Identifying antique pottery is a hard task for beginners. While some of the earliest ceramic objects found date back to 29,000 BC. and porcelain objects were made around 206-220 BC, modern items mimic these styles impeccably well.

Another difficulty is that most pottery is handmade, which makes it tricky to easily uncover which region your pottery comes from, let alone when it was created. However, there are some tells which point to the fact that your antique pottery item is valuable and rare.

If you’re hoping to hone your pottery identifying skills, these are the three best ways to discover if your pottery is indeed an antique, or just a great flea market find.


The base form of the pottery you have could help to reveal the time period that it was created in. Things which have sharp angles tend to be from the Art Deco period, while classical form items usually come from before then in the Nouveau period.

Small pottery items are often the testers for new glazes and can be fun, and a very rare find. This is why looking at the overall shape, or form of the pottery, is usually the first clue in identifying if the piece you hold is ancient, or new. The form of it can also help you to identify if the piece you have was used as a regular storage container, drinking vessel, flower vase, commemorative item (due to the decoration), or a pot plant base.

Decoration and Glaze

The decorations and glaze that your pottery may have on it are a good indicator of the period it was made in. Most decorative motifs are used by artists as a kind of visual signature for either the region they’re made in, or as a calling sign of the craftsman who created it.

As you start to dive more and more into the different time periods and styles of pottery, you’ll begin to develop a sense of what was made, when.

While the glaze of the pottery will often give a good clue as to what time period it was made in. For example, Grueby vases were traditionally made with a thick green glaze, which made them quite unique for the time.


The final way to identify your antique pottery piece is to also check if there are any markings to be found on it. Often, with antique pieces, these would be carved into the bottom of it, which was left unglazed. This was done to help other craftsmen identify the clay used to create the piece.

If it appears to be quite old and well-worn, then the chances are high indeed you have an antique on your hands. That said, unmarked pieces of ancient pottery can also be quite common and still be of antique value that rival the sums paid out from bets made on FIFA World Cup odds.

When in doubt about the pottery’s origin, it’s always best to have your ceramic pieces assessed by an expert as the thorough appraisal will help to verify your initial suspicions.

Categories: History