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Antiques & Collecting: Wedgewood

PUBLISHED: 16:15 06 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 February 2013

A cream-ware plate with a pierced border, the centre painted with cattle, c.1880, value £900-£1,100

A cream-ware plate with a pierced border, the centre painted with cattle, c.1880, value £900-£1,100

Wedgwood has been in the news recently because its future is in doubt. This Staffordshire firm is one of this country's leading ceramic manufacturers and ironically its wares are now likely to become even more collectable and valuable.

Josiah Wedgwood was the son, grandson and great-grandson of potters. As well as being a potter he was a brilliant business man and in 1759 he set up his own business. His first innovation was a green glaze which has been in use for more than a hundred years but he followed this with a development that transformed the industry and developed Staffordshire as the world centre for pottery. It was 'creamware', a cream-coloured clay with a clear lead glaze that was widely copied throughout Europe. In 1785 Wedgwood was commissioned to produce a tea-service for Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III. She was very pleased with this and consequently he renamed his new material 'Queen's Ware' in her honour and and was made 'Potter to Her Majesty'.

In 1768 he went into partnership with Thomas Bentley and two new products were produced: black basalt and jasper ware. The latter was particularly suited to creating the then highly fashionable neo-classical pieces and was made in a number of colours, the best known being blue - often known as 'Wedgwood blue'. Early jasper wares - from 1770-1775 - made in the solid blue fetch anything from £1,000 to £2,500 today, while those made by dipping are only worth £350 at the most. After Wedgwood's death the factory did not stand still or decline. Bone china was introduced in 1878 and became the standard English ceramic body.

The best-known 20th century wares Wedgwood produced are the Fairyland lustres, which are very popular and fetch high prices. The designs, coloured and gilded scenes of elves and pixies, were transfer-printed and then hand-coloured and gilded.

Wedgwood wares are marked and from 1860 date coding was introduced. Would-be collectors should look carefully at the spelling of Wedgwood, pieces marked 'WEDGWOOD & CO' and 'WEDGEWOOD' with an extra E have not been made by the Josiah Wedgwood Company;

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