How to check if your antique pottery has been restored

The value of damaged or restored antique pottery significantly decreases if ceramic objects are not in perfect condition. Most collectors of antique pottery are aware of this, and always on the lookout for damage. But it’s not always easy to see if a vase has been restored or whether it’s completely intact.

How restoration on pottery is done

Antique pottery is older than 100 years and has spent many years in cabinets or on shelves. Therefore, an antique vase that is 100% intact is something very special. Such objects will also fetch much more money when sold, compared to items that show some damage or have been restored. Most collectors do not mind a small chip or a hairline crack at the neck or base. After all, such minor defects accurately reflect the age of these antique treasures.

If there is significant damage to pottery, such as cracks, large chips, or if there are shards missing, it is a good thing to have objects restored. This is especially true for fragile parts such as ears, spouts, necks, and rims. Professional restoration studio (see list below) can take care of antique earthenware or porcelain objects and fully restored them to their original glory.
The restorer can glue shards and fill in cracks or missing parts such as chips or shards. With multi coloured faience, such as the famous Dutch art pottery from the Art Nouveau period, the filled-in parts are painted in the colours of the original background and then the object is coated with a varnish that closely resembles the shine of faience and has been developed specifically for restoration purposes.

Check for damage with UV light

If you are buying antique Dutch pottery, from factories such as Gouda Zuid-Holland, Rozenburg Den Haag, Brantjes Purmerend or Holland Utrecht, make sure that objects are intact or restored. You can check this by examining the objects thoroughly. With a good lamp and a magnifying glass, you can quickly see if the neck, base, ears, and rims are intact. Check, for example, whether the pattern of craquelure continues all the way along the surface and whether there are no differences in colour or texture. With eggshell porcelain (by Rozenburg Den Haag), make sure you hold the object against a light to see if the light shines equally through the object. Cracks and restoration can be easily spotted that way.
Also, pay attention to the shine of the glaze. If the surface in parts has a different sheen, it could indicate a restoration. Using ultraviolet light (with a UV lamp), you can sometimes see that parts of the paint ‘light up’. This is a sign that there are restorations present.

Check for damage with a sharp needle

Very modern varnishes, which have been used in restoration studios for a few years now, will not light up under UV light. Therefore, they are almost invisible. However, these varnishes are softer than the high-gloss glaze that came from the faience factories’ kilns. With a sharp needle, you can very carefully tap (be warned and careful: don’t make scratches!) on the surface of your pottery. If the surface is not restored, the tap will sound very sharp, and the needle will bounce off the surface. With restored parts, the tap sounds duller, and the needle point will stick in the varnish applied by the restorer.

Ask about damage when purchasing antique earthenware or porcelain

It is extremely important for collectors to know whether antique pottery is in good condition. But it is very difficult to say for sure when you do not know anything about the provenance of a vase, an ewer or a wall charger. If you want to buy antique pottery, make sure to always ask about the condition of the pieces. You can do this by asking for condition reports at auction. Most auction houses will carefully examine and photograph the pieces you are interested in. If you are buying pottery online, through Catawiki, then look carefully at the seller’s reviews. Especially if there is no mention of damage in the offer, you should always be cautious. On platforms like Marktplaats and eBay, you can easily get in touch with the seller and ask about the condition of the antique objects.

Report damage when selling antique ceramics

If you want to sell your antique pottery of porcelain, it is a good thing to be very transparent about whether objects are intact or not. It is up to the buyer to make a calculated decision: is the damage acceptable or not? There is a group of collectors who only want to buy ceramics if objects are completely intact. There are also collectors who think a chip or a hairline crack is acceptable. And there are collectors who do not mind if antique pottery has been restored, or who are willing to have damage restored themselves. But that decision is up to the buyer. Therefore, always be truthful about the condition of antique earthenware or porcelain to prevent disappointment or conflict.

In the online store of Art Nouveau Pottery, the condition of objects is always well documented, also if there have been restorations. Any present damage is photographed as well as possible.

What to do if antique ceramic objects get damaged

Accidents can happen. If you drop a vase, or knock it against a hard surface, chips or shards will fall off. If an ear, spout, neck or rim breaks, make sure to carefully collect all the original parts. Do not start messing around with tape, glue and paint yourself. But contact a reputable restorer. The costs of such a restoration can sometimes be more and sometimes less than expected. So it’s also important to determine the value of the vase (financially or emotionally). The costs of a restoration must always be in proper proportion to the value of an antique object. If a vase is worth 750 euros, the restoration of a chip at the base (between 60-85 euros) is a good idea. But if the object itself is only worth 75 euros, then restoration is pointless!

List of restoration studios in the Netherlands

Hanne Friederichs, Roden
Studio De Koppele

Marijke Top, Koog aan de Zaan
Atelier ’t Schervengericht

Margot van Os, Hilversum

Sabine Westerhuis, Amsterdam

Noor Camstra, Lochem

Daniela Stojković, Amsterdam

Maud Schermer, Utrecht

Petra Bochove, Den Haag

Special Thanks to Marijke Top for the image above. Check her site to see the results of the restoration.

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