This article explains some of the more common types of damage you are likely to encounter as a collector of ceramics and how it can affect value. The V&A page Caring for your ceramics – displaying and mounting is also well worth reading although us more humble collectors are less likely to be concerned about the discolouration of restoration. One point they do get right is this;
‘However, the main cause of damage to ceramics is impact damage. Try to avoid displaying ceramics in areas where there is passing traffic or where you may need access behind them, for example window sills in front of an opening window’
The red earthenware clay of briglin Briglin Pottery is prone to bottom chips as it is somewhat brittle. Bottom/base chips are common and should not adversely affect value as long as they are not visible. However I would hesitate against buying cracked items or items with rim damage. In general my advice is DO NOT BUY DAMAGED PIECES. Financially they will not go up in price as perfect pieces. With common items you should defiantly not buy damaged pieces, the price may seem attractive but when you come to sell you’ll find there are no takers. If you wait you will find a perfect similar item some time in the future. However with very rare items you don’t always have that option.Many of these comments apply to all ceramics not just Briglin Pottery.
AS FOUND. A/F
In shops & at auction the notation A/F on the price tag should start the alarm bells ringing. Your heart should sink and your toes will start to curl. It stands for “As Found”. Yes, that is auction speak meaning it’s damaged. When you see those letters you immediately become disappointed and start looking for the flaws.
Seconds are pieces that have failed the quality test at the factory. They are not Factory First but Factory Seconds or rejects. Many factories sell their seconds at a reduced price. It is common to mark them in some way. Often a line in engraved through in the base. Seconds are rejects and the value is dramatically reduced, I stay away.
2. Hairline Cracks
3. Serious Damage
6. Pre-Firing defects
7. Firing Defects
1. Incomplete Sets
Do not buy. Generally I would suggest you don’t buy incomplete sets. Don’t buy coffee sets with less than 6 mugs = x15 pieces (16 pieces inc. lid), but x4 mugs or cups can be acceptable. A Briglin carafe was originally sold with a set of six goblets. Pairs are acceptable IMO as full sets come up infrequently. Be aware that a set may have been made up with replacements from eBay. Check to see if all the items look and are marked the same. With rare sets you will not be able to pick and choose as they come up so infrequently.
2. Hairline cracks
Avoid – Most type of pottery get hairline cracks and they normally diminish an items worth considerably. Often a hairline crack is a natural fault and is quite stable, but sometimes it can develop into something serious so collectors dislike hairline cracks. When an item has a hairline it no longer ‘rings’. That is if you gently hold it and flick it with your fingernail near the rim it should make a bright ringing sound. A dead thud means it has a fault, a flaw, a break, repair or crack somewhere. This is true for all types of pottery. Collectors do not like this. Normally a hairline can drop an items value by up to 75%. but worse than that items just don’t sell.
This is in fact a piece of Poole with a hairline.
3. Serious Damage
Do Not Buy. Avoid broken items like the plague, no matter what the price. You are throwing your money away, do not do it. 95% of the value for me has gone. Most serious damage is caused by impact. Fortunately I have only dropped one vase when I was starting out it was a late piece of Rye that cost £7 and I was not that upset. However I have had items smashed to bits in the post, most due to bad packing. It’s a real shame if you buy a tea set and one mug is smashed.
Not a problem: With time the glaze on items does crack. I remember reading in Anthea’s book that early on they did have a problem with the glazes at Briglin. I would expect early items to have some crazing, it’s a good sign as far as I’m concerned, but is is possible to fake to some degree.
“One of the most common glaze defects is crazing, although in some cases crazing is a sought after effect, in which case it’s called a Crackle Glaze. Crazing will occur when the glaze doesn’t fit the clay body.The glaze shrinks more than the clay during the cooling causing the glaze to crack like a spider web. Crazing can occur after a piece has been fired. You can hear a new piece making a pinging noise long after firing, this is the glaze cracking. Crazing can also occur over centuries, as can be seen in many older wares, when they were new, they would have looked OK”
Bottom chips are not a problem: The red earthenware clay used for the majority of Briglin Pieces is quite brittle. Small chips to the unglazed base are not a problem. That is my opinion anyhow. Chips to the glaze to the (top) rim of a vase are more serious and these pieces are to be avoided.
This bottom chip is not a problem IMO as it can’t be seen with the piece standing. However rim chips can ruin the value of an item. Even very small damage to the rima of a vase will put the discerning collector off. It’s unsightly and it the sort of damage you should avoid. Don’t pay top whack for anything with obvious damage.
6. Pre-Firing Damage
Some damage can be imperfections to the piece before it was fired or during the firing process itself. You can see this because the glaze has run over the defect. Normally this is not a serious problem if the defect is minor.
This pigs foot was obviously broken before firing since the glaze has run over the break. The item still stands without rocking.
7. Firing Problems
Aviod – Clay needs to be evenly dried before firing. If there is a large difference in moisture content then tension develop. This stress can manifest itself during firing and cause cracks to develop. Base cracks are not uncommon. You should see a split across the bottom where the clay is thickest. the cracks that develop can be very serious, in the worst case the item is destroyed, however minor cracks where the fissure does not penetrate to the interior can be acceptable.
OK – I like dirt, dirty is good.
Avoid: I have not seen any piece of Briglin repaired yet. This is simply because it’s not worth the effort. It is a bit of a waste of time going into techniques used to spot repairs, but it is possible to re-assemble smashed pieces such that the joins are almost impossible to see. There are techniques to spot repairs.
Man held over smashed museum vases
How do you fix a smashed antique vase?