilience and creativity as Germany bounced back from the ravages of war. Plus, they’ve got that unique style influenced by the times with their latticework and detailed hand-painting, making them extra special for collectors and history buffs alike.

So, next time you spot that “US Zone” stamp on a Bavarian china plate, remember the story behind it. It’s not just about the beautiful design – it’s a reminder of the strength and ingenuity of the human spirit during challenging times. Bonus tip: this is very similar to the concept behind the words “Occupied Japan” on the bottom of certain Japanese pieces.

how to identify a maker's mark

Speaking of Czechoslavakia – those divine little teacups or hot chocolate cups? Oh my goodness, they are so precious. I had to put one in the center of each plate to finish off the table. These delightful cups, each one bearing the mark of “Puls” alongside the enchanting word “Czechoslovakia.” They’re like little pieces of art. Crafted with care and attention to detail, Puls tea cups boast intricate designs and hand-painted motifs that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a bygone era of elegance and refinement.

Dating back to the early to mid-20th century, these cups embody the essence of their time, blending classic European styles with the flair of Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences. So, whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting your vintage tea set journey, flip those cups over and look for the stamp -Puls Czechoslovakia tea cups are sure to steal your heart.

And last, but not least – one of my most questioned-about items – the colorful stemware. If there’s anything I want more of – it’s these. I’m crazy for them and I constantly keep my eyes peeled for them. I’m not alone – when I take my guests to the Paris flea markets I always ask – is there anything in particular I can help you find today? I’d like to think all my obsessions with history and antiques can work in their favor (not to mention I’m rather proud of my ability to strike a good bargain au français:) On my last trip one of my guests said, YES! You can help me find little colorful cordial glasses like yours.

We found her a beautiful set – hers are French. The ones you see in my cabinet are German. I’ve found them unused with the stickers still on them which makes me so sad that someone found them TOO special to use. We use ours!

In 19th century Bavaria, Germany, was a region renowned for its craftsmanship and love of fine beverages. Enter NACHTMANN, a name synonymous with exquisite glassware that’s been elevating drinking experiences for generations. What’s more elevated than colorful cut glass on a stem??? NACHTMANN’s journey begins with a passion for precision and beauty. Founded in 1834 by Michael NACHTMANN, this family-owned brand quickly became a beacon of excellence in the world of glassmaking. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to quality, NACHTMANN set out to create glassware that not only looked stunning but also enhanced the aromas and flavors of your favorite wines.

Sounds good to me!

Fast forward to today, and antique NACHTMANN wine glasses are cherished by connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Online they can be priced as high as $1500 for a set so keeping an eye out at antique stores and thrift shops is a must! Once I scored a box of 12 for FORTY DOLLARS!!! Each glass is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship, carefully crafted to showcase the unique characteristics of different varietals. But NACHTMANN isn’t just about style – today, it’s also about sustainability. As stewards of the environment, the brand is committed to producing glassware that’s not only beautiful but also eco-friendly. From sourcing materials responsibly to implementing energy-efficient production methods, NACHTMANN strives to minimize its environmental footprint while maximizing your enjoyment. I love that they are still in production – but I’ll stick with the vintage.

how to identify a maker's mark

HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR DISHES

Here’s my pro-tip for you. I use this ALL the time when shopping. I use it when pricing items for my store too, trying to always land in the right spot with websites like 1st Dibs and Chairish having prices out of control, this little tool helps me find something more appropriate.

Google Lens.

I’m shocked how few people know about this handy tool. You can use it on your phone with the Google App (not Chrome, but the basic Google app) or online with lens.google.com. You can scan the item or the maker’s mark and find pricing, articles, and more. Have you found a treasure? Let the all-powerful Google Lens help you with that. Here’s a screenshot of what happened when I showed Google Lens those lattice work plates:

how to identify a maker's mark

Just like NACHTMANN and their new eco-ways – When we save these beautiful dishes from the landfill, we’re playing our own role in that. We’re saying ‘no’ mass-produced garbage made with no artistry, no fascinating story. We’re saying YES to craftsmanship, beauty, and elevating the every-day. I’m never going to encourage you to feel bad about collecting beautiful things. We’re addicted to dishes because who looks at beauty and says, “No thanks, I’ve got enough beauty in my life.” So get out there, find some treasures – flip them over, and add history buff to your list of talents! Now you know how to identify a maker’s mark!

I appreciate you being here. If you’re not a part of my Design Society but this article was right up your alley – what are you waiting for? Join us for a free month and see what you think.

2 Comments

  1. Joy Newberry

    Thanks for sharing your lovely dishes and all the knowledge that goes along with them! I too adore dishes and have admired your cordial glasses every time I see them in your videos.
    Also, your floor and your kitchen tiles and all the work y’all are doing looks great!
    I dream of going to Paris with you …. Hopefully someday! Love what you do, here on your blog, YouTube and your Podcast! Thanks for being a light!!
    Xo

    Reply
  2. Megan

    Love this post! As I get more and more into collecting learning history comes right along with it! I am forever amazed to learn about the history in dishes, or how fashion was shaped by what was going on in the world at the time of it’s popularity.
    Amazing! I say often that it’s not an individual piece, it’s the story that goes along with it.
    Thank you,
    M

    Reply

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